‘Nudge Theory’ and how to be a choice architect for your brand

Aug 14, 2020 | Interest

Richard Mark Webb reckons brands are ‘choice architects’ and should re-think their content to provide less invasive, cheaper and effective ways to win sustainable business.

Nobel economics prize winner, Richard Thaler is the father of ‘nudge theory’, but what is it? Does it actually work and can you use it to boost your marketing communications efforts?

The theory is based on the concept that we have two systems for processing thoughts; an automatic, instinctive choice or a reflective, lengthy, analytical process. Nudge theory works on the premise that most of our decisions are automatic, and based on habits, social norms, environmental cues and emotional factors.

To apply the concept, a relatively subtle shift needs to be applied throughout all of your brand touchpoints to encourage people to make decisions that are in their best-interest. It’s about making it easier for your customers to make certain decisions rather than penalising people financially if they don’t act in certain way.

Author Richard Thaler says of the Nudge Theory; “by knowing how people think, we can make it easier for them to choose what is best for them, their families and society.”

Okay, give me an example?

The UK’s pension policy yields a decent example. To reverse worryingly low pension saving rates among private sector employees, the UK Government mandated businesses to create the ‘automatic enrolment scheme’ with contributions to be deducted at source unless they opted out.

The idea was that many people really wanted to put more aside for retirement but were put-off by what they thought would involve complex choices. A review of all content followed, and by making auto enrolment the default for employees, it made it easier for employees to do what they really wanted to do and increase the rate of savings.

Nudge theory gets spectacular results

Since auto enrolment was introduced in 2012, active membership of private sector pension schemes surged from 2.7 million to 7.7 million in just four years. Nothing new, you may think – since brands have been using effective ways to encourage consumer buying for decades – but nudge theory can teach us marketers some new tricks. It can help us create better content and user experiences with clearer, more persuasive messaging in an ethical and transparent way.

By presenting product choices in a better way, your customers will make wiser choices. Our goal here is to influence decisions consumers might make automatically by targeting well known ‘heuristics’ – those mental short-cuts we use to make choices easier and quicker.

Nudges are not mandates

To be able to promote a desired behaviour, we need to first understand customer ‘choice architecture’ – their habits, biases and boundaries that make up decision-making. Market research helps us to understand consumers’ choice architecture and by using our understanding of how people make choices, we can identify ways to ‘nudge’ people in the right direction.

By creating in the content your brand creates, it can to promote one product over the other without hesitation. For example, let’s say you are promoting a limited edition run-out motor-car on your website. Subtle but effective messages can help the decision-making process by pointing out specific characteristics that encourage action based on the shopper’s goals or personality tendencies.

Make it easy to buy.  Ridiculously easy

How many times have you not completed an online action because, well, “I can’t be arsed.”  Put yourself in your buyer’s or reader’s shoes and make sure that signing up to your mailing list as simple as filling in a first name and an email address – don’t ask for swathes of data.  Writing content for your business is often about overcoming people’s objections to taking an action or making a purchase. Remember though – there’s a big difference between using nudges to encourage people to take action and manipulating people.

Help people avoid pain

Emotions are very important factors in decision-making. Your content should enable readers to make a choice or take an action that moves them away from something they don’t want (guilt, stress and worry) towards something they do (value, joy and affirmation).

Shared values

Communicating your brand values to your customers is more likely to engage with them and encourage them to build a relationship with you than by bombarding them with marketing messages. So talk about your brand’s higher purpose or philosophy.  People value authenticity and common values.

The influence of heuristics (short-cuts that we use to make decisions)

These short cuts happen subconsciously all the time. They not only help us to make daily, trivial choices like what to cook for dinner –they also help us make choices in more significant decisions like what brand of car to buy or which insurance to buy.

By creating content that appeals to individuals, it will help make their decision feel more natural and automatic without feeling force or manipulated.

Know your customer personas ­ their interests, language, and personality

Dig deeper than just demographics by creating content that matches your customer’s psychographics (why people act, based on their lifestyle, interests, motivators, and personality). Then create content that speaks personally to them.

Join the club

We often tend not to be the first and only person to do something or buy something because most of us seek social approval. If you’re looking for a writer, say, to create your inventory for your car classic car dealership, would you use the one who’s done similar projects and comes highly recommended – or the one who tells you they can ‘do everything’ and that, by the way, you’re their first client?

From your online to your print communications, using nudges not only helps direct your clients towards the ‘buy’ button, but they can also make the buying experience more pleasant. In today’s congested market, where customer experience is king, creating content to ‘nudge’ could be just what you need to win more, sustainable business.

As a story-teller for people and for brands, and a ‘choice architect’, my content embraces the ‘irrationality of individuals.’ I work with businesses I admire to help them create content that sells.

Tap www.richardmarkwebb.com, smash the WhatsApp button or go all last century and email him at richard@richardmarkwebb.com or find him on social. Yes, do one of those.


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