By Pete Dyson, Senior Behavioural Strategist at Ogilvy Consulting's Behavioural Science Practice


2019 has a lot to live up to. Last year was a big one for behavioural science; we had the aftermath of Richard Thaler’s Nobel Prize and the ten year anniversary of the book ‘Nudge’, but also saw the discipline under media scrutiny with Cambridge Analytica, Facebook and Google in the spotlight and GDPR shifting the landscape of data privacy.

Here are the top 5 behavioural trends and predictions to watch out for:

Beyond nudge

Organisations are hungry to go beyond the basics, they’ve seen that tweaking subject lines and landing pages work, we expect a desire to go deeper and wider with behavioural science; to go beyond the small scale nudges. That will mean embedding behavioural insights to transform customer and user experience, brand strategy and product design.

For instance, the world is seeing Ford transform from a automobile manufacturer to a mobility company; they’re fuelling this with a deeper human understanding of drivers, passengers and travel more generally.

Post-GDPR and Cambridge Analytica

A new norm is emerging as marketeers take ownership and engage in coalition enforcement to get each other to adhere to handling data ethically. To paraphrase the UK road safety slogan ‘Mates don’t let other mates handle data irresponsibly’.

We also expect the general public to awaken their consciousness and opt-out of marketing communications, to untick boxes around location/data sharing and to use social media to shame the brands that treat them badly.

Kick back against 'black box' AI and big data 

Expect a wave of scepticism around the behavioural impact of big data marketing. Customers will demand transparency and kick back against AI that delivers ‘nearly there’ and ‘uncanny valley’ recommendations that are either off-the -mark or just plain creepy. Brands will then acknowledge they need to take (back) control and invest in fully understanding human truths to deliver genuinely personal touches and authentic customer service.  

Simultaneously, expect a handful of brands to adopt a counter-signalling strategy of 'we don’t know who you are, so we treat everyone the same' to run counter to the perception that all experiences are personalised and only the newest or most valuable customers get treated well.

From Organisational Values to Behaviours

Given the level of disruption going on in organisational structures, behavioural science is going to play a big role in organisational change.

Expect brands and governments to go beyond values, mantras and mottos, they’ll look for the day-to-day behaviours that demonstrate their people are thinking and working together in a new way.

Are people really walking the new talk?

Brexit Triggering Fascination with Survey Design

As prospect (or threat) of a second referendum gains momentum, expect a new wave of fascination in the psychology of survey design.

Expect dinner table and pub conversations to suddenly be populated by experts on first-past-the-post, transferable vote and Borda Count options. The debate around the psychological trade-offs between question accuracy and real-world-intelligibility will go on and on.

We predict this will be a prediction for 2020. Sorry.  


Read more on behavioural science from Pete as his looks at how it can be rational to think crazy here.

There are more trends from across the business - take a look at B2B predictions here and wellness trends to watch here.