By Dan Bennett, Senior Behavioural Strategist at Ogilvy Change


It was 6 years ago now that Rory Sutherland and Nick Southgate hosted the panel that would launch the Institute Practitioners of Advertising focus on Behavioural Economics. 

The panel was titled 'Red hot or Red Herring' and quite openly discussed whether behavioural science would be a fad in the marketing and communications industry, or whether it would be a mainstay feature. Whether it would be an X factor finalist or whether it would be a star who lives on beyond the hype. 

Would people still listen to its new releases, or would it be a one album wonder?

The interesting hidden point here is that behavioural science wasn't in fact a new kid on the block. It had been practising for years before it hit the limelight. It had gigged all around the world in dusty academic halls. The exploration into human behaviour went back centuries. 

It took a few rock stars to get it mainstream, the likes of Rory Sutherland, Dan Ariely and Daniel Kahneman. Artists who had great catchy singles from their albums, to really capture people's attention. And it wasn't long before people were listening to their full albums.

Marketers now have a whole new genre of insights that they can get inspiration from. 

What has been truly heartwarming has been seeing the growth and success of Nudgestock each year. Nudgestock is our behavioural science festival, which really puts the legends of the genre on stage, with a lot of up-and-coming artists too. And, like most festivals, it started small.

Our first was in Shoreditch Town Hall in East London where we piggy backed onto another conference and co-ordinated the day - the crowds definitely voted with their feet. The next year we reinvigorated the vibe and thought we either go 'all Nudgestock' or nothing.

So we embarked on the mission of getting 150 behavioural science fans, clients and agencies alike, out to the English coast in Deal. Some took the coach, some took several trains to get there. Everyone huddled in a packed local theatre and we live streamed it to the world.

Then, the following year, we grew again taking around 250 people and descended on Folkestone, at the beautiful Leaf Cliff Hall. The venue had previously hosted the Rolling Stones and the Kaiser Chiefs - and now Rory Sutherlands hosts some of the greatest minds in the field in that very same place. They each show their new singles, and some of the old greats we know and love.

Now five years in, we're filling Leas Cliff Hall beyond a capacity we could have never imagined ... all because those working largely in marketing are more hungry than ever to learn about behavioural science.

Working in the field I can see a few reasons:

  • There are more albums and singles being released all the time

The more you read about the science of human behaviour, the more you realise just how much you don't know. It's the Pringles of knowledge, the more you eat the hungrier you get. For those that move beyond the original frameworks, will find a big range of tools to use to change behaviour. 

  • We need music more now than ever

Confusion and shock feels to be at an all time high. Many were shocked at the Brexit vote outcome and surprised at the US elections. There is more reason to think deeper than ever before now, to understand people and their motivations. And also to learn how we're being persuaded in ways we might not expect. Right now more than ever before, we want to know why people say and do the things that they do... and that seems to me to be a driver to the interest in behavioural science.

  • We've never had more unique challenges than we have now

The definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome. The marketing industry has never been more fragmented, it has many tools for many channels. In that sandstorm comes a desire to take a step back and look at the human basics at the heart of the problem.

Behavioural science is the mental palate cleanser, that when you're in the depth of a tricky challenge, and probably not for the first time, you can step out, clean up and get back to basics to solve the problem.

In that last point is probably the reason why Nudgestock has grown to have over 400 people take the effort to travel one hour outside of London. It's without a doubt the best palate cleanser your brain will get all year.

For one day, you can step out of the office, out of the city, and jump on a high speed train to the seaside.

You'll breathe fresh air, eat ice cream and hear from the worlds leading experts on how to better understand people. 

And the weather looks pretty good!

See you there this year or next!

Check out the line-up for Nudgestock 2017 here.