Behavioural science. Whether you know about it or not you've probably come into contact with some form of behavioural science today. More than that, you have probably unwittingly used it today.

We caught up with Ogilvy Change's Behavioural Strategy Director, Sam Tatam, to find out more about the field of behavioural science and how we can tap into the unseen.


What is an unseen opportunity?

We like to think of an ‘Unseen Opportunity’ as something lying dormant within a brand or customer experience that, when viewed through the lens of psychology and behavioural science, can lead to solutions with transformative impacts.  This can be a simple reframe of an offer, a tweak to copy, or a contextual intervention with impacts far greater than its initial investment.

Let us in on some of your secrets - what are some everyday behavioural hacks that are commonplace which we're probably unaware of?

This is a great question - and I think there are lots!  Once we understand that humans aren’t rational calculators but rather that we navigate the world using relativity and context, many of these ‘hacks’ can be easier to spot.  They’re all around us…

One of the many examples lays in something as simple as our journey to work. On our travels many of us are influenced by the ‘Mind the Gap’ line on the Tube platform, a reference point that anchors our behaviour and ensures we’re more likely to stand a safe distance from oncoming trains, even if not behind the line itself. 

We don’t know (and can’t calculate) the exact safe distance from the passing train, so we use cues in the context around these decisions to help us.

More and more brands are turning to behavioural science to find new ways of connecting with consumers - what's the one thing every brand needs to know about behavioural science right now?

At its simplest, behavioural science can be broken down into two key elements: make it easy and make it motivating.

When it comes to this ‘friction or fuel’ approach, we often overestimate the power of motivation and underestimate the staggering impact of minor ‘friction costs’ to encourage or discourage a behaviour.

For example, simply transitioning paracetamol ‘pill bottles’ to ‘blister packets’ has been attributed for an approximate 43% reduction in overdoses in the UK.  Here, the addition of this small friction cost – the blister packaging - was an ‘Unseen Opportunity’ that led to staggering changes.

Are there any trends in the field that we should be watching this year?

As it is for the broader industry, I think the development of AI, machine learning and programmatic advertising will be important to watch over the next year (we’ve already seen the fame and shame of Cambridge Analytica). We know, for example, that platforms like IBM Watson can now generate robust 5-Factor personality profiles by simply reading our Facebook or Twitter posts and comments. The ability to frame and then serve advertisements that are aligned with our individual personality and preferences is subsequently becoming a powerful reality.

Any advice for brands or marketers wanting to explore how behavioural science can help them?

I think the most important advice for brands and marketers is to recognise that behavioural science isn’t new – nor should it be scary.

What we’re finding most interesting recently though, is that by viewing brand challenges through the lens of their underlying psychology, we’re able unlock richer territories for insight and ideas - our ‘Unseen Opportunities’.  

To put this into context, we’ve recently borrowed from the vernacular of ‘adultery’ to reframe adult incontinence, making it feel less stigmatized for sufferers. We’ve been inspired by changes to the rules of men’s boxing at the Rio Olympics to create powerful safety interventions for tissue factories in North America.  And, taking this even further, we’ve learned from the ability of scuba divers to better remember information underwater to create the perfect check-in experience for members of IHG Hotels.

While behavioural science isn’t new, how we use it can be!


Find out more at Ogilvy Change's annual festival of behavioural science, Nudgestock, on Friday 8th June here.