A Stock Of Nudging Nuggets! 6 Things We Learned At Nudgestock 2019

They say “if you can remember Woodstock you weren’t there (man!)”.

Thankfully for The1 readers, the same doesn’t apply to Nudgestock, the Ogilvy Consulting-organised conference attended by two of our Comms gurus last week.

The star-studded speaker line-up sent festival-goers away with a stock of nudges and behavioural insights. Here are six of the best:

Defence is the best form of attack (Gerd Gigerenzer)


Gigerenzer, leading academic thinker in the field of behavioural understanding, shared alarming data about the extent of defensive decision-making in corporations, particularly at Management level. In other words, the right decision for the company is often not taken because of the fear of personal (or, more accurately,  ‘personnel’) repercussions should it not work out.

System1 ‘So What?’: When testing comms or other marketing concepts for emotion and System1 real-world response, stress the benefits to the rational corporation: you are completely de-risking risk-taking, so the company can take the right decision, based on the right data.


Don’t confuse reach with understanding, nor Big Data with thick data (Tricia Wang)

The brilliant Tricia Wang argued that the increasing obsession with Big Data has caused two big shifts: insight is not valued as it should be, and there is a chasm between martech/ad tech and creative: Reaching consumers is too often prioritised over understanding (essential for marketing effectiveness). The way forward is for ad-tech, creativity and consumer insight to work together to create then deliver effective strategy.

She argues passionately that marketers are so easily seduced with the promise of Big Data, with much emphasis on machine intelligence, and very little on human intelligence. Tricia argued for Thick Data (human understanding) as the essential billion dollar ingredient. It is widespread to chase measurements and prefer the quantifiable over the unmeasured yet vital. As the Alan Watts quote stated: ‘The menu is not the meal.’

System1 ‘So What?’: Marketers need to identify the data they have vs. the insight they need, and market research must find new ways to make measureable what is not currently so.


Bias is so unconscious we must consciously work to overcome it (Dr Stefanie Johnson)


Dr Johnson explored how the consequences of our unconscious bias hinder the economy in % growth and dollars-to-the-bottom-line terms. Diversity in a corporation self-evidently increases the chances that you will be employing your target customer and accordingly this makes the organisation 158% more likely to capture the target thanks to a more empathetically framed and delivered offer !

She went on to powerfully demonstrate the effect of the framing effect of our unconscious biases. She shed light on our existing preconceptions, introducing two examples where our stereotypical assumptions mean that we reach radically different interpretations of the same sentence (see photo below):

Accordingly she made the case for the ABC of consciously overcoming structural unconscious bias: first it must be formally Acknowledged, then measures must be taken to Block unconscious bias, as a minimum including name blind recruitment, through which the Hubble space programme has finally succeeded in overcoming in-built bias against women in recruitment. Finally, progress must be Counted, with corporations increasingly committing to 50% gender balance and significant change to the balance of men and women in senior management.

System1 ‘So What?’: Consider your own unconscious biases – and those that may be working their way into your marketing. Take the right, sometimes tough measures, to eliminate bias and you will reap the commercial benefits.


By all means Gamble, but most of all Steal, with Pride (Richard Wise, Geometry)


Wise recounted mind-opening cases where brands found their way from ineffective rational advertising to highly effective ways of dramatizing the emotional benefit of the product. He cited Las Vegas who wanted to broaden its appeal from merely gambling, when of course it has so many other things to offer. But rather than a disingenuous attempt to portray itself as a family holiday destination, an impressive solution was arrived at, in a uniquely Vegas way. They connected with the insight that when you are in Vegas you connect with your alter ego… Then borrowed shamelessly from Alcoholic Anonymous with their they connect with their mantra of “What you see here stays here, what you hear here stays here”. The result “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” was highly effective advertising.

System1 ‘So What?’: Connect with what your brand is really about, and avoid worrying about ‘alienating’ people. Too much focus on the latter and you’re likely to fall into the far worse trap of producing anodyne, highly-ineffective advertising.


Reframe Reframe Reframe is the name of the game (Rory Sutherland, Ogilvy)


The theme of framing continued as Rory Sutherland asked: What does London’s St Pancras Station have that the recently totally re-fitted London Bridge Station does not (apart from access to the Eurostar)?… The answer is that the former has an appeal as a destination (in more than a purely travel sense: in that Londoners go there to enjoy its bars and restaurants, in particular its champagne bar). What sets this apart from the strange profusion of champagne and raw fish bars inexplicably encountered at high-end travel hubs? Reframing, is the answer. When the renewed St Pancras opened, they made a big noise about the fact that it had ‘Europe’s longest champagne bar’, a meaningless claim lacking even in apparent benefit, yet one that had the effect of reframing not just the bar itself but the experience available at St Pancras. Despite Rory Sutherland’s public encouragement, London Bridge neglected to find its own destination-beyond-a-destination narrative (e.g. by playing host to the world’s largest florist etc)

System1 ‘So What?’: Tell the story you want to tell, tell it with conviction and capture the imagination. It will set you apart from the competition.


Go low to go high… (Richard Wise, Geometry)

Texas needed to reduce littering – and “Keep Texas Beautiful” messaging against a backdrop of rolling green hills(!) was doing nothing. Coupled with data confirming that it was 16-35 year old males who were dropping most trash, they realised a much more visceral change of tack was required. They went deep into the psyche, digging into state rivalries (as per humanity in general, the American Mr Wise suggested there is typically a distaste for the next door state) and realising they needed to engender a sense that ‘if you’re dropping trash you must be from Oklahoma!’. To do this they coined the phrase ‘Don’t Mess with Texas’, reducing littering by two thirds thanks to its visceral appeal, and spawning a thousand T-shirts and other merchandise replaying the message for free!

System1 ‘So What?’: Connect with what really motivates your target audience: take human beings as they are, not as we would like ourselves to be! Humans are capable of great goodness but also remember that the most effective form of Happiness in communications is schadenfreude, meaning ‘joy at others’ misfortune’… going low more often than not takes you high in effectiveness terms!

Get In Touch

Got a Marketing problem? We'd love to hear about it. Tell us what you're looking for and we'll get in touch ASAP.