What we do
Communication underpinned by hard psychology means there’s no mysterious ‘black box’ creative. (Although our results are often more surprising.) The process we use to bake-in psych is to examine (the thousands of) peer-reviewed papers about or similar to the problem our client faces. That’s a minimum. On top of that, we derive and test communication.
So that’s it. No long-winded statement about who we connect ‘blah’ with ‘blah’ to create and engage ‘blah, blah, blah’. Only clean, simple, effective work. Also, persistent, ubiquitous, and near costless to enact in a lot of cases.
If you’re a potential client, welcome to the place where you can actually get the results you expected – results that last for generations to come.
Expand the options to see and read what we do, how we do it, and extrapolate what we might do for you.
” . . . can you design a communications package for clients of PleaseCycle – a tracking app and portal that performs like Air Miles for bike – to get more staff cycling more mile more frequently?”
PleaseCycle is a website and app that’s sold to businesses and organisations such as Rickeit Beckinser, and Camden Council, to encourage their staff to cycle to work. It has practical information such as about biking, plan safe routes, log daily trips, and compete against colleagues. PleaseCycle wanted some communication that HR could use to get more of their staff cycling more miles, more frequently.
The first and only question we asked was what are the barriers to commuter cycling. Pouring through tens of thousands of words of peer-reviewed research we found that there seemed to be a large difference between what people think the barriers to cycling are, and what they actually are. (Only psychological blind/reviewed/robust studies help – focus groups do not, as we don’t need to know what people think, we need to know what they do.)
Broadly, the perception of cycling was an unachievable, all-or-nothing, fast, young, male, equipment-orientated activity; general expressions of inclusion were needed. Specifically messages salving; fears about looking silly, how to
manage weather, understanding it doesn’t have to be everyday, fear of being thought of as an outsider, and more, were needed. (For more on this research, ask us.)
Outputs are both covert and overt. The overt outputs included posters which illustrate a solution to a barrier, linking it to a function of the PleaseCycle product. These are added to the client ‘dashboard on the PleaseCycle website. The covert outputs included directions on where to position cycling paraphernalia in the business, such as putting bike racks out front because images of prevalence drive behaviour (who cares if the ‘image’ is made by real people in the real world, rather than on a poster? – your brain doesn’t). This and more are included in a pack for our client and their clients. A cheat-sheet of real-world behavioural influences.
“Design a communications package for clients of Stravel – a new start-up tracking app and portal for multi-modes of travel.”
Stravel is similar to PleaseCycle in that it tracks travel on a mobile app that updates to a portal. The difference is it tracks many modes, such as walking, running, cycling, bus and train travel. The breadth of the app reduces the depth of interaction. For instance, both mapping and journey planning is better done by TfL.
The Stravel app was a question looking for a reason; Why is tracking travel – in and of itself – necessary? Research into behaviour around multi-modal travel presented very interesting findings. Rose and Marfurt (2007) tell us
there’s considerable differences in the perceived acceptable riding distance for bicycle use between riders and non-riders. We picked up on that and made the location-specific distance poster using the ‘However you want to get there’ line. Habits and scheduling horizons influenced behaviour too, but not a way that was useable.
However, Perkins (World Transport Policy & Practice, 2002) found that travel-blending diaries did influence people to get out of their cars by making travel choice overt, concrete, and tied to point-of-use (in the same study marketing messages about the travel-blending made no impact on behaviour). Stravel’s phone app is effectively a travel-blending diary. We needed to make that download happen. We do that with an arresting travel-blend image – a bus with legs, for instance – underpinned by the line ‘You are not one mode of transport’.
“…provide a behavioural economics lens to give thoughts on whether the ideas chime with your understanding of the art and science of influence and behaviour change to increasing the average age of gum chewing.”
Flamingo International, London – the global insight and brand consultancy – were asked by their client Wrigley’s UK to pull in a behavioural economics communication expert to compliment their rhetoricians to give a view on their existing chewing-gum press adverts. The ads were running in the UK, and were designed to increase positive attitudes to chewing among an older age group and in so-doing increase sales (they have about 90% of the market so increasing the whole market is fine).
Wrigley’s asked, could the ads work harder?
Flamingo and The Hunting Dynasty spent a day together carving out
behavioural insights on all aspects of the ads. There was a good use of authority figures – the celebrities used were well known and good calibre. However, they were presented talking about the reasons why older age group might not like chewing gum, which from a normative point of view simply advertised all the reasons why older people shouldn’t chew gum; bit of an own goal as this is the opposite of the campaign objective. Also, the celebs – authority figures – are shown not chewing gum; again, bit of a selfie.
We wrangled these insights and more into a day-long presentation and workshop planned to end in two or three new creative briefs for Bray Leino to re-do the ads for testing. Oliver wrote the behavioural appraisal to compliment Flamingo’s rhetorical appraisal, and co-presented with Flamingo at Wrigley’s.
“How can we make New Year’s resolutions that actually stick.”
The Department of Health asked OgilvyOne for a solution to engage over 80% of people who don’t stick to their New Year’s Resolutions; resolutions involving eating, smoking, exercising, and drinking. It sounded like the project needed to create some habits. And important they are too – Ralph Keeney, of Duke University, notes that America’s top killer isn’t cancer, or heart disease, or smoking, or obesity. It’s our inability to overcome our own short-term behaviour: Ralph estimates that about half of us will make a life-style decision that will ultimately lead us to an early grave.
Disrupting habitual behaviour is the key to allowing us to make cognitive, rather than instinctive, decisions. And breaking habit is often more effective than piling on more and more new habits. How do we do this?
Philippa Lally’s study from UCL into habit formation was a great place to start.
Firstly it’s the only study of habits that looks into how they’re formed rather than simply they’re diagnosed. And secondly, well, everything else. The study has been written about outside of academia (unfortunately) describing habit formation locked-in on average in 60 days. This is not helpful, as 95% of asymtote is between 18 and 270 days; It’s wide. (The average is 60 days for drinks and food reated habits, and 90 for exercise.) We worked this up into Facebook-delivered groups.
“How do we decrease the clutter and increase the donations?”
Action Against Malaria have one of the most compelling propositions around: all donated monies are used to purchase nets. They are unique among charities in this regard. They also focus on the biggest killer of children in the world – malaria.
We took advantage of the three most common behavioural quirks – framing,
loss aversion, and norms – and put them front-and-center.
The framing element was easy – global ad agency JWT had already made a film dramatising the fact that the equivalent of seven jumbo jets full of children die of malaria everyday. We poke the loss wound by talking about how ‘your’ money is wasted with other charities (‘…other charities you waste some of your donation on costs’/‘every penny of your donation we buy’). For norms we showed visitors that it’s normal and popular to donate here with rolling quotations, and number references.
Design the look, feel, and function of a new low-energy product retailer
They needed a from-the-ground-up solution, which included all the logos, page layouts including copy-writing, email templates and content, and strategies to increase sales.
We pulled out all the behavioural tweaks; context, norms, and construal.
The homepage banners promoting products (above) had quotes pulled from national newspapers. The quote was expressed in as close to a handwritten font as possible to indicate – before you’ve understood the words – that it’s from a human (like you). The provenance is expressed as a logotype, not a name. We know that these forms are understood by our ‘gut reaction’, or system one thinking, more quickly than our ‘thinking brain’, or system two thinking. The speed of cognition is important because that defines our anchor point, and it’s this instant reaction that is then used as a measuring-rule for the later ‘thinking brain’ inputs.
Similarly, in the product page to the left we framed a value of reducing electricity consumption by ‘500 times fewer’ as the difference between the distance to the local shops and the distance from London to Edinburgh. Framing, anchoring, and the use of boundary ordering devices in the presentation of products uses our hidden quirks and apparent irrationalities in favour of increasing the likelihood of a sale.
Why – despite overt interest and positive PR – are people not buying our cardboard desk?
After seeing The Hunting Dynasty present at a conference Cardboard Futures Ltd asked us to re-position their flagship product – Paperweight Desk – using our cognitive-behavioural experience. Oliver and Colwyn prepared their approach: a cognitive-behavioural request.
Everybody loved the concept. Including us; who wouldn’t? 100% cradle-to-cradle recyclable desks at 1/10th of the cost of current desks. But no one was buying – not on the numbers our client wanted – despite almost universally positive comments after understanding the benefits.
So why no move to purchase?
It looked like a cognitive dissonance problem – where potential customers’ System 1 and System 2 thinking disagree. System 1 is characterised by being intuitive, rapid, associative. System 2 is rule-governed and calculating. There are broadly 4 ways these two interact: Automatic decisions, Anchored decisions, Rational indecision, and Cognitive dissonance.
- System 1 decides (intuitive, rapid, associative)
- System 2 overrules input (rule-governed, calculating, reasoning)
As part of the first phase of the project we ran a session with experts in the field to map the barriers to purchase. We then went on to identify further behavioural insights, work out that behaviours by audience, and build a practical model of influences – including a behavioural marketing framework.
How do we use this knowledge?
We’ll keep the main conclusion private so our client’s competitors don’t get an edge – but we were able to map:
- how to fix the instinctive response
- how to reframe the instinctive response
- how to agree with the instinctive response
The less attractive small volume markets are in the anchored space, making them relatively easy sell if you push the right buttons (utility, recycle-ability, or fashion) by agreeing with the instinctive response.
Our approach is not only communicating with words and pictures (although sometimes it is just that), some solutions involve changing the product – and that product is now part of a new look, feel, and re-design called FluteOffice.
We’re not simply helping to market the product that’s been developed, but helping develop the product to be marketed.
Firefish asked The Hunting Dynasty to offer a behavioural opinion on consumer behaviour in airports to augments their existing – and extensive – research previously conducted.
Oliver and Nathalie worked out a pretty robust and serviceable approach in a few hours using their understanding of how habits (a form of behavioural lock-in) work, and their understanding of how the reasoned system 2 brain
These two broad approaches gave a good foundation for commenting on likely behaviour, and can be (and were) extended to the entire consumer journey from front-door to runway.