Total Pageviews

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Seven Common Misunderstandings About Social Marketing and Behavioural Economics

An understanding of social marketing and behavioural economics is essential for anyone who is involved in planning or implementing behavioural change interventions. But there are often misunderstandings about the essential elements of social marketing and behavioural economics, how and when they should be used, and how each discipline relates to the other.
The seven most common misunderstandings include:  
1.  Behavioural economics is a subset of social marketing.
It isn’t. It is a discipline in its own right with a long history, which some economists date back to Adam Smith, writing in the 1750’s.

2.  Behavioural economics is all about “Nudge.
Well, up to a pointBehavioural economics has a long history (see 1) it just wasn’t always called behavioural economics (or even economics, in the early days). A lot of the findings of behavioural economics come from discovery of the anomalies in the assumptions and predictions of conventional models of economics. So Nudge is just the tip of the behavioural economics iceberg.

3. Social marketing and behavioural economics are mutually exclusive.
Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren’t - although they can be used together, sometimes they work better apart. Some elements from each discipline will be familiar to exponents of both social marketing and behavioural economics – such as the power of social norms. When it comes to choosing the right kind of intervention, it’s a matter of horses for courses.

4.  Social marketing social media.
No it doesn’t. Although social media can be a useful tool in behaviour change, there is a common misconception that social marketing is a subset of social media. Making things even more confusing, marketing types often talk about “social marketing media.” Whatever that is…

5.  Effective behaviour change campaigns depend on getting the right information to the right people.
It would be easy to give the public information and hope they change behaviour but we know that doesn’t work very satisfactorily. Otherwise, as the famous quote goes, “none of us would be obese, none of us would smoke and none of us would drive like lunatics.

6. Social marketing is expensive.
Not necessarily. There is strong evidence to show that well implemented social marketing campaigns can achieve cost-effective behavioural change. Measuring the rate of return on a social marketing investment, and capturing all the relevant costs, means that interventions can provide value for money.

7. Behavioural economics is cheap.
It depends what you mean by “cheap.” Interventions based on behavioural economics don’t usually require the processes that can make social marketing costly – like developing insight and segmenting the audience. So that’s how behavioural economics can save money – which is always going to be popular with the politicians and policy makers who control the purse strings. But re-designing processes and choice environments using behavioural economics is not free. So it all depends on what you mean by “cheap.”  Because behaviour change is complicated and difficult, it’s unwise to expect any form of intervention to be “cheap.” Until you compare it with the costs of not intervening…

Find out more

There’s more thinking along these lines in our chapter on Behavioural Economics and Social Marketing: Points of Contact?which appears in Volume II of Stewart, D. (Ed) Handbook of Persuasion and Social Marketingto be published by Praeger/Santa Barbara, CA and RoutledgeLondon, later this year.

For more on the relationship between behavioural economics and social marketing, and what it means in practice for behaviour change interventions, check out our new workshop for 2104 – Is A Nudge Enough?

Friday, 21 February 2014

Behaviour Change at UCL
Behaviour Workshops attended the launch of UCL’s Centre for Behaviour Change on Monday 17th February. The aims of the Centre are:
1. To foster leadership, cross disciplinary research, teaching and knowledge transfer at UCL.
2. To improve cross- disciplinary communication and collaboration within and beyond UCL.
3. To enhance academic, public and policy impact of UCL’s research and expertise in behaviour change, both nationally and internationally.
The Centre was launched to a packed house of academics, students and behaviour change professionals by Professor Susan Michie, who has spearheaded the development of this exciting new initiative.
Susan Michie’s introduction was followed by presentations from Professor Alexi Marmot on design for behaviour change and Professor Mike Kelly – whose thoughts on behaviour change and rocket science we covered in the previous post.
Behaviour Workshops looks forward to following the progress and outputs from the centre and attending the programme of events it has planned for 2014. Further details about the centre can be found here

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Behaviour change: actually, “it is rocket science”

Behaviour Workshops attended the launch event of the UCL Centre for Behaviour Change on Monday 17th February in London.  We will be posting more about the launch later, but in the meantime, here are some comments from one of the speakers, Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Public Health Centre at NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Mike described the six common mistakes people make about behaviour change - we thought we’d share them with you:

1. "Behaviour Change is common sense.” It’s not – it is a science, it’s a discipline.

2. “It is about getting the message across.” On the whole, messages don’t work in isolation

3. “Knowledge drives behaviour in some directly connected way.” It doesn’t.

4. “People are rational.” They aren’t. Given the right information and circumstances sometimes some people act rationally – but sometimes they don’t.

5. "People are irrational.” Not always. (see 4)

6. “We can predict human errors and account for them.” We might be able to predict some things, but we can’t predict everything. And we should stop pretending we can.

Which is why, according to Mike, “behaviour change actually IS rocket science.”  But non-rocket scientists should not despair. As Mike said, whilst behaviour change is complex, we can learn a lot from many disciplines.

Mike responded to a question about consumer marketing as being a great example of how to drive behaviour change. And, invoking the spirit of behavioural economics, concluded “You should ignore Nudge at your peril”.  We couldn’t agree more - see details of our latest workshop - Is A Nudge Enough? 

NICE’s latest public health guidance “Behaviour change: individual approaches,” published in January 2014.


Thursday, 6 February 2014


Welcome to our first post on the Behaviour Workshops blog site.

We will be posting more here - on social marketing, behavioural economics and behaviour change.

See you later!

The Behaviour Workshops team