A slice of behavioural magic in London


We were delighted to welcome Richard Shotton (Manning Gottlieb OMD) on Tuesday to introduce some of the key themes in his book The Choice Factory. The book has had a real impact because it makes the implications of behavioural science crystal clear for practitioners.  

The evening, our first in a series of an speaker events, was kicked off with a client perspective courtesy of Jo Caley, Research Manager at Legal & General. As a financial provider trying to get people to act now to reap future benefits L&G are only too aware of the role behavioural biases play in decision-making. Jo gave some practical examples of how L&G have created more successful outcomes – for example, making tweaks to the lay-out and wording of renewal letters, to make them more effective, through to an easy Smart Claims initiative, which recently won Insurance Times Claims Technology Solution of the Year.

Richard then took to the floor and spoke fluently about what convinced him behavioural science was fertile territory for marketers. Back in 2004 the NHS was trying to drive an increase in blood donations but the campaign was floundering. Richard happened upon the story of Kitty Genovese who had been murdered in New York in 1964 despite 37 people witnessing the crime unfold. This example of the bystander effect - inaction due to diffusion of responsibility, rather than a lack of caring - gave him a brainwave. Make the campaign call to action more specific - from “blood donations are low across the country” to “blood donations are low in (your city) – please help”. The result: a 10% improvement in cost per donation – all from a wording tweak from a 40 year old bias.


Richard’s talk covered off a wide ranging set of issues:

  • ·        How to counter objections to behavioural science in the boardroom:
    • Undertake quick survey experiments with stakeholders to prove that they too are prone to biases like anchoring - just like the rest of us.
  • ·        How flaws make a brand more appealing
    • His favourite bias, the pratfall effect, was used VW, Stella Artois and Avis in some of their most successful campaigns. Being “reassuringly expensive” for example is a risk – and hard campaign idea to get decision makers to signoff. Yet behavioural science shows us that when brands behave in this most human of ways we are more likely to see them as honest, with our interests at heart. It’s also why people are also sceptical when online reviews of brands are too high… beyond 4.6/5 there’s a tipping point at which reviews are ‘too good to be true’.
  • ·        The psychology of price.
    • Perceptions of value are affected by method of payment. Parting with cash is more visceral than other methods; we remember it more clearly than using chip & pin or contactless. In fact anything you can do to reduce the tangibility of money – even taking the £ sign from a menu – will reduce price sensitivity. Richard used this evidence to advise Pret a Manger to roll out contactless payment (at the time a new technology), helping their value perceptions.

There was much debate and lively discussion afterwards. Thanks to Richard and Jo from all of the team at Trinity McQueen. If you’d like a copy of Richard’s book or more information on the evening, just let us know.

Katie Grundy