Richard Shotton and The Choice Factory

We were lucky enough to catch Richard Shotton just before his fantastic book The Choice Factory won BBH’s World Cup of Advertising Books (well deserved, though I was pulling for Decoded). He’s got so much information that our talk moves all over the board as it relates to decision making – but we sink our teeth into the pratfall effect and how we see it playing out in every day life; well beyond advertising.

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[00:00:24] Adam Pierno: All right. Welcome back to another episode of The Strategy Inside Everything. Today, we have a really, really special guest. I have been getting crushed in the Amazon book sales department by our next guest whose book consistently, thanks a lot Richard, has been outselling mine and every time I log on to Amazon it shows up as a reminder on top of my book so thanks a lot. Richard Shotton is here, joining me today from the U.K. He is the deputy head of evidence at MGOMD and the aforementioned book is a fantastic read called The Choice Factory. How are you doing today?

[00:01:04] Richard Shotton: Not too bad. How are you?

[00:01:06] Adam: I’m doing great I should say tonight. I guess from where you are, it’s evening. Here in Arizona, it’s morning.

[00:01:12] Richard: It’s a lovely, unseasonably warm day for London.

[00:01:17] Adam: Unseasonably warm. You crack me up. It’s like 105 here so I have no pity for you whatsoever. Would you mind giving people a sense of your background?Then, I want to talk a little bit about what motivated you to write The Choice Factory and then we’ll dive into our topic.

[00:01:34] Richard: My background is a media planner. I started in 2000. Five or six years ago, I moved from media planning into research. More like a particular interest while I was a media planner and then especially as a researcher was how findings from social psychology also school behavioral science can be applied to advertising.

[00:02:00] Adam: What made you switch from media to research? What triggered that switch?

[00:02:06] Richard: I think we had a problem at my own agency that many agencies find which is the research department ha decoupled from the agency a little bit. It becomes slightly stand alone so we thought it would be good to try and re-integrate the agency rather than bring your researcher and look after it. I had a plan to go and look after it.

[00:02:33] Adam: That’s fantastic since they chose somebody from the inside to start by looking at those questions and get the perspective of media planning combine.

[00:02:41] Richard: That’s right. The importance to stop being the methodology next topic what are the media planning questions we can answer and it gave me a really good chance to bring behavioral science therefore.

[00:02:55] Adam: That’s really cool. Was that the trigger for writing The Choice Factory? Was that switching part of the trigger?

[00:03:03] Richard: Yes. I think it’s a little bit of that. There’s a post-rationalization and the genuine answer. The genuine answer is that was a little bit of laziness that got me to write it. I was running a lot to experiments for clients. After running the experiments, someone came up to me in agency and said, ” Remember the experiment you ran for Lexus, can you show me the results? I think it might be relevant to a problem I’m facing.”

Unfortunately, my filing system is pretty awful. My presentation style is generally just images on slides. I could either never find in the results or I just had three slides with images on which is pretty useless. I had to rerun the experiments all the time. What I thought then was rather than waste my time doing this, rerunning and rerunning and rerunning them, I know I’ll write them up, send them to multi-way campaign and then when people come and ask for details, they’re there online. I could just send them the link and save myself a lot of time.

[00:04:02] Adam: You’re the first person who I ever heard say that you wrote a book out of laziness. That’s a pretty interesting perspective on it.

[00:04:07] Richard: Well, for about six months, I had all these different acts. I thought that this could be the good base, a good raw material for a book. There was no real plan. It kind of grew luckily, serendipitously from laziness.

[00:04:23] Adam: Well, the data that you’re pulling from to write the book is powerful stuff. Your laziness finally paid off, I’m sure there are teachers, professors and people in your past that are applauding your laziness now that we’re critiquing it then.

[00:04:39] Richard: [unintelligible 00:04:40]

[00:04:40] Adam: Yes. [laughs]

[00:04:42] Richard: I was generally surprised by the fact of how little attention she’s paid to psychology. Yes, that’s strange and yes, there’s a bit more of an interest but considering the jump we do and the fact that pretty much everything we are trying to do is marked as a changed behavior but let’s get to pay more, switch brands, buy our product more regularly. All of these behavior change. It seems slightly crazy that we’re not spending half of the day talking about what’s actually the science of behavior change.

That’s the kind of more rational answer that I felt we should be giving this topic far more attention. While there are lots and lots of books about popular psychology, there aren’t that many. That then take those biases take those findings and apply them for advertising.

[00:05:40] Adam: I agree. I wonder since you said half of the time we spend talking about behavior change and consumer psychology, what do you think is the other half just out of curiosity?

[00:05:53] Richard: Even if you know these biases and think about the broad applications, I think one of the most exciting parts is it’s still only a launch pad for a great creative or to think about how they can apply themselves. I wouldn’t claim it’s the only thing we have to do. I think it’s a very important part of our role.

[00:06:15] Adam: It makes it hard to make something with an intention if we don’t understand how the intention is harnessed or how people will even receive it and what they might do with it, right?

[00:06:24] Richard: Absolutely.

[00:06:26] Adam: Well, I wanted to talk a little bit more about one of the chapters in your book and since I read the book and since I gave preparing for this talk, I’ve been digging in a little bit on the Pratfall Effect. I thought it’d be fun if the two of us could dive into just that one topic. I don’t want to spend the whole time giving away all the pieces of your book. I think people should read it but Pratfall Effect, in particular, is something that I don’t remember until I heard it in your voice. I don’t remember reading about it. I don’t think I was even aware of it. You might want to give people a little bit of background on that.

[00:07:07] Richard: Yes, sure. It’s quite an old bias. There was a professor of Psychology at Harvard University called Elliot Aronson and in 1966, he and his wonderful ingenious experiment, he got a actor to take part in a quiz and he gives the actor the answers. I’m surprised that’s [unintelligible 00:07:30] questions right. As the actor is finishing and he’s won the quiz by miles, he stands up and makes a small blunder. He makes a pratfall. He knocks a cup of coffee down himself. Aronson takes that recording and he plays it to people.

He plays a recording one of two versions, either they hear everything, they hear the great quiz question answering and the mistake or they just hear the great quiz question answering. Aronson asked people how appealing do you find this contestant. He finds that the participants find the contestants significantly more appealing if they hear the mistake as well. Aronson calls this the Pratfall Effect. That’s essentially the idea that people in Aronson’s experiment but later on it was shown to our products as well, people are products who exhibit a flaw become more appealing.

[00:08:29] Adam: That’s such an interesting insight. What do you think it is? Is it vulnerability? Is it relatability? You’ve spent a lot more time thinking about this.

[00:08:39] Richard: It’s a fascinating bias because first, it’s a bit counterintuitive and one of the criticisms of behavior science is always in this is just stuff we can work ourselves. The Pratfall Effect is a lovely example of something that goes against our initial feelings. There are a few reasons. I think one reason is consumers assume advertisers don’t tell the truth. They might be mistaken but I think that’s an assumption. Therefore, if you admit a weakness, you’ve tangibly demonstrated your honesty and you become more appealing.

I think a second element is consumers assume all products are flawed. If you don’t tell them where your flaw lies, then they will assume it might lie somewhere important. There’s a lovely evidence done by Northwestern University. They looked at 111,000 product reviews and they found that when product reviews were near perfect, 4.9 or 5 out of 5, there are actually fewer people were going on to buy that product.

[00:09:51] Adam: Isn’t that funny? How many rooms have you sat in with a client where you explain that? I never had the science to explain it, only common sense, that people are skeptical and their antenna are up and if they only see five star reviews it’s too good to be true. The client will say, “Well yes but we don’t want to promote bad reviews. If there’s a way to hide them let’s hide them.”

[00:10:13] Richard: Whereas this would suggest that that’s actually the wrong thing to do because you won’t– People have got a whole bank of experiences that they’re drawing on they know for a better experience that perfection is too good to be true. If you haven’t told them then the consumers are not going to fill that void with spots of their thoughts. They may well think that flaw lies in somewhere very important therefore not go anywhere near it. I don’t know if you’ve heard Laurie Sutherland’s take on budget airlines. That was quite a nice example to pratfall effect.

[00:10:45] Adam: What was his example?

[00:10:46] Richard: He says look, “When budget airlines launched” and he takes some European examples of things like easyJet and Ryanair, he says, “These are phenomenally strange things, one day you could fly from London’s Paris and charge a quid, the next day it was a tenner.” If those companies hadn’t admitted a flaw, if they just said they’re very very cheap, his consumers would never have stepped on one of the planes because they-

[00:11:15] Adam: Yes we had to explain the trade-off.

[00:11:16] Richard: Yes exactly and if you don’t, people think it might come in safety. Once you say, “We give you a poor service,” came with an “Aha, that’s where the deal is and it’s a very good deal and I accept it.”

[00:11:28] Adam: Right, that’s so funny and even last year, maybe it was two years ago when Ryanair was talking about charging an additional fee for you to use the lavatory.

[00:11:37] Richard: Yes.

[00:11:38] Adam: It’s like that’s them just resetting that for you again to say, “Look we’re cutting here because we’re trying to figure out how to keep the costs down a little bit.”

[00:11:46] Richard: I don’t know do you have a suspicion this one is gut feeling, not good at that position but I do wonder if the pratfall effect and that admission of a flaw to make a trade-off understandable was necessary at the launch of Ryanair. I wonder if now it’s so well accepted the whole premise of the budget airline whether it’s needed and should they be quite so aggressive in their pushing their poor service. That one I’m unsure about.

[00:12:17] Adam: Yes that’s interesting. Here in the US we have Domino’s that did the- They launched the remake of the brand with their 60-second spotted meeting. The “Oh yes we did,” where they said, “Hey our pizza’s terrible.” There’s focus groups that we have that showed us that people are not just happy and so we’re doing everything over again. Are there other examples that you point to as brands taking that pratfall and winning with it?

[00:12:44] Richard: Yes I think if you think about the most successful brands of all time, it’s remarkable how many seem to harness the pratfall effect. Think of VW back in ’99, DDB ugly zone skin deep and America’s lost force whack so the maintenance are gloom. You got the same agency doing the same trick in 1962 with Avis submitting they weren’t the most popular. You’ve got Listerine admitting how bad they taste, the taste of CHY-cido. Guinness it’s slow to pour, it’s irritating these loads to pour. Good things come to those who wait. Even on argue Thriftin has covered all the buys here but Stellar’s reassuringly expensive. It’s interesting that if you just look at some of the best performing advertisers the pratfall effect comes up reasonably regular.

[00:13:37] Adam: I wouldn’t have categorized Stellar in there.

[00:13:41] Richard: Yes.

[00:13:41] Adam: But I mean with context I get it. Yes, it’s like here’s a shortcoming we’re going to use it front and center.

[00:13:47] Richard: I think that’s a fair point in that you could argue there’s an idea of here, of being good or Expectancy Theory where people use price as a shorthand for quality. There’s a number of studies, Arialium Babushift he’d shown the same wine when people are told it’s more expensive people believe it tastes better. I think if you just sort it on it’s own you might think of just an example of price being a determinant of quality even if unrelated to the actual quality of the product. I think if you see it with those others there’s an element of they put that price they won’t just stuffed about it. They will be quite open about its high price versus the competition.

[00:14:36] Adam: Yes I know that’s really cool. Have you seen the new– I just saw a Snickers video today that was like an apology video about an ad-

[00:14:45] Richard: No, I haven’t seen it.

[00:14:46] Adam: I’ll send you a link right after. I’ll put it in the show notes but it was an ad, their “You’re not you” campaign. The path was irritable when you’re hungry. It was an ad that essentially a print ad they ran that said something like, “You need to eat a Snickers jerk” or something. Something really pointed and aggressively mean and then the pay-off was you’re irritable when you’re hungry. They did a video apologizing for as if it was out of their control and they don’t know how this thing got out. It really plays into the pratfall effect of, “Hey, yes, we’re only human and we fall victim to these things too.”

[00:15:23] Richard: Lovely. When you were saying the earlier example of the Dominos where there’s a genuine apology I’m wondering if that is something slightly different in where I think those plastic campaigns of VW, Guinness, Avis. They weren’t caught out with these problems and then apologized. They actively went out and embraced that flaw. I wonder if there’s a slightly different new one between the two. I think my favorite approach is almost that kind of plastic approach of-

[00:16:02] Adam: No, great point because Dominos changed everything based on what they found versus embracing it like Lennon and all the classic VWs. This is what it is.

[00:16:10] Richard: Yes, because they now wonder if you almost the double benefit of going out and admitting those flaws before you’re caught out is there’s a related buys. She didn’t actually mention the book. Things by a lady called Francesca Gino called the Red Sneaker Effect. What she argues is to make a social transgression or to break a social norm you have to have lots of social capital.

Her initial starting place for her experiments was an experiment where she went to academic conferences, this was early 2000 late ’90s and she monitored, rated people’s formality of dress from suits and ties down to jeans and sneakers. This was the time when the academic norm would have been to dress smartly. She goes up to those people and ask them, “How many citations have you got?” Citations being a bit of a quantification of your success in academic.

She finds an inverse correlation between number of citations and formality of dress. Her argument is if only the successful people who can break the norm of dressing smartly, others just wouldn’t get away with it. I wonder if that’s somewhat the appeal of VW in that there’s an element of, “God these guys must be pretty confident about the amazing engineering behind that cars if they’re prepared to tell us the weaknesses and they still expect to sell them.” I wonder if there’s Red Sneakers Effect going on as well.

[00:17:50] Adam: Love it. Have you in any of the experiments you’ve run, have you experimented around pratfall effect with brands that you’ve worked on? Have you dug and found any practical results or is it looking back at campaigns and finding examples?

[00:18:07] Richard: The one bit experimentation we did do, there’s an Australian psychologist who talked about the pratfall effects guy called Adam Ferrier. He did a test where he flashed up two images of cookies and asked people to say which they prefer. Overwhelmingly in the audience people say, “I would prefer the one on the left.” It turns out that these two cookies they are almost identical but one’s the original cookie with the rough flawed edge and the other one has a smooth edge. He did this amongst a group of conference, a Behavioral Science conference, to show that the flawed and the rough curtained food is more appealing.

When we saw that, a colleague and I thought, “That’s gone amongst a unrepresentative group, let’s see if it works against a naturally representative sample.” We did the same experiment amongst 626 naturally represented people and found that about two-thirds will prefer the roughened flawed cookie. As an example it showed this stuff works for products not just people as Aaron Sen experimented them.

[00:19:20] Adam: That’s amazing. It was conclusive result?

[00:19:23] Richard: It is conclusive result as in last sample. There’s the business arguments replying behavioral science. You can go through all the experiments, all the robust evidence for why you as amongst should apply it. I’ve also found that when you go and talk to clients sometimes that leaves them a little cold. There is an advantage of sometimes running a live experiment in front of them to show that they are as affected by bias as anyone else. Even though it has far less statistical why or robustness, it can be a more effective way of persuading clients.

[00:20:07] Adam: This is funny. Because that example you just gave of the cookie plays into what’s happening right now in marketing with influencers where people are much more receptive to content from peers or from “influencers” and essentially the brand comes in third or fourth place of when I’m willing to engage with a product. I think as influencers get more and more slick and sophisticated, we’ve seen this in a number of followers that higher follower rate drops engagement. I wonder to the polish on a post not having those rough edges and not having those things makes people suspicious, makes them suspect when they see like, “Hey, it looks really polished. I wonder who really paid for that.”

[00:20:54] Richard: I think that’s a fair point on that. Always, there’s a little bit by category, but for food especially and I think you’re right as well for things like bloggers, the flow suggests authenticity, handmade, small batch all of which at the moment I think have quite positive connotations. I think you’re absolutely right. When you [unintelligible 00:21:19] it is fascinating because it does feel very multi dimensional. [crosstalk]

[00:21:26] Adam: You can apply it. Once I started reading about it, I could see it being applied everywhere. It’s really interesting. [crosstalk]

[00:21:33] Richard: Sorry. One of my favorites I often this is always brands it’s often small businesses or non [unintelligible 00:21:44] sometimes apply it best. One of my favorite examples of the pratfall effect is Ian Banks. He’s one of the most respected authors in Britain. Wrote from the mid ’80s to about 2015 and on his very first novel called The Wasp Factory, he insisted to the publisher that they run the positive reviews as well as the negative reviews on the back cover-

[00:22:12] Adam: I love it.

[00:22:13] Richard: -they were genuinely scaling. For example, The Sunday Express one of the popular papers mid-market papers said something along the lines of a silly gloatingly sadistic novel. The- [laughter] of a horror video nasty. The time is good at rubbish and he put those on the back page. He attributed his success and his breakthrough into the market by his use of the pratfall effect

[00:22:43] Adam: That’s amazing and especially at that time and place to get tied in with the video nasty era. That the [unintelligible 00:22:49] around that and that point in cultures does very clever. You probably got very lucky to be- [chuckles]

[00:22:56] Richard: The book is certainly shocking I think at the time, I think what he realized was, well, lots of the positive blurbs will go on about how shocking this is, but if people are actually slagging off the book has been too far past the line, then that actually can be quite motivating.

[00:23:19] Adam: Yes, and those negative reviews if you go back to the the first example you brought up about product reviews on Amazon or Expedia or TripAdvisor, a lot of times what’s negative for one person is just the beautiful rough edge for me. If it says, “There were so many kids there, I couldn’t relax.” Well, as a parent of two kids I’m like, “Awesome, there were so many kids there now I’m not worried about bringing my kids there and disrupting the whole place.”

[00:23:43] Richard: Absolutely. What’s interesting there is, I don’t know if this works in America [unintelligible 00:23:49] I don’t have good enough knowledge than the national press market and how regionalized yours is versus the papers here. The papers here often take firstly, a very political stance and then secondly, an almost conservative with a small [unintelligible 00:24:08] stance versus a more modern stance. He wasn’t putting negative reviews from– In fact, he was putting negative reviews from a certain section of papers. I think like the Daily Mail and Sun Express are known as being very traditional, conservative and having insults from them probably appeal to the other half of the market. I think you’re right.

[00:24:34] Adam: It’s a badge of honor. The context is everything.

[00:24:37] Richard: Yes, absolutely. As a first time author, well, if 50% of the population never wants to speak to you, see you again and 50% are open to buy you, that’s a quite good success one.

[00:24:52] Adam: Next, run a book so I’m going to put some of the negative comments I’ve got on my book. Hopefully, it will help. There’s plenty of those, so no problem. Let’s talk about outside marketing. Before we started recording, you and I were chatting a little bit about pratfall and here in the US we have Donald J. Trump our illustrious president. It seems that he is writing the pratfall effect, almost to a certain second term. No matter what gap he makes, or what crazy thing, they appear crazy to me, his popularity holds with his core audience. Is this in line with pratfall effect or he’s not endearing himself to me over time but-

[00:25:45] Richard: I wonder if that fits to what we were saying about your example of how [unintelligible 00:25:51] has children or when the Sunday Express is insulting a modern novel for being too cutting edge. I wonder if there’s an element of the attacks if they come always from the same political groups. The opposition are emboldened even further because they define themselves by not being the people who are attacking.

The only second one is an interesting twist on Amazon’s original experiment. Because when I was explaining to begin with, the actor had done remarkably well at the quiz, he got 92% of the questions right. What Amazon also did, though, was get the actor to purposely get a lot of the questions wrong. You only get 30% of the questions correct and then makes the pratfall. In that scenario, people found him less appealing when they heard the pratfall as well as the quiz answers.

[00:27:01] Adam: Competency is the core piece of context. Then after that, if he is vulnerable by some flaw or some pratfall, then it’s increases the desirability or the appeal.

[00:27:13] Richard: Yes. I wonder for Trump, does that competency come from his billions and his real estate success? Therefore, he’s got that competence on top. The flaws they certainly make him feel more authentic maybe than other politicians. We’ve certainly had our own examples here. I think where he started to wane, but Boris Johnson, he was bumbling made. He was doing a photo opportunity going down a zip wire and the zip wire broke and he just hung there in midair for 20 minutes. Now, for most politicians, this would be a photo disaster. We just wrote it out and it seemed to make it even more endearing at the time. We certainly had our own politicians who seemed to have benefit from the pratfall effect.

[00:28:13] Adam: Does the pratfall effect, and you can answer this either in world of marketing and brands or anywhere, if I already predisposed to like Boris Johnson. If already am a supporter, I’m a member of that party and I follow him. The pratfall effect, I get it. I see him hanging from that wire and I go, “See, that’s adorable. I like him even more today than I did yesterday.” If his opposition or a brand that some of that would never fly Ryanair for example. Have you seen any evidence or even just theorizing, do you think it would be effective to pull new audiences in to help grow a brand or is it more about solidifying and reassuring people that are already in the brand?

[00:29:02] Richard: That is a very good question. I’ve never used it as an argument for overturning those group of projectors. If I have been talking with clients about what can I do about rejecters? If I’m really disliked what can we do to overturn that? My argument is normally be three fold, one is, “Well, why bother on one hand?” This is idea called confirmation bias. We interpret evidence or a lens of our existing feelings.

Knowing that, it’s actually quite hard to overturn to those opinions. Someone genuinely doesn’t like your brand, can you not just make do with the vast majority of people who are in different model, a negative or just not shopping regular enough. I think some- [crosstalk] so long as there’s no argument for we don’t have to be quite so grand in our [unintelligible 00:30:00] plans just getting people who quite likely to buy you a little bit more or people who weren’t buying you- just stopped to have a- they fall out the habit just getting reactivating them. I think that could be a big enough goal in itself, that’s one argument.

The second argument is- this is wonderful a bit of research by Leon Festinger, was at Stanford in the ’60s and he said the why confirmation bias is tricky to get around because the brain is very good at coming up with arguments to maintain its existing point of view, so he ran an experiment where he recruited members of a college fraternity. He played those people an audio argument about why college fraternities morally wrong, but he either played it with no distractions or the people listening also had to watch a silent film so were distracted.

He found when he asked people about how persuasive they thought his argument was and what they thought about college fraternities now, people were more likely to have changed their opinion if they’d been distracted. As in the media planner that’s fascinating because I think 99% of time or 99% of media planners if you were told that we want to persuade projects of a brand actually were amazing, you would default to reaching people at a time of heightened attention, so we can get all these messages in front of them and give them lots of logical arguments about why our brand is amazing, but what Festinger says–

[00:31:32] Adam: What- go on.

[00:31:35] Richard: – Festinger says that’s exactly the wrong thing to do. What you should do is not let’s say reach them when they’re watching a film when you’ve got their full attention. You want to be reaching them when they’re distracted and they’re doing something else. Maybe you should think about reaching them when they’re listening to the radio and driving a car. That way the brain is been used doing other things so it’s less able to generate these counter-arguments and therefore becomes more persuadable.

[00:32:02] Adam: That’s incredible. What you’re telling me is I can go to all my clients and say hey fragmented media, fragmentation, and attention is great for your brand [laughs] selling-?

[00:32:13] Richard: Well, it depends on the challenge. If you feel and do have some skepticism about it, but if you feel you need to win over rejecters of your brand then yes a moments distraction all the festing reverence suggests it would be the right place to do it.

[00:32:32] Adam: That’s interesting. I think there’s so much focus now that the tide has turned from engaging your best customers to really people carrying professor sharps torch of- you have to go get new customers and grow your audience and so figuring out how to take on rejecters is the new coin of the realm I think going for the next few years until we figure out the next thing we didn’t know.

[00:33:00] Richard: The third and final angle for trying to get people to change behaviors, change their habits is an argument about timing and there’s two different angles here. There’s a paper by Katherine Milkman, who termed the idea of the Fresh Start Effect and she says one of the reasons we don’t like to change our behavior is because we want to be consistent with our past selves, but she’s argued that we don’t believe time rolls out in an even manner.

We have social ways of categorizing that time, say by week, by semester. I’m 42 after I’d have a birthday I’ll have a new unit of time. She says these moments of temporal discontinuity are moments when people are more likely to change their behavior because they see less link with their past self. Now that sounds a little bit overblown, but what she does to prove it is realize [unintelligible 00:34:00].

She looks at things like searches to terms like diets. She looks at University gym enrollment dates and she looks at a website called Stick, and people make pledges change their behavior. On all of those, she sees spikes, beginning of the week, beginning the month, beginning the semester and after people’s birthdays. When at first seems a little bit chivious [sic]- when she analyze the data and came up with a very strong backing. The other point where there would be- it’s not just about the message and the argument or the content that you have. If you want to change someone’s behavior there are certain times when people are far more prone to do it.

[00:34:45] Adam: I’ve seen studies that echo that and it makes a lot of sense and by that logic, I would wonder if you had done any experiments testing. I think it applies most to things like diet to fitness, to some of the examples you gave. I wonder if you’ve done any experiments or seen any out practical experiments where you see people- we’ve tracked Facebook or digital ads and see what receptivity is by [unintelligible 00:35:13]?

[00:35:13] Richard: The experiment I’ve done a few times now. We’ve done over huge sum, but I think in totality about seven or 8000 people was- rather day of week we looked at grander scales. We looked at what we called life events, things like getting divorced, getting married, getting retired, moving house. Really, really simple setup. First question on the survey, please tick the life events that you’ve undergone.

Then people were asked five or six different questions just throwing off the sense, they didn’t see any link and then the final question was- we did this a couple of different ways. For example, we said, “Please tick the categories in which you have tried a new brand or please tick the categories in which you have got a new favorite.” What we found is that people who had undergone a life event in the last six months on all the brands, all the categories they were between two and three times more likely to have changed the brand they used. It does seem to work outside of those things like you said about diets and exercising and quitting smoking. Even on commercial products, we looked at things like type of makeup you used, the coffee shop you drink at. Even on those things, people’s behavior does change after a major life event.

[00:36:34] Adam: Was there one life event that rose to the top that drove more change or was it pretty consistently just keeping the idea?

[00:36:40] Richard: [unintelligible 00:36:40] your question. It varied very much by category. What we found was this general finding that seems like peoples whose habits are destabilized when they undergo these life events and therefore at least they go back into the market, but for every category, there were particular life events that were important.

For example, on makeup, we found that people who just got divorced, people who had just started the University, and people who had just started at work were off the scale in terms of switching and changing brands.

I think the argument there would be well, those life events were particularly pertinent because people were changing their social set, therefore, the need to look that much more beautiful or to project a bit more confidence suddenly had greater importance because frankly if you’re still with the same people you’ve known for 10 years, they know who you are and you don’t have to adopt any-

[00:37:35] Adam: Right, nobody to impress, yes.

[00:37:37] Richard: Exactly, yes.

[00:37:38] Adam: Well, you know I’ve read studies too that say, as it relates to Fitness that Fitness in midlife is more of an indicator that someone is preparing for a divorce than it is if someone coming from a divorce.

[00:37:51] Richard: Okay. I do think that makes sense. We didn’t look at if- the one that linked really well with the divorce were I think foreign travel, going away on a- cant remember exactly the term we used and makeup, but that would also make sense. I suppose if you are coming up to that divorce and re-entering the market, if that’s the right term, that you’d suddenly start being interested in your appearance, yes.

[00:38:18] Adam: That’s why I keep canceling my life’s gym membership, I go, “I don’t want her go leaving me. I don’t want to get any big ideas.” [laughs] What else can you tell me about the choice factory for the people that are listening?

[00:38:32] Richard: Yes.

[00:38:33] Adam: I feel like everybody who listens to this show probably, definitely would benefit from it and probably has heard of it, so give them something that will nudge their behavior [unintelligible 00:38:44]

[00:38:46] Richard: The things I’ve tried to do with it- I’ve argued about why I think it’s really relevant, the general topic and then beyond that, I’ve tried to look at biases that I think are less well known. Things like the Pratfall effect, hopefully, there will be new news to everyone who reads it. The third bit I’ve tried to do is make it very practical. What I found was- I read lots and lots of books on this topic and often they just stopped at describing what the psychological biases are- that all the findings of academics.

What I wanted to do was one prove that these things affects commercial brands, so when I did my own experiments and all the data is in the in the book and then the bulk of every chapter, is like, “Now you know about [unintelligible 00:39:33] 25 biases. This is what you should do differently. This is how you should change your pricing, this is how you should think about promotions, this is how you should think about your creative or your media buying on a media planning.” I was very concerned about can I get as practical as possible?

[00:39:50] Adam: Well, that’s what I loved about it and that’s why I think there is a real benefit to reading it not just from a lot of books of theory and you can expand your mind or open your mind to new ideas but you bring it all the way to practical, here’s empirical proof that this matters to your job and it matters to the problems you’re trying to solve for your clients and for your customers. I just think it’s really valuable text.

[00:40:15] Richard: I’m sure listeners will have this huge variety of different problems. The great thing about behavioral science is there’s a wealth of different biases. 100 biases that have been discovered, 100 plus biases so rather than trying to force fit your problem to a particular ideology or a way of approaching marketing, the great thing with behavioral science is that there is no Grundy the theorem. You’ve got all these biases is now up to you as a marketer to select the biases most relevant to your problem.

[00:40:49] Adam: 100% are all tools-

[00:40:50] Richard: Yes.

[00:40:53] Adam: All right, one last question and I’m going to let you go. I did not prepare you for this so I’m putting you on the spot. What three books, not written by you, do you recommend for people that would like The Choice Factory? Are there books covered in your bibliography or just books you recommend?-

[00:41:08] Richard: Absolutely. In terms of a book about behavioral science that is very related to marketing. There’s a wonderful one called Decoded which is by-

[00:41:22] Adam: I got it. So-

[00:41:24] Richard: -and written probably six or seven years ago so from one of the first instance that’s fantastic. There is a book called Inside the Nudge Unit which is by David Halpern so he was CEO of the Behavioral Science team, the UK government’s team that was established to apply behavioral science to policy. It’s a very simple easy to read book but he has a wealth of examples about applying behavioral science beyond just marketing so some of its communications with some of its policy.

The third one I’d probably go just he’s wonderful, brilliantly chaotic mind. Pretty The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland often talked about the same biases of other people but he has just got such a fertile imagination. He always just uses it to jump off into a completely different direction so that’s another wonderful book on the topic.

[00:42:25] Adam: Yes, that’s a great recommendation. His perspective just adds–

[00:42:30] Richard: [unintelligible 00:42:30] If people aren’t aware that always Sutherland is the best place to start with it would probably be based on these TED talks. He packs an amazing amount into 80 minutes, things that life lessons of [unintelligible 00:42:40] is a wonderful footage.

[00:42:46] Adam: Yes. Both inside The Nudge Unit and in Sutherland not specifically Wiki Man but both of those things were covered in the Freakonomics. We’re talking fine podcast and get a little bit of a sneak peek if you don’t have time to read the book right away but great episodes looks at both of those [unintelligible 00:43:06]. All right, well Richard this has been awesome. Thank you for taking time out of your evening and I know we’re trying to set this up for a little while, I’m sorry I couldn’t make it when you came to the US, I was-

[00:43:19] Richard: [unintelligible 00:43:19] I’m hoping at some stage to come back, maybe Chicago or LA next time.

[00:43:28] Adam: Perfect. Give me a heads up I will try to be there.

[00:43:32] Richard: On this, if you did have an influence I know New York was the biggest advertising city in America. I don’t know if you’ve got a view on what the next biggest would be. Is that LA?

[00:43:45] Adam: I’d probably say Chicago maybe, maybe Boston or Minneapolis. You will do well in Boston too because there’s so many schools there, there’s so many people that would enjoy learning about just the topics of the book and the research you’ve done is really useful.

[00:44:04] Richard: Okay, I hadn’t thought of either Boston or Minneapolis so I will look into those two.

[00:43:21] Adam: Don’t go to Minneapolis or Boston in the winter though or get there before it starts snowing, you’ll hate life, you’ll be cursing me. Richard where can people find you online?

[00:44:22] Richard: Twitter is one place so arts all shorten. I promise people they will see no photos of my family or love of West Ham. It’s all about social psychology and advertising something quite prolific Tweeter are my main-

[00:44:39] Adam: You hired all the West Ham-

[00:44:39] Richard: I have never tweeted about West Ham. I once broke my rule and tweeted about Mo Farah [unintelligible 00:44:45] in the Olympics. My normal thing on Twitter is if I’m reading a book it will be about advertising or psychology. If I come across an interesting experiment take a photo of it and stick online just sharing interesting experiments I read about.

[00:45:06] Adam: Very good. Well, this has been awesome and thank you so much again for making time. The book is called The Choice Factory and it’s available everywhere. I know it’s available on Amazon so it keeps reminding me that you’re having-

[00:45:18] Richard: [unintelligible 00:45:17].

[00:45:22] Adam: [laughs] Good to speak to you too man-

[00:45:23] Richard: Thanks a lot.

[00:45:24] Adam: Thank you very much.

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