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Let’s Talk Nudges…

August 3, 2018

I recently delivered some training to our team at Sprout on Behavioural Economics. During the session one of the younger members of our team (who has studied Neuroscience) challenged me on my nudge theory! And the next day delivered a text book (a real book!) for me to read and further educate myself. At Sprout we love being challenged and we love learning.

So, I bring you why Nudges are not enough, and I love this.

Jeff French in the Journal of Social Marketing reviewed the possible contribution of nudging as a tactic and form of exchange. He suggested 2 new frameworks to aid in the description of four forms of exchange and types of intervention within the context of his work in social marketing.

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He believes that these 4 basic forms of exchange that can be used by government and public institutions to bring about change are: Nudging, Shoving, Hugging and Smacking (see 4 forms of exchange diagram above). He further describes 5 types of intervention that can be used to bring about change: Control, Inform, Design, Educate and Support. These two elements (exchanges and interventions) can be brought together in a proposed intervention matrix (See Fig 2 below). He believes this matrix is truly consumer or citizen-centric as it adopts the principles or marketing and value creation for people.

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Going beyond the nudge means understanding that exchanges can be both passive and active, positive and negative. Nudges alone are passive and positive exchanges. We need to consider active exchanges, as well as whether they are negative or positive. For example, (my favourite) is a Hug, this is an active and positive exchange, rewarding a person in an active way for behaviour change. As mentioned, a Nudge is a passive yet positive exchange, rewarding a person passively. Conversely, a Smack is an active and negative exchange (punishing a person actively) and a Shove is a passive and negative exchange (punishing a person passively).

While in consumer marketing the idea of a Smack or Shove seems alien, and the idea of punishing a customer out of this world. There are still principles we can take from these exchanges to support, inform and educate customers in better decision-making. Watch this space!

Author: Kerry Dymond, Sprout Cultural Insights Specialist

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