Where behavioural science fits between ‘normality’ and continued worry


Pubs and hairdressers have reopened in many parts of the UK in a move that points towards a return to normality, but a YouGov poll last week indicated public ambivalence as people continue to feel worried and uncertain; in times like this, behavioural science can help with messaging.

YouGov polling over the weekend before pubs opened found that the 48% of the public think the measures announced had gone too far in relaxing the rules, compared to 37% who thought the government had got the balance about right. This was a reversal of the sentiments expressed in a snap poll a few days earlier.

These are confusing times. “Emotions are in flux, characterised by highs and lows and understandably this impacts our behaviours,” as a new report from The Behavioural Architects notes; the insights and research consultancy argues that a behavioural science approach can help brands navigate these uncharted waters.

More specifically, it offers what it calls “a robust and contextually sensitive behavioural toolkit for developing communications.”

Step 1: Define the audience and strategic communication objective

Who you should be targeting is always a key question, but right now people are overwhelmed by information. “While it is important to communicate with your customers, consider doing so on a need-to-know basis by segmenting your audience and prioritising segments,” the report advises. “It’s critical to recognise that many people’s contexts have changed, often radically, both physically, and emotionally. You’ll need to understand these changed contexts, putting yourself in their shoes in order to define the objective of any communication.

Step 2: Define the desired behavioural outcomes

The second step to effective communication in today’s evolving context is to precisely define what are the behavioural and emotional outcomes the communication is targeting. What exactly is it you want your audience to feel, or to think, do or not do?

Step 3: Behavioural Science concepts for developing communication structure and content

Some behavioural science concepts are more relevant than others at this time – and for the foreseeable future – including cognitive ease, “chunking”, defaults, anchoring and framing. These can be allied to additional concepts around social norms and authority that can further enhance behavioural change and nudge action, while availability, affect and reciprocity help drive emotional connection.

This article first appeared in www.warc.com

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