Last week we tuned into Nudgestock, the annual behavioural economics festival, which reminded us of just how important behavioural science could be as we come out the other side of the pandemic.

In its simplest form, behavioural economics suggests that we make decisions according to the context in which we find ourselves, and by changing that context through subtle nudges we can change behaviour.

COVID-19 has completely disrupted the contexts in which our lives play out. But unlike the drastic, sudden changes of the crisis, Rory Sutherland argues that businesses will need to focus on behavioural economics, and the subtle nudges it teaches more than ever as we emerge out of lockdown.

Here are three of the ways we can put this into practice:

Context is king, and now more so than ever.

An often overlooked ticket to good media planning, context is king as we emerge from lockdown. Ensuring your brand is visible in the moments when context changes post-lockdown is one way to bounce back more quickly. Reviewing the basics, whether that’s changing context like time of day or the new context of category behaviours like the weekly shop, is a good place to start.

Create positive feedback loops.

For businesses that haven’t been able to viably adapt to lockdown (think cinemas or live music) there’s urgency to return to pre-lockdown habits, but snapping back feels optimistic. Dan Ariely, a key player in behavioural economics, talked about the importance of closing the gap between fear and reality through positive feedback loops.

For things like commuting this will happen quicker, but for activities like going to a concert or to the cinema the gap will remain wider so long as we are not exposed to a positive experience. By creating “intermediary institutions” that get people used to the halfway house – e.g. smaller gigs or exclusive cinema experiences – brands can nudge back to pre-lockdown behaviours.

Get back to the “real why”.

We should all be questioning ‘the real why’ people buy our products and services, and whether that’s changed in the context of COVID-19.

During lockdown we’ve seen brands quick to find a new “real why” – services like Oddbox have seen an uptick in some customers subscribing as much for reliable delivery as for the contents themselves. As Rory Sutherland suggests, “the real why” is one of the last competitive advantages that brands have and something we should all be reviewing as post-lockdown contexts change.

Nudgestock has nudged us back into thinking about behavioural economics. Context has never been so important, and as we start to regain control of the contexts in which our brands and communications are encountered, we could all learn a thing or two from Rory and co.

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