Should your creativity be led by theory or by practice?

As a behavioural science-led creative agency, we call upon many behavioural theories to supercharge the effectiveness of our creative work. But, as our motto suggests, our creativity is informed by these behavioural science theories.

Let’s take a look at a couple of theories, how they are used in their most conventional way, and how they are sometimes used differently in practice.

Behavioural science-led theory…

System 1 and System 2 thinking by Daniel Kahneman

Two different ways the brain forms thoughts…

  1. Fast, automatic and emotional decisions
  2. Slow, logical and calculating decisions

Applying the Scarcity bias will trigger your system 1 to act immediately so that you don’t miss out. Fashion brands do this all the time, and very successfully. This is theory being used to the letter for a positive impact on the brand.

Nudge Theory by Richard Thaler

This is all about how customer decisions can be influenced unconsciously through suggestion and reinforcement.

Probably one of the most famous examples in the world of nudges is the fly on the urinal experiment. The idea of giving men something to aim at would ensure they paid closer attention to not missing, leading to tidier public bathrooms.

Behavioural science urinal experiment

The Effect of Expectation by Dan Ariely

This is all about how expectations can override our senses, partially blinding us from the truth.

A classic example of this theory is when you’re on your way to buy a coffee. You walk past Starbucks to the coffee shops next door. One of the shops has a sign outside that says “steamy cappuccino with vanilla bean and cinnamon.” The other shop, is offering a “warm, sensational espresso made from hand-roasted 100% Arabica beans and lusciously blanketed with perfectly steamed milk, seasoned with decadent vanilla bean and dusted with a pinch of cinnamon.” Which do you choose? Your expectation has been set by the second so it’s mostly likely this one.

Behavioural science in practice…

In practice where the outcome is informed by the theory, and not led by it, you’re open to welcoming even more ideas.

System 1 and System 2 thinking

Everyone’s talking about the mouldy whopper… Kahneman’s theory suggests your system 1 brain will turn you off to eating burgers from Burger King because of the impact of the moldy image on your automatic, first impression thinking.

Purely based on system 1 thinking would this idea have never seen the light of day? Or do we trust people to allow the arresting image to make them look deeper. Much in the way that using the Von Restorff effect engages audiences with an unexpected twist.

Burger King mouldy whopper

Nudge theory 

To try to reduce the number of cigarette butts being dropped on London’s streets, a clever poll was created for football fans to vote for their favourite player by inserting the used cigarette butt. This campaign led to a reduction in cigarette litter on busy streets by 74%.

Behavioural science cigarette butts

The Effect of Expectation

Using language to describe your product or brand isn’t the only way to set expectations. Let other customers set the expectations for you. 

Ratings and reviews can form the basis of what you want people to expect from your brand. For example, take the ‘mattress in a box’ brand Eve. Their promise of a comfortable night’s sleep on only one kind of mattress is backed up by the thousands of people who have reviewed them to validate this promise.

Eve sleep rating

If you want to know more about how creativity can be enhanced through behavioural science thinking, get in touch now.

By James Ballinger

Board Director