What Is Nudge Marketing?

Kelly Kirkham explains the concept of nudge marketing…

In George Orwell’s 1984, he wrote, “Can we figure out the way to mass engineer sentiment?”
This quote has been reprinted in numerous articles within the topic of nudge marketing as the concept has gathered steam in the last five years. As of late it seems like we are closer than ever to wide range sentiment in one click of an icon.
There has always been a love/hate relationship between consumers and advertising. This sentiment dates back to the 1960s when commercial advertising exploded on to the scene and consumers began to question how much of an influence the ads around us actually had on our actions.
The power of advertising has continued to expand as wide as the data collected. This has some consumers and businesses alike asking what exactly nudge advertising is? And does it work?
The origins of nudge marketing can be traced back to things like product placement and subliminal advertising.
Then in December 2013, Apple activated iBeacon, a Bluetooth transmitter that provided accurate location information about the people in its proximity, down to the very aisle a customer was browsing in, in their store. This technology allowed Apple to ‘nudge’ a customer towards an in-store special or deal in real time (with permission of course).
Now rolled out for use on the mass market, this sensitive tracker provides invaluable data on a mobile level, allowing businesses to carefully track the purchases and interests of individuals.
Personalized marketing creates an air of convenience with a side order of creepiness. For businesses, nudge advertising can target individuals while providing the information that consumers are looking for. From a consumer point of view, however, it can be a bit strange to be monitored so closely.
John Scully, former CEO of Apple COmputer and Pepsi-Cola said,
“The operative word for me is really ‘nudge’. You’re in contact with people multiple times during the day… You’re just trying to nudge them a little bit this way, nudge them a little bit that way. ‘Nudge’ is as powerful as anything we were doing decades ago.”
The term ‘nudge’ actually comes from a theory based on “a concept in behavioural science, political theory and economics that argues that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions are more effective that shockvertising when promoting behavioural change.” Behavioral-science
The theory gained popularity in 2008 with the release of ‘Nudge:Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness’ written by Richard H Thaler and Cass R Sunstein. The book was based on Nobel prize-winning work of the Israeli-American psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky.
Thaler and Sustein explain,
“A nudge, as we will use the term, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”
The studies performed indicated that ‘nudge’ advertising is actually quite powerful and has been used to shape many marketing strategies, especially in public health advertising and political campaigns. It was reported that Barack Obama’s bid for the White House was heavily influenced by the work of Thaler and Sunstein.
Facebook has become the latest company to test the waters with nudge advertizing with the release of their latest marketing endeavours, Atlas Solutions. Atlas supports personalized messages or ads sent to users through Facebook, that can follow them across multiple devices.
Erik Johnson, head of Atlas, posted to their website,
“We’ve rebuilt Atlas from the ground up to tackle today’s marketing challenges, like reaching people across devices and bridging the gap between online impressions and offline purchases.”
Partnered with Pepsi, Instagram, Intel, and many others, Facebook will pave the way for the next development in nudge marketing.
Of course, the question remains as to whether or not consumers should be concerned about the latest marketing trends. Although it may seem strange to be followed by companies, in the end it is no more intrusive than having a social media account. In reality, most nudge concepts are as basic as placing a sticker of a fly in the bottom of men’s urinals to help with cleaning (it really works) and to invest in additional garbage bins rather than posting ‘no littering’ signs.
Plus, at the end of the day, nudge is a completely optional service; anyone can deactivate their Facebook account at any time (I’m not about to, but it is always an option). And secondly,  personalized ads will hopefully, in the future, filter out all ads that we don’t see as relevant. A sort of optimized viewing for products we will actually buy, rather than blanket ads that only interest some.
Marketing is not trickery, and there are no subliminal messages involved. Nudge marketing is a practice of gathering feedback and using this data to better serve your customers. So when considering your next marketing campaign keep these nudge concepts in mind to make you endeavour a success.
Tips for Nudge Marketing
Help Customers Overcome Indecisiveness
Sometimes indecisiveness is a huge barrier to sale. Nudge your online customers into making a choice by making it easy for them to compare the choice they’re having trouble with against other products. You can do this by building a widget into your website. In a best case scenario, your customer will use the extra info to decide that they have their eye on the right item. Otherwise, they’ll simply start the research process again – whatever happens, the stall will have stopped.
Guide, Don’t Force
Nobody likes an aggressive sales pitch. By leaving arrows to guide rather than forcing your ads, you help customers follow their own interests and the sale becomes their own idea. Nudge slowly over time, not all in one brisk push. Prove that you have quality and consistency and they will come to you.
Ego is Okay
Find what motivates your audience and try to use that to your advantage, there is no shame in sincere compliments in sales.
Interested in other cutting edge marketing techniques? Check out our blog on Outrage Marketing.