When an anti-drinking campaign goes wrong – with Phill Agnew / Data for Bluffers #14

23 May 2022

You’re probably familiar with the concept of social proof but doing it wrong can have big consequences for your campaign as one university found out.

In this episode, Tom and Ed are joined by Phill Agnew, host of the consumer psychology podcast, Nudge.

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Speaker 1 (00:04):

So today we are joined by none other than Phil Agnew. Phil is the host of the nudge podcast, which is all about consumer psychology and behavioral science. So Phil welcome.

Speaker 2 (00:14):

Hi Tom hayed. Thanks so much for having me on today. Really excited to geek out about behavior side, which I love, hopefully have a good chat today about how that applies to network effects and stuff you folks are interested in.

Speaker 1 (00:26):

Great stuff. Yeah. Likewise really excited. Um, as usual I’m joined by ed, um, ed, how

Speaker 3 (00:32):

Things good. Thank you. You know, looking, looking forward to, you know, having another person on the podcast, having a

Speaker 1 (00:37):

Guest. So I guess, you know, ed, we’ve talked many times about, um, word of mouth and how that can be studied with, you know, what we talk about with which is network science. And we’ve also talked about the kind of crossover between that and behavioral science, which is why we were particularly excited to get Phil on. So we can actually talk about these kind of different scientific disciplines, but more importantly, how we can use these to make our marketing more successful and more impactful. But before we get into that, Phil, can you just tell us a bit about yourself?

Speaker 2 (01:06):

I’m a marketer he’s spent 50 grand on a marketing degree, been in marketing for almost a decade now, and yet even still today, I find it such a hard discipline and such a hard thing to get consistent results. I envy the professions of lawyers and teachers and doctors and surgeons who have laws and known science that they can rely on to do their job effectively. And I often think in marketing that it could be more difficult, you try hundred things, and it seems really difficult to know why one succeeds and one doesn’t. And the only thing that I found helped me in my marketing career to guide me and get consistent results has been behavioral science. And I started this fascination with behavioral science about four years ago, reading everything I could get my hands on from Robert choy to Richard shotten. And about three years ago, I decided I would love to listen to a podcast on this topic, but couldn’t find one.

Speaker 2 (01:58):

So did what most marketers would do and just started my own, um, that’s nudge podcast. And since then nudge has, has grown tremendously is now about, um, 5,000 people who tune in every week to listen to the episodes I host nudge on nudge. We get behavioral science experts, offers and pioneers to talk through behavioral science. And I explain how that’s beneficial to marketers. And then I also apply all of the stuff I learn in my day job as senior product marketer at a company called buffer, which helps you with your social media scheduling and publishing. So that’s

Speaker 1 (02:29):

Me great. I love, I love the intro. So before we, before we go any further, ed, I guess I just wanted to ask you a quick question. I just talked about these two different scientific disciplines and how do you describe them? You know, how, how would you describe the relationship between both behavioral science and, and network science, you know, especially in the context of, of marketing and what we’re talking about today.

Speaker 3 (02:50):

So I think, I think it’s a, a kind of a perspective that we’ve, we’ve spoken about briefly before in a previous episode, but the, the way I think about it is both behavioral science and network science or some components of network science. The ones that we focus on, look at how society behaves, the difference between the two is, is almost the, kind of the end of the spectrum that they, they work at. So behavioral science is very, is very much focused on the sort of the behavior of individuals often and the, and their interactions with each other network. Science says, okay, let’s take all those interactions and all those behavioral science rules, and let’s look at them at the societal level and say, what if there’s patterns of connections in that society? So what if some people have more friends than others, we’ve done an episode on six degrees of separation, right?

Speaker 3 (03:41):

So what if it, on average takes six jumps to get a message from one person to, to another, what does that mean for how society responds to the messages that get put into it? Now, the, the, the way that those messages have passed, what motivates people to pass those messages and what motivates people to act upon? Those that’s very much the realm of behavioral science network science looks at it from the other end and says, okay, on the larger scale, are there any properties in society and the way that we interact, not the way that we interact with each other, but the pattern of interactions that affect, you know, how fast a message spreads, for example.

Speaker 1 (04:18):

Yeah. Okay, cool. I, I, I, I like that fair. Is that kind of broadly how you position the two? Yeah.

Speaker 2 (04:25):

I’m definitely no expert in network science be leading on UT for that. But I think on the behavioral science sense it’s yeah. It’s how individuals make decisions and understanding how folks make decisions and the reasons they make those decisions. That definitely happens on an individual basis. Um, and there are some patterns that you see that cross over from individual to individual. So behavior science, what you’re really trying to do is, is first understand why people make the decisions they do, which is vital for businesses. Businesses are in the business of decision making. If you open a cafe, you are trying to change people’s decision from going to a chain to an independent store. Or if you open a restaurant, it’s the same sort of thing, whatever you might be doing. So behavioral science helps you understand that. And then I think network science for me is, is really FA fascinating in terms of understanding that at a macro level.

Speaker 1 (05:12):

Okay. Good stuff. So let’s jump in and there’s loads of loads of areas we could, I think start, but I think it was your Silicon Brighton talk, um, where you were talking about social proof. That kind of got me thinking. So I thought it’d be really interesting to start Phil, if, I guess you could just explain and tell us a bit more about, you know, what, what is social proof?

Speaker 2 (05:32):

Yeah. So social proof is a term that most marketers would be familiar with and, and most business people would be familiar with. Um, it’s vaguely the idea that we follow the actions of others and a marketer when they talk about social proof, often in the cases I’ve seen think that this is basically doing something like putting logos on your website, which show all of the other brands that use you. So if you’re in B2B, this is especially true. You’ll go to a website and I’ll say, look, we are used by. And it will always be a combination of IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, usually if your tech, especially, um, and that can sometimes, unfortunately be the start and end of social proof for a lot of marketers. And I find that very frustrating because social proof is such a broad field and it’s such a compelling principle behind behavior change.

Speaker 2 (06:21):

And it really is so much more than that. So at its very basic level, social proof is this idea that you follow the actions of others. So say you are walking down the high street and you see a group of 3, 4, 5 people looking into a shop. You will look into that shop as well. You follow the actions of others, you can’t help, but it, and this is an evolutionary principle where when we were cave men and we saw other cave men running out of a cave, we would not go in that cave for good reason. That’s how we learned to avoid, uh, injury and, and accidents. And it’s one of the ways we learn to evolve and we can apply this principle of social proof, the idea that we follow the actions of others to modern day marketing. And there are some great examples of, of how it can be applied.

Speaker 2 (07:04):

One of the favorite examples, I think we all had was this brilliant example from Richard Shotton, who is, uh, an applied behavior scientist. He tries to apply all of the stuff he learned from behavioral science to marketing. So he went into his local pub in London, um, and he asked the barman what, this sounds like a joke, but it’s actually, it is actually a study, which he writes about in his book, the choice factory. Um, anyway, he asked the barman, what’s your best selling beer and the barman, I think, points to London pride or one of the ails and says, oh, this is the one that, that sold the most last week. And Richard said, look, I really want to test this principle called social proof, uh, which is the idea that people follow the actions of others. So I would love to put a little banner in front of that beer, which just tells people that that was the best selling beer last week.

Speaker 2 (07:47):

It just showcases that it’s popular, that other people are buying it. And I wanna see if that has an effect on sales and barman agreed. And they decided to run this test for a week, one week without assign saying it was the best selling beer. And the next week assigned selling was saying it was the best selling beer and the results are fascinating. Sales of that beer increased by 2.5 times. So a dramatic increase wow. In the number of people who went and bought that beer, the only variable in this test is this sign suggesting that well, showcasing that other people buy it. So we do follow these actions of others. And what’s also interesting about that test is, is not like beer sales of all other beers dropped. They stayed pretty level more. People just spent more money buying that one type of beer.

Speaker 2 (08:28):

So it’s really interesting how, when you apply this stuff to marketing, you can get, uh, a really compelling effect. Um, and that’s, that’s social proof in a modern sense. I can also go back if you like to sort of explain where it came from. There’s this great initial study by, um, a social scientist called Robert Chaldini. Who’s a bit of the godfather of modern behavioral science. And he is a, uh, professor at, in Arizona university. And he did a study with a hotel room in Arizona and in hotel rooms in general, even back in the seventies, when this study was set up, they wanted people to use fewer towels. we all know it, right? When you go to a hotel room, the last thing the hotel wants is you’re getting 3, 3, 4, 5 towels because one it’s bad for the environment, which they say they care about, but to also cost him a lot of money, which is

Speaker 1 (09:15):

Probably, I was definitely leaning on the money side of things there.

Speaker 2 (09:18):

Yeah. So it was no surprise when Robert Cini went in and said, can I run an experiment to help you reduce tower usage? They said, absolutely. And let him sort of have free reign. So what he did with this experiment is he tested out different messages that you could leave for people in the hotel room to see if it impacted how much or how little people used their towels. So he had a control message, which is the classic message that all of us would’ve seen when we go into a hotel room and it says, please, don’t reuse this towel. Um, it’s costly to the environment. You can help us save the environment by, um, sorry, please. Don’t reuse it. Please do reuse this towel. Um, please help us save the environment. If you reuse this towel, it’s great for, for the environment. And when people saw that message, 35% of hotel guests decided to reuse the towel.

Speaker 2 (10:05):

So it did have a bit of an effect. The second message that he tried was very simple, social proof, none of the values around, uh, saving the, saving the environment, just simply the idea that other people are taking this action. It just said most hotel guests reuse their towels and this message, which surprised me as a marketer, because we are told that people care about values and emotions and link their personal beliefs to their choices. But that message worked. It jumped from 35% of people reusing their towels to 44% of the social proof message. So a big increase just with a change of one line. And then there was one final tweak that he tried, which I think maybe is interesting from a network effects point of view, which was that he showcased that individuals not only in the hotel, but in that very room had used their reused, their towels in the past, the message here said most hotel guests in this room reuse their towels and that jumped reuse usage from 44% to 49%. Wow. So you can see a huge difference in behavior. Yeah. From 35% to 49% simply with one line of text on a card in a hotel room. And that for me is the power of applying behavioral science to, to marketing, to business and to, to really behavior change.

Speaker 1 (11:23):

It’s kind of crazy numbers from, as you say, quite a simple, simple change. And, and I think, you know, the interesting thing for me, certainly about the social proof side of things and, you know, we, we talk about it a lot in the, we all like to think of ourselves as strong, independent decision makers. You know, everyone, everyone sits there and says, no, no, this was a decision I’ve made, but in reality, we know that people like to, to follow, you know, so if we’re trying to find out, you know, be that about, you know, what trainers do people wear or whether you use a, you know, an apple watch or a garment watch, you know, often that is those things are influenced by, by the people you hang out with. And we certainly talk about that in the network, but to hear those examples is, yeah, it’s really fascinating that we can be influenced so easily. Um, ed from your side, where, where do you, you know, where do you see that, that crossover cuz you know, it feels like there’s a there’s Aven diagram waiting to be drawn on a, on a wall somewhere with the behavioral and the network side of things with social proof.

Speaker 3 (12:19):

I, I mean, there’s, there’s so much there already, but I think one thing that really Springs to mind is power. Like word of mouth in general, as, as an example of, of social proof, right? Not necessarily word of mouth, but also just like seeing your friend with a pair of trainers or, or Garin, you know, and copying that, that form of sort of authority that comes from social proof. So that’s, that’s sort of in the, in the product world, that’s the kind of the equivalent of the names on the website, you know, it’s instead of going to the website and seeing the other brands, the other companies that are there, you’re seeing the other people, the, the, I mean this also leads into, you know, influencer marketing, same sort of idea. I think, I think one thing that’s really interesting from the network point of view is this idea, like you use the example of the shop window, right?

Speaker 3 (13:02):

An immediate question is, okay, is one person looking in the shop window enough? Or do you need there to be five or 10? And, or the reason that’s important from a network perspective is as we are kind of making our decisions, there’s a lot of research in, in network science about, okay, how many influences do we need to make a decision? So there’s, so there’s this great study by, uh, David said to where he inside a university, he started this basically a website where you could get a fitness plan and uh, people were encouraged to share the fitness plan or the, or their success with the fitness plan with their friends via email. So this is pre-Facebook. And what he found was that basically with each, each time it was shared to someone or suggested to someone up to four times it would increase their chance of adopting and signing up for the plan themselves.

Speaker 3 (13:56):

So that’s a case where one, you know, some people did sign up with one sh with being shared at once. Most people, it took a lot more than one suggestion up to four to sign up. And then what’s more kind of more interesting is once they’d had four suggestions, it then sort of leveled off. So it wasn’t that, you know, each time people are reminded and then go, oh, I’ll copy that. It was that there’s sort of a level at which you go, okay, this has a value. And then you make a decision and that’s when people were making you one way of thinking about is that’s when people were making the yes, no decision or settling on no, basically

Speaker 1 (14:33):

The equivalent of that. If we bring it back to Phil’s, um, hotel towel example, you know, when it said people in this room reuse the towel, I guess the, the, the equivalent there of adding what you said, ed would be, you know, your friend, Tom reused, this towel, you know, up to however many names, your friends, Tom, James, and Jane, when they stayed in this room, reused their towels. Mm. And that would be the network side of social proof into the side of social proof that Phil talked about to potentially reinforce it further, I guess. Is that, is that a fair or was that just me doing a hatchet job, pulling them together?

Speaker 2 (15:11):

I, I certainly think it’s fair and interrupt me if you disagree, but there’s heaps of studies in behavioral science. It’s fascinating here. You both talk about network science, cause I’m, I’m seeing the crossover and there’s heaps of studies, which showcase that when the network is closer to you in terms of potentially friends, but also in other senses, the impact is more effective. So obviously we’ve seen that in the hotel room. When we say people in this hotel room, we use their towels, the impact of that message is more effective. Um, there’s another fantastic study from the HMRC. So in the government there’s, there was, and it’s now separate to the government called behavioral on sites team that there’s this unit of individuals called nudge unit informally, which are trying to influence change across the UK. And one of the things that team was trying to do was to get people, to pay their tax on time.

Speaker 2 (15:57):

So they always send out a letter saying, you need to check, you need to pay your tax. And they thought, well, let’s try adding one line of text to see if it’ll courage people to pay their tax on time. And all that line said was the great majority of people in your local area pay their tax on time. Most people with a debt like yours have paid it by now. So they’re doing a couple of smart things there. They’re not just saying most people in general pay their tax on time. They’re trying to take that insight that Chaldini found, which was that specificity people who are closer to your network, people who are more similar to you, that’ll be more effective. So they’re saying most people like you with your debt have paid. Most people in your area have paid. And that one line of text and think about how small that is and the grand scheme of things you can do to get people, to pay their tax on time from fines to debt collectors, to obviously just additional letters, just one line of additional text in one letter increased the volume of people who paid their tax by 15% just wow letter.

Speaker 2 (16:54):

So that shows the power of applying behavioral science, and then also taking into account that network effect as well. And that study that finding is, is not just specific to public communications on, uh, tax letters. It’s, it’s applied all over the place. So another study, which I really love is from O power energy, obviously private company. And they actually wanted good for them to encourage people to reduce the amount of energy that they used. The idea being that if we all reduce our energy consumption by a little bit, it can have a big effect on climate change and they trialed lots of different messages, but the one message which tended to be a lot more effective than sort of messages about improving the environment and the effect you have on the environment is just showcasing how you compare to other people, not other people globally, in terms of energy and consumption, not other people nationally in terms of energy consumption, how you compare specifically to folks on your street.

Speaker 2 (17:50):

So they would tell you if you were using a lot more or slightly more, or the same amount of energy as folks on your street. So to showcase that your behavior is slightly different from people near you, and when people saw that message, that they used more energy than folks on their street, they reduced their energy consumption by two to 3%, which doesn’t seem like much, but is big from an energy consumption point of view. That’s pretty dramatic change in absolutely how, how many times they’re doing a wash or using hot water or that sort of thing. And this, um, effect is, is compounding. It’s stepped stuck with them. And they kept with this habit for, uh, two years after the study was finished, which showcases the power of, of that one message, just simply telling people that they’re using slightly more than people on their street was so impactful that they stuck that, that behavior two years later, which I think just showcases the power of social proof and then this personalized social proof based on people who are close to you in your network.

Speaker 3 (18:47):

That, I mean, that’s really, really interesting that idea of kind of similarity. It sounds to me like you gain more social proof. If you can kind of put yourself in the situation of the person you are comparing yourself to, right. And this is, this is true in, in all sorts of situations in society, right? We, we kind of self sort anyway into people who are like us. You know, there’s a lot of work in, in network science that kind of looks at society structure and how we are basically similar to our friends. So there, I mean, there are some really famous, uh, some studies in the, there were probably about 20 years ago now by a man called, uh, Krista who was really interested in this idea. And I think he wrote a book with the title, like, do your friends make you fat? And, um, he, his study was, do your friends make you fat?

Speaker 3 (19:35):

Or are you just, if you are fat, are you friends with fatter people? The answer is still hotly debated about where the extent to which it’s true, that it’s a bit of both, but to a large extent, he found that people do self sort. So, uh, people do make friends with people who have similar exercise habits to them and sort of similar food consumption and things like that. And there’s kind of a network science on that, which says that what we are doing in that situation is selecting people who are like us, because they’re the people we’d like then to mimic you. If you surround yourself with people who are similar to you, then you are very susceptible to adopting their behaviors.

Speaker 1 (20:20):

It’s the sort of thing you hear from the kind of business advice or growth advice, you know, surround yourself with people who you want to be like, you know, if, if you want to have positive change, if, if you want to be fit and a great tennis player, hang out with tennis players, don’t hang out with, you know, down the pub with dart players. That’s a rubbish example, but you get the point. So yeah, it does make sense.

Speaker 3 (20:39):

Yeah. And definitely, and people also kind of talk up their relationships with, um, people that they want to be like, or they admire. So there there’s a real, there was a really interesting study done. Um, I think it was by Mark Newman and he looked at friendships in high school. Uh, but specifically, rather than two-way friendships, he basically asked everyone to list their like best friends. Yeah. So like their, their 10 best friends. And what he found was that there were lots and lots of links going from younger year groups to older year groups. But very few that go from older year groups back down to younger year groups. Yeah. Because people kind of admire the older kids at school. Right. So want to be friends with them and shout about the fact, even though it’s like a survey, it was, you know, it wasn’t public who they were saying, their friends were, they wanna shout about the fact, their friends with them. Whereas the older kids didn’t really care about the younger kids.

Speaker 1 (21:33):

Yeah. The, um, I was gonna add to what Phil said, what, there were two words that he used that really, um, really piqued me. There was neighbors like, you know, the fact that the neighbor piece was, you know, it wasn’t just in your area. It was, you know, your neighbors, which is quite an emotive word for people. Um, but also the memory side of things, you know, that how long this had a, had a lasting lasting impact, you know, it wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Um, and the reason it it’s sprung up, cuz it’s, it’s a concept that we talk about a lot. Um, social groups generally have a longer memory than individuals, you know, the, I’m sure you’ve sat around the table, be it in the office, be it in the pub, wherever it is. And, and someone’s said, oh, what was the name of, you know, they’re struggling to recall a piece of information, but someone around as part of the group recalls the information, you know, so that’s a opiate crude, but a nice example of how groups retain information better than individuals.

Speaker 1 (22:30):

So it was really fascinating to hear that from that, um, it was O power, right. Is that how you said yeah. That O power study on, um, exactly that, that they, not only was it about proximity of the, um, the social proof, but also that that proximity seems to have, um, given a long term, you know, solution and you can, you can instantly start to play all those sort of scenarios. If you’re a business trying to require and keep customers, you know, LTV, you know, it’s a huge, it’s a huge topic for people. How do we retain customers longer? Um, how do we, you know, how do we keep them, keep them on boards and interacting in those groups is, is a, is a way that, you know, networks and, and behavioral science can be used to, to increase that longevity, you know, as opposed to some of the traditional stuff that people might do in terms of discounting or their relationships, it’s actually the external relationships and the external social proof that can lead to lead to that longevity and, you know, ultimate higher LTV, totally

Speaker 2 (23:30):

Agree. And there are quite standard ways business can apply this. There’s the logos on the website, one which we’ve spoken about. And then there are more lateral ways, which I think is really interesting. So, you know, some of the standard ways the listeners will will know and recall there’s the famous whiskers, um, slogan, which is, I think it’s eight out of 10 cat owners say their cats prefer that food, which is always a bit tongue in cheek. And it’s a bit of a mind bend and you struggle to get your head around it, which is why I think it’s so memorable. Um, and that campaign they’ve been using that for over 30 years. And it’s, it’s built on classic social proof people or in this case, cats like this food who continues to buy it. Um, I think a lot of origin stories of very successful companies are built on social proof.

Speaker 2 (24:12):

If you look at McDonald’s the slogan that they had above, um, all of their restaurants from their early years was literally documenting the number of hamburgers that were sold. So each million that were sold, they would update and it would say 99 million hamburgers sold a hundred million hamburgers, sold 101 million hamburgers sold. And that’s very powerful because if a hundred other million, um, hamburgers have been sold, then must be good. And I must want to try it. And really that’s, that’s what built McDonald’s success, but there are lateral ways you can apply this as well. Well, it’s not all just about saying, oh, lots of people use my thing. You should do a great lateral approach of social proof is apple and their design of the apple iPod. So when the iPod came out, they did lots of things differently from traditional MP3s, from using, uh, language, which resonated people.

Speaker 2 (25:02):

So a thousand songs in your pocket, rather than however many megabytes of storage it had. But one of the things that was most successful was thinking about network science and behavior science and, uh, changing the design of their MP3. So it would stand out in people’s mind to be recalled when they saw others wearing them. So the, the major thing that they did and they emphasize this not only in their ad campaigns, but throughout the sort of life cycle of this product was having white headphones. So the iPod was the only MP3 or one of the only ma major MP3s with white headphones. And when you saw somebody wearing white headphones, you knew instantly they had an iPod, which made you think about iPod, remember iPod, and actually overestimate the popularity of this MP3 player. And you are overestimating it because all of the other black, um, headphones that people were wearing, um, for MP threes, just blurred into one and the white one stood out.

Speaker 2 (25:56):

Same reason when you hear a song for the first time, you start to hear it everywhere. Um, I know you folks have spoken about that before. So that’s a classic example of lateral social proof, and we can see it actually happening today in the UK with eCards as well. So one of the fantastic things that the behavior science team, um, has nudged the government to do recently has encouraged them to put a little green rectangle on the license plates of e-cards. And that is doing the exact same thing that iPod did with their white headphones. All those years ago, it’s showcasing to people that other people are buying these cars. It’s showcasing people that these cars can look nice and look like really, you know, just like a, a normal fuel based automotive can be. And because it stands out, it’s staying salient in people’s mind and, and showcasing that lots of people are buying this product. And so what I love about social proof is is these lateral ways to apply it as well, which maybe wouldn’t come to mind if you just took it at face value.

Speaker 1 (26:50):

Yeah. I was gonna say that I’d never realized that the origins of that little green piece, that little grease piece on the, the number plate, because, you know, I’ve like a lot of people started to notice that, you know, we’ve got an EV, which is why I think I was first aware of it, but exactly as your, you know, white headphones and black headphones example, think I see EVs everywhere. It feels like, you know, every other car is an EV and I’d never realized that that was the kind of little psychological nudge from the government.

Speaker 3 (27:17):

Yeah. That, yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s really interesting. I mean, I’ve must be honest. I’ve never actually seen that. Well noticed that green little green mark, so I’m sure now I’m gonna see

Speaker 4 (27:26):

You now

Speaker 3 (27:28):

See it everywhere

Speaker 1 (27:29):

There there’s our friend, bad of mine. How phenomenon in play, that’s what you were seeing. I

Speaker 3 (27:32):

Think, I think, uh, electr vehicles, a really interesting example of, uh, a product that is very hard to kind of spread the uptake of, because like everyone sort of, you know, talks about range issues and you know, how long is it charging and all this. And that is very hard to sort of imagine your life with an electric vehicle, right? What is there that I do now that I couldn’t do, you know, like, oh, could I have done that journey in electric vehicle? And that’s, I think, and Phil may may agree with me on this. I think that’s the sort of decision where social proof can be really powerful because going back to you, you look at people who are similar to you if they live with this car and they, you know, they go on similar trips to me, they commute a similar distance to me. You’re like, well, maybe I could as well.

Speaker 2 (28:22):

I was just gonna say, it’s, it’s this, you know, this idea that you’re looking to, other people to follow behaviors is not new. And it definitely isn’t new. It’s just, it’s just being applied in more innovative ways. I remember a, a salesperson I used to work with who used to sell solar panels. Um, he said I had the best pitch in the world. It was so successful. It’s my best pitch. And he, he was selling tech products at the time when I was speaking to him. And he said, you know, it’s better than anything I’ve come up with since then, I said, oh, what was, what was the pitch? And he said, it was really simple when we had an order to install social panels, um, on the roof of someone’s house. Um, usually just the mechanics would go along to install them. But, uh, the salesperson decided to always go as well.

Speaker 2 (29:08):

And as they were installing the social panel, the salesperson would just go around and knock on the door of all of the neighbors nearby. And they would say, Hey, Hey, how are you doing I’m um, from the solar panel company, just by the way, we’re just installing solar panels for John down the road there. We’re getting it all set up. Is, is that something you’d be interested in as well? So just subtly showcasing that somebody, you know, within your circle is getting this done. It’s obviously a very positive thing, similar to the EV it’s like, you know, you know, you should be doing that, but you don’t really know if the behavior is the norm. And so showcasing that the behavior is the norm that it’s being done locally to you, that it’s clearly something that other people are doing. And then adding in some other benefits, like economical costs of scale, you know, we can do it cheaper because we’re already here. It was so difficult to turn down and, and so many people followed. Um, and I love that example, but one thing, and I dunno if we have time for this one thing we do have to be careful with social proof is, is the negative side of social proof.

Speaker 1 (30:07):

I wanted to ask about that. Like with everything that we can use in a, in a positive way. Right. And, and, and interestingly, I, I know the government kind of got, well, there was, I can’t remember who, but there was someone was, someone was raising the question, whether the government should have a behavioral psychology unit. Right? Like, is it, is it fair to, to use these tactics on, you know, on, on citizens, but like, there must be negative ways to use this. And I guess, um, intended and unintended, you know, I guess you can be malicious with it, but I guess there’s, they must, it must backfire or like, yeah, what’s the, what’s the downside, I guess, really of, of this stuff.

Speaker 2 (30:46):

Yeah. Let’s not go into too much detail on the why. Um, the general point of view that most folks who, who study this stuff have is that nudging is everywhere. Everything is a nudge. We are influenced mm-hmm whether we do something or not. Okay. If Google decides to put fruit at, uh, eye level height in their cafeteria, cafeteria, more people will pick the fruit mm-hmm if they don’t less people will pick the fruit. So it doesn’t matter what they do. Yeah. Okay. You have to put something at eye level, it’s a nudge over way. You can’t just be blind to it.

Speaker 1 (31:14):

That’s a fair point.

Speaker 2 (31:15):

Um, so that’s the struggle, but negative social proof is interesting. We are so likely to follow the actions of others, that if we ever suggest that other people are doing an unwanted action, a behavior that we don’t want to happen, and we showcase that people are doing a behavior that we don’t want, we actually encourage that behavior. So Wikipedia have got a big problem, or at least they had, I’m not sure if they’ve changed their messaging, but their messaging for years on Wikipedia was less than 1% of people donate to Wikipedia. If just 2% of you donated. Now we would have enough money to fund Wikipedia for the next 10 years. Yeah. Sounds really smart. Like it like it, my marketing degree, would’ve said, that’s a good thing to run. There’s no reason why that shouldn’t work. But the science suggests, yeah, that really doesn’t work.

Speaker 2 (32:00):

And to understand this, we have to go again back to Cini again, back to Arizona, but this time to a, uh, NA uh, national park, um, and in the national park, they had petrified wood, which is this incredible fossilized wood, really beautiful to look at. And this park in Arizona was famous for it. It was littered all over the park and people would go there each year to have a look at it. Unfortunately, some people would also go there each year and still the petrified wood. It was worth a lot of money and it looked beautiful. And 14 tons of petrified wood was stolen each year from the park. And Robert Chaldini was walking around with his family and he saw a sign and the sign said, 14, tons of wood is stolen each year. Please don’t steal the word, knowing what we know now yeah.

Speaker 2 (32:43):

Is on what Robert Cini is. He’s thinking this isn’t a crime prevention strategy. This is a crime promotion strategy. It’s, he’s encouraging people to steal. And so he convinced them to trial some different sites. He said, please, let’s, let’s try, um, a control and some variants of stride. So they, they did a control where they put up and this. So he went into the park, set up a study and he put up signs in different parts of the park and put petrified wood near those signs to see how much was stolen. He did a control where there was no sign measured that, but he importantly did the two variants. He had one sign, which said, the 14 tons of wood has stolen each year, please don’t steal. And another sign, which just said, please don’t remove the wood. The one which said, please don’t remove the wood.

Speaker 2 (33:24):

Only 1.4% of the petrified wood was stolen. So quite late, he said, 14, tons of wood has stolen each year. 7.9% of the wood was stolen. So you can see why Wikipedia potentially might wanna change their messaging. Because by saying that only 1% of our readers give you are actually showcasing that most people don’t do that action and maybe encouraging it. There’s a great study from a university. I forget which one it is. It’s always on a university campus. And the university campus sent out these leaflets to students saying average students here drink 10 points a week. please drink responsibly. And all it did was go more drinking people actually drunk more after seeing that, um, the same at dentists. So if you, if there was a dentist that put up a sign that said last year, 500 customers were late to their appointment. And that actually increased the amount of people that were late by 5%. So you’ve really gotta be careful if you don’t understand, if you don’t understand social proof, if you don’t understand network site search, to some extent, then you, you could full file of these, of these issues that most of us wouldn’t even think were a problem until we understand the science

Speaker 1 (34:31):

Behind them. Yeah. That, that last one was really, um, interesting. Cause that’s exactly what I saw in my doctor’s surgery the other week, you know, you know, this many people don’t show up to your appointments and it was a, it’s a, a big number cuz they, they do it across the NHS. Um, you know, it’s millions I think. Um, and they talk about the financial impact, but now thinking about it, I look at it and think, yeah, that’s not great, but actually what would one appointment really make a difference? Right? Cause there’s already, you know, a million people not showing up. So it’s a, it’s an really interesting lens. Maybe I’ll go and uh, point them towards your podcast and uh, tell if they want to cut down, uh, cut down, missed appointments, they could learn a thing or two about social proof. I’ve really enjoyed that.

Speaker 1 (35:16):

And I think the thing that’s got my head whirling away that will probably be whirling away on the next next couple of days is I don’t think I’d ever positioned the two sites as close. Um, you know, a lot of the stuff you spoke about and you know, that we’ve covered there’s yeah. It, it, you know, that, that ven diagram I’m talking about just, it feels like there’s a really big overlap and yeah. So I think for me to, to think on really about how we can better use network science combined with the behavioral science angle to, to be frankly more impactful for, for, you know, for marketing.

Speaker 3 (35:52):

The thing that I’m kind of very much taking away is like the power of social proof, right. And, and the, the power of very subtle statements and with my networks hat on that, that makes me immediately think, okay, we talk, we talk a lot about, you know, recommendations and copying, you know, a friend’s pair of trainers, for example, like very, you know, almost large clear actions when actually maybe we should be thinking about much more subtle interactions with our friends and with people around us with respect to the brands they talk about, you know, and, and it is not even copying their behavior of purchasing it’s it’s okay. What if they just mentioned the brand, you know, is that enough to have, have a subtle effect? And I think what’s really important in the networks context is that there are, you know, hundreds of these interactions going on a day where we’re subject to all, we are subject to this influence from various different friends, you know, all the time or even not friends, just like people walking down the street, you know, how many people do you walk past on a high street? Can you see them? And as an example of something you might copy from them,

Speaker 2 (37:06):

The one thing I’ll actually say, um, for your listeners, just to hint at the world of behavioral science, because I’m sure a lot of ’em aware of your field, but maybe not behavioral sciences, social proof is one of many, many, many, uh, nudges and principles that behavioral scientists apply. Um, there is hundreds more literally because folks have been trying to understand how people make decisions for years. And there’s a, a big load of science around behavioral science. So social proof is, is just one of many. And yeah, if, if you are interested in learning more about behavioral science, then please go check out some sources. I would always recommend people reading. We’ve mentioned Robert, Childen a lot. So I, if you want one but recommendations today, it’s, it’s influenced by Robert Cini. It’s specifically written for business people and marketers, but it really is interesting for anybody who wants to understand how to change behavior.

Speaker 2 (37:57):

And then if you do enjoy podcasts and I’ll, and I’ll try and err on the side of positive social proof here and not negative social proof, um, then please do go and check out nudge. You can find nudge wherever you listen to podcast, just search for nudge. And then the tagline is marketing science simplified. It’s in the top 1% of podcast globally. So hopefully that’s some good social proof go. Um, and if you listen, probably when this goes out, we’ve got an episode coming out, um, very soon, which is on why 64% of people would vandalize a library book when asks and that’s really worth listening to because it’s, it shocked me when professor Vanessa bonds, who he talks through on the show explained this study, but 64, but the majority of us would Vanize the library book when us, so you’ve gotta go listen to that show to figure out

Speaker 1 (38:38):

Why. Thank you both I’ve I’ve I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’m gonna have to say to all our listeners that, uh, 80% of your friends and colleagues subscribe to this podcast. so, uh, pit the subscribe button, um, like, and share this with, you know, others who you think would benefit from, you know, scientific approach to improving their marketing and as usual, see you in two weeks time, um, say goodbye guys.

Speaker 5 (39:02):

Goodbye. Thank you.

Friends in conversation | Herdify

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