Survive Or Thrive?

This is a very scaled-down summary of the talk BrainJuicer’s Will Headley and Greenpeace International’s Juliette Hauville gave at the MRS Impact 2014 conference in London. Huge thanks to Greenpeace for presenting with us – and for giving us such an interesting brief in the first place.


Spreading the word is a vital part of any NGO’s mission, and in the 2010s that means driving social media engagement – particularly on Facebook. Greenpeace International’s Facebook page is one of its most important assets and tools – BrainJuicer were asked to work with Greenpeace to understand the emotional impact of its page and how we might tweak it to get more interaction. Continue reading

Going For Goal

We’ve talked a lot at BrainJuicer about the elephant and the rider as a metaphor for human decision making. Imagine an elephant and its rider: we like to believe the rider is in charge, but really the rider has much less agency than we think. So what does control the elephant?

The elephant is led by a bunch of things: its training, its mood, what it can see any other elephants doing, and what the environment is leading it to do. And it carries the rider along with it. The human mind is very similar. Conscious, considered decisions are led by feeling, by copying, by environmental framing, and by habit – not the other way around.

That’s why, when we talk about behaviour change, we talk a lot about moving the elephant, and building paths for it. You don’t change behaviour by appealing to the rider – you change it by making things easier for the elephant. Continue reading

Door No.23: Win Some, Lose Some

Today’s experiment was written up with the help of Alain Samson, author of the excellent Consumed blog at Psychology Today. Thanks Alain!

The Experiment: “Save $1!” – sounds good. But does “get $1 off” sound better to you? The psychological difference between the two – since there is, of course, no financial difference – is the basis of an area of behavioural study known as “regulatory focus”.

It’s human nature to approach pleasure and avoid pain. But people follow this nature in different ways. They are either promotion (approach) focussed or prevention (avoidance) focussed. Think of two tightrope walkers crossing a ravine. The prevention focussed walker concentrates on the rope and not falling off. The promotion focussed walker concentrates on reaching the goal.

This focus can change, and is reflected in people’s different motivations for action, and in the different marketing strategies they respond to. For example, “get fit” might motivate a promotion-focussed person more than “stay healthy”.

We ran an experiment to test how regulatory focus affected the success of promotional offers in shopping. It was inspired by a classic behavioural economics experiment by Suresh Ramanathan and Sanjay Dhar, exploring whether promotions tailored to regulatory focus would make people buy more or less. We also tried to change people’s regulatory focus by changing their emotion, showing some a scary video (to induce prevention focus), some a funny video (to create promotion focus), and some no clip at all.

What did we discover? Continue reading