Juliet works at BUPA in the Behaviour Insights Team – the nudge unit. If you’re interested in psychology in marketing, pricing and influencing people, this episode is for you.

In this episode

  1. The rise of nudging
  2. How and where nudging is used
  3. What behaviour insights does at BUPA
  4. The ethics of nudging people
  5. Juliet’s PhD in end of life choices (get the tissues ready)
  6. Behavioural insights at Ogilvy
  7. Good and bad examples of nudging being used in the wild
  8. Why we need qual and quant data
  9. The science behind menus
  10. People being chimps in shoes
  11. How you can manage stress better

Digital Marketing Strategy Course

If you’re interested in investing in your own marketing education, I’ve also launched a Digital Marketing Strategy course with the university of Vaasa in Finland. It’s taught entirely online and in English, so you can learn at your own pace.

By following the course you’ll build a marketing strategy for your organisation and be ready to implement it once you’ve finished.

It’s academically developed, but intensely practical and shares a method I’ve used with over 100 clients in various sectors.

Find out more about it and sign up here: https://univaasa.teachable.com/p/digital-marketing-strategy

Friends of

The next Friends Of event is on Wednesday 9 June, 9 – 12.

Book a session with a great consultant for a range of marketing issues for just £25. All the money goes to Barnardo’s NI.

Full details and booking: https://friendsof.co.uk/

Juliet’s Book Recommendations

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

Misbehaving: The Making of Behavioural Economics by Richard Thaler

Midnight Chicken: & Other Recipes Worth Living For by Ella Risbridger

Burnout: Solve Your Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski

Juliet Hodges

Juliet is a senior adviser in Bupa’s Behavioural Insights Team, using behavioural science to solve business challenges. She has been at Bupa for five years, working on briefs ranging from designing customer pathways, influencing clinician behaviour and improving workplace wellbeing.

She began her career at Ogilvy Change, the behavioural science consultancy wing of the advertising giant, where she worked with clients like Diageo, American Express and News UK. She holds an MSc in behavioural economics and is currently pursuing a PhD at the London School of Economics.

Find her on:

Twitter https://twitter.com/hulietjodges

Linked: https://www.linkedin.com/in/juliet-hodges-85b3406b/

Andi Jarvis

If you have any questions or want to talk about anything that was discussed in the show, the best place to get me is on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Andi Jarvis, Eximo Marketing.

Interview Transcription

This transcript has been done automagically using Happy Scribe and hasn’t been checked by a real person, so there may be some hilarious mistakes where the AI can’t work out our accents – I’m sure they’re trained on just the American accent.

Eyup, and welcome to the Strategy Session. My name is Andi Jarvis, and today I am joined by Juliette Hodges. Juliette, give us a quick wave. Hello. Hello, Juliette. Juliette is from the BUPA behavioural science team. We’re going to talk to Julie in just a minute. But before we do, I have something to sell to you. Of course I do. Always do. Just a quick reminder, if you haven’t checked out the digital marketing strategy course that I have available with the University of Boston in Finland, do it now.

It’s only 250 euros, 249, actually, and it will help you build a strategy for your organisation and marketing strategy that is work along with it as you go build the steps in. And by the time you get to the end of it, you will have a working document that will take you in to just doing better marketing for your organisation. That’s it. That’s the end of the advertisements. You’ve come here to listen to Julia, and this is exactly why you need to do it.

Juliet is an expert in nudging people in behavioural information and how you use that to help people make making better decisions. I don’t know. We’ll ask Julia. I’m a big fan. I read books like Inside the Notes Unit, which is how the government does it influence, which is kind of the seminal work, I suppose, about this type of how you use small changes in how you ask things to elicit different responses. So enough of me waffling.

Juliet, say hello and tell us a little bit about yourself. Where do you work?

Hello. So I’m Julia and I’m absolutely delighted to be here with you, Sandy. And so I worked for BUPA in the Behavioural Insights team. I’ve been there nearly five years now. It’s that’s like a long time. And we’re basically a internal consultancy. And what we do is we work with all different types of teams across the business. So we’ve is quite a diverse business. We’ve got insurance, we’ve got clinics, we’ve got one hospital, there’s dental, there’s care homes.

There’s all kinds of different health care services. And we as an internal consultancy, just to kind of help with business challenges from a behavioural perspective, basically, that sounds fantastic. So there’s a team of five. Did you say have you there?

There’s three of us. There is no I don’t know why I was level five, really nearly the same. Don’t worry about it. So let’s just take a step back for a minute before we talk about what happens at BUPA and how you’re working. Behavioural insights work just to sort of explain what behavioural insights is. It’s often referred to as nudging people. As I said, this book is called Inside the Nudge Unit, used in politics, used in heavily in Obama’s administration and became popular in Britain under David Cameron, used by con artists as well.

Let’s be honest. You know, people who are trying to fleece you from your money do not doing really, really well and is starting to kind of make inroads into marketing by people actually working out what they should and shouldn’t be doing. So what is Nojin and behavioural insights and what’s the thought process behind it?

So there are lots of different schools of thought behind what it is. I don’t want to kind of offend any sort of academic circles with I’m going to describe this, but not just really simply about influencing people to act in one way without materially changing that choice. So one example that I thought was really clever is a while ago, the Tesco down the road from me, when you were checking out the self checkout, they would be a pop up. I said, do you want to round up your you know, your bill comes to six pound forty two, John, around the up to six point fifty and give the rest of Tassie.

Now that would be a nudge compared to having a donation box in the corner where if you did have some change in your hand, you could put it in there. But actually it’s not something that’s coming at you and you know, is really in your at the top of mind and your attention. So it’s kind of about designing the environment in such a way that people are going to be more likely to act in one way or another. And there are different schools of thought about how the brain works and how you can influence.

So obviously, Daniel Kahneman really popularised the system, one system to kind of dual system of of thinking where we have this automatic system in the brain that responds just instinctively to our environment. And actually that drives the vast majority of our decisions, whereas we think we have this kind of system to really rational, really conscious way of thinking about the world and actually experiments showing that we are really driven along this automatic, instinctive path.

And I think the key thing to point out about Nojin, as you mentioned, that, but without fundamentally changing the frame of reference. So I have I wouldn’t say arguments, but long discussions with people who keep telling me marketings, evil, and that they they often misunderstand marketing, advertising, or they use them interchangeably, unlike the two different things. Don’t worry about it. But they also believe that advertising changes people’s behaviours. And I know advertising doesn’t work like that.

It influences your choices. But, you know, you’re not going to go out and buy a Rolex for ten thousand quid just because you’ve seen an ad for a Rolex. If you don’t have ten thousand, if you had ten thousand pounds for a watch, you might pick a Rolex over a tag or something. So it’s choice architecture rather than anything else, so it’s not about changing people’s behaviour, it’s about influencing slight behaviours within the sphere that we’re already in.

Yeah, absolutely. And I would argue there’s no such thing as neutral choice architecture. So you’re going to be influenced to behave one way or the other based on your environment. And actually, if no one is architecting that, no one’s thinking about what would be the best choice for the most number of people, then people are going to make quite bad decisions. I mean, one example of that is pension saving. So we know that people don’t save for pensions.

So the government introduces sort of auto enrol scheme. I think it’s kind of two or three percent of your salary. All employers have to enrol their employees into that scheme. And you could argue, well, it should be more money, it should be there. So it should be that. But actually, for the vast majority of people, they wouldn’t have saved into that pension otherwise. They can opt out if they want to. And this is just kind of the most benefit for the most number of people.

So, yeah, I think there’s just no way of framing things. Naturally, people are always going to be influenced one way or the other.

And I think that’s really important because the the bit when people initially hear about nudges and things like that, often through newspaper headlines, which, let’s be honest, is rarely the best way to get your information about anything. But there’s a sensational element, sensationalist element of government trying to change people’s behaviour or, you know, evil company trying to influence people to trade up to their or trade up to that. And the ethics of it are really important. But there are it’s not as if nobody in the luging business has ever considered the ethics of this.


Yeah, exactly, it’s it’s enormous and actually there was a really interesting kind of rebuttal to that inside the Nudge unit book where a kind of legal scholars sort of really delved into the ethics of it. And it was a really kind of interesting, if a bit long read. And but also, I think especially for the work that we do, VPA, the FCA have put out really clear guidelines for how you can use behavioural economics and what’s appropriate in a financial product setting.

So there’s lots of people thinking about this. I mean, in especially in my pastie, there are lots of kind of academic debates about, you know, should we be using this? There should be businesses. You know, lots of people are kind of wrestling with that idea. Definitely.

So let’s get into what you do at BUPA because, you know, again, the sensationalist approach to this is, oh, my God, you work at BUPA doing behavioural insights. You’re forcing people to buy private insurance as the NHS. Juliette, you’re evil. How do you sleep at night?

Juliets with difficulty. No, I’m kidding. And so we hardly touch the marketing saying it’s all actually, we really do very little work with those teams. And I spend more of my time. I spend a lot of time on the insurance part of the business looking at things like how do we work with the clinicians that we hire? So it’s quite interesting because they’re kind of third parties. BUPA doesn’t actually employ them, but that we reimburse them for the treatments they do.

So kind of how we make that relationship kind of work for both of us and make sure that it’s, you know, there’s no cases of overtreatment and things like that for our patients is really an important part of it. There’s also things like the customer journey and making sure that because it can be a little bit disjointed going privately versus the NHS where it’s all under one umbrella and you just kind of skate through looking at how we can make those journeys as smooth as possible and even, you know, uptake of certain products.

So, for example, one thing I’m working on at the moment is trying to get more people to use direct access. And this is basically a pathway where if you have group insurance, you can call up for certain conditions and get straight through and betrayal’s to the appropriate specialist without having to go get a referral from your GP. But that’s a really knotty behavioural problem, because BUPA spent 70 years, they’ve been in business saying if you want VIP treatment, you have to get a referral from your GP.

So it’s quite an interesting, kind of difficult and behavioural change to get into. So it is things like that is not really about selling insurance is about kind of making the journey work well and kind of improving health outcomes for people.

I’m fascinated and I appreciate you is probably only so much you can tell me. So feel free to say shut up until we can edit this out. I read a book called The Checklist Manifesto. Not sure you read that, which talks about basically the outcomes in medicine and surgery versus outcomes in flying. And he was a surgeon who went to have a look at why there are so few accidents in air travel compared to surgery. And what it turned out was the way that the fly planes is very much, yes, the pilot is in charge, but they ruin everything by a checklist and check the science of how you produce the checklist becomes really important, but everybody knows their role and check certain things on the checklist.

And if certain things aren’t happening, the number two can take over. Contrast that to surgery where the surgeon is effectively God in that room and the top two nurses and junior staff in there who saw things going wrong didn’t feel they could get they were empowered to speak up. So by introducing a checklist where they just had to stop and go through the things actually flood lords of simple problems, like bits of dressing being left in the wound and stuff like that, which are really, really fascinating book.

But what I took from the book, one of the many things I took from that book were many surgeons are arseholes who know. You obviously can’t say that because you work at BUPA. I can. And I’m not going to ask you if you think that surgeons have spent a career getting to effectively the peak of their profession and are often used to giving instruction rather than receiving instruction. So how does that influence what you do? And that must be an interesting challenge in itself, not just the information you need to ecomm, but how you actually liaise with that group of people.

Yeah, no, definitely. And I do think that is something that is sort of evolving out of the medical profession. I think you do get a very old school breed of doctor and surgeon who are very keen in my way or the highway. They’re quite paternalistic and aren’t really interested in other people’s opinions or even the sort of preferences of the patient because they feel like they know best. But thankfully, that is something that I think is evolving out of the medical field.

And I guess from the perspective, we don’t have that much control over what goes on, you know, in a surgery, for example, because we’re just kind of paying for it. So, you know, the surgeon that someone chooses and how that operation goes, you know, we don’t always have access to the outcomes of what’s happened and things like that. So it’s something that I’m really interested in as well. It kind of partly prompted my piece I was originally interested in looking at.

How you incentivise clinicians to kind of have the best quality of patient care, which we’ve deviated from that, but that was kind of what it was originally about. But it it’s interesting because as people, we kind of have limited control over that anyway.

So we’re going to come see dynamic’s. I’m fascinated by I don’t want to dive into that. But before we do, just a little bit more about your sort of day to day, one of the really interesting things I think about the behavioural science and behavioural insights approach to it is is measurement. I often talk about marketing being if you drew a Venn diagram and in the circles you had psychology, sociology, anthropology and economics and you kind of track them all together.

Right in the middle of all of those things would be marketing. And I think the thing about the behavioural insights is that that’s sort of merging of economics and psychology together and looking at outcomes in an account. We’re not just a world. Where is that an important part of what you do? Like measuring the outcomes, too?

I wish it was a good thing is it can be so hard to get those outcomes. So, yeah, a lot of the time it would be we might be doing something quite small, like just feeding into the wording of an email or whatever it is. And it’s not that common that we will have very good data on kind of pre and post or we are rarely able to kind of do split tests and things like that. I’m sorry if you can hear that siren.

I live in South London and that’s just sirens going past all the time. All right.

So where was the experiment? Yeah, and also I think it’s really difficult to get the numbers that you need to actually run a statistically significant with the right power kind of test. So I was really interested in running an experiment on trying to reduce surgeons performing the arthroscopy. So it’s a procedure that is the kind of clinical effectiveness is kind of debated. And it’s something that tends to be overprescribed because patients are saying, I’ve got to go now, I want to do something about it.

And it’s it’s an intervention. So people feel better about having done it. And we were looking at running an experiment, just sending letters out to, say, two surgeons who were really over performing these procedures. You’re an outlier. This is how you compare to the rest of your group. And I think there are around in terms of this, for about fifteen hundred musculoskeletal surgeons who are able to perform this that work for BUPA, a smaller subset of that had done more than one in the last year.

And then you’re talking about actually tiny numbers. If you want to run two different conditions and compare the spread of different positions within the distribution and it just becomes you don’t have the numbers to have the right statistical power. So unfortunately, and this is a drawback of doing a I’m not really aware that there are kind of limits on these things, and yet it’s not something that we are able to do all the time.

Yeah, but that would be if you had a big data set, that’s where you’d be absolutely definite.

Yeah. Yeah.

So let’s talk about your PhD, because I you told me before we started what the subject is and it’s mind blowing is what you study. So I’ll let you explain.

Yeah. So let me explain kind of where it came from, because it is it is a bit random. So I got really interested in how you incentivise clinicians to provide the kind of best quality of care. And I did a sort of deep dive into the literature about, OK, well, how is babies been used to influence clinicians in the past? So there are things like, you know, trying to reduce antibiotic prescribing, opioid prescribing, trying to increase patients, getting flu jab, things like that.

But one thing that really stood out to me was that everything in the literature was a kind of black or white behaviour that you can say we want doctors doing or this one see less of this. But actually, when it comes to health care, it’s not really that simple. So you could do everything right. And the patient, because of bad outcome, you could do everything wrong. The patient could get better. But and so it’s really difficult to say we’re going to nudge this behaviour and not this behaviour.

So then I got really interested in shared decision making because having the patient fully understand what the different risks and benefits of all the different treatment options are. And I think that’s one thing I’ve really learnt actually working in health care is there’s not always a right answer because I think we think, oh, you go to the doctor, they’ll fix it. But actually, there is also as well as science and the role of the patient can be really important in helping to decide a treatment.

Plants say that was a behaviour that I wanted to look at how we could increase their getting clinicians to engage in these conversations more effectively with their patients. That led into end-of-life care discussions, because these are conversations that don’t always happen, especially at the time they should be happening. So I think there can be a sort of. Fusion of responsibility amongst clinicians, particularly if you’ve got a patient, he’s got several different issues. You’ve had a cancer that’s metastasised and then actually you’re seeing someone about your lungs.

What about your bones? And it’s very easy for no one to take responsibility for saying, OK, we’re going to embark on palliative care. How what’s important to you? What do you want to get out of this? And then people just continue having quite aggressive treatments in the end of life, which is not what we want, because it kind of worsens quality of life. So that’s basically what I’m looking at. And I’ve been looking at how how the decisions that we make at the moment occur.

So there’s if you want to opt out of this kind of aggressive treatment, if you’re not expecting to have a full recovery, so things like CPR going into an ICU, having ventilation, you would fill out a form in the UK that’s called an advanced decision to refuse treatment. And the framing of that, I think is really interesting because you’re going into it saying, I want to refuse treatment rather than I want to accept more comfort based care rather than, you know, so I run an experiment to look at how do people respond to that.

And it turns out that people don’t want to sign that form, know it’s a really unpleasant way. And actually in the UK, I think only around four percent of people have filled one in, even if they would rather have kind of more comfort based care end of life than this kind of aggressive trying to prolong life at all costs. So it’s really interesting. And I think I’m kind of hoping there will be some quite important outcomes of this research.

But, yeah, it’s been a sort of long and meandering journey, but that’s very good.

So it’s a really fascinating subject area because we do as people tend to make really, really important decisions often really, really bad times. So I’m involved in a campaign at the moment about poor parenting. When you separate as parents, it’s a little bit close to home, but it’s it’s a really positive campaign about having a conversation now rather than trying to have a conversation when you’re separating. Because I can tell you from experience, if there’s a good time and a bad time to have a conversation, it’s never in the middle of a separation.

Right. So to have that conversation is now. But we kind of have this hopeless optimism, don’t we? It was half of all relationships with children and the failure of failure and in separation, not failure to get language properly. So we have this hopeless optimism that everything’s always going to be OK. But so we won’t have that conversation. We have that conversation when our hearts are broken, when everything’s really raw and it never works. Yeah, similar, but a little bit different with end of life care that we’re probably only having those discussions and making those choices right at the wrong time when you’re just not fully equipped to make that decision.

Yeah, that’s a really good point. It’s a really interesting parallel. And I think there is some there is some kind of different views on is it fair to remove hope from a patient who is kind of relying on that? But the evidence suggests that people actually prefer to have a kind of clearer view of what’s going on and what their options are. And actually, there’s some awful studies that have shown something like sort of 60, 70 percent of patients who are having palliative chemotherapy, which is purely to relieve symptoms.

It’s not curative, actually think that there is a chance that it could be curative and that they could survive it. And I don’t think it’s fair to put people in that position. So there is something around, you know, having conversations as early as possible, but also making sure that. Someone knows they’re responsible to initiate that conversation with that patient as well.

So I had an old aunt and she might have even been announced. She might have just been someone we called in. But that’s not the point. And she used to be a nurse and she was talking back when not even when Tali’s were black and white before tellies. So she was caught. She died a few years ago and she’s quite old. But I remember telling me that when she first qualified as a nurse, one of the first jobs that junior nurses got when they got onto to what was to sit with dying people and hold the hand and talk to them as they died.

And she was like because she had to learn how to do it. And it was a job for a young nurse. And you just used to sit with old ladies. Usually all the old ladies are old and you just sort of sit and stroked the hand and just talk to them. And they knew they were dying. You knew they were dying, and your job was that your job was palliative care just to sit and chat to them as their life ended.

And then I was like, oh, and she was like, but by the time I’d gone through the notes, it doesn’t happen anymore. It’s not seen as a good use of time. And there’s other ways of managing it. And we have monitors and beeps and things like that. But it seems like a really, while completely heartbreaking, a really personal way of managing end-of-life care. Yeah, well, it’s like it’s stuck with me the whole time.

And I don’t know how you maybe like a 19 or 20 year old nurse and you just sort of thrust onto a warden like, oh, by the way, you know, like going yeah, yeah. Just a really different way of approaching at times. Change, obviously, and often for the better, I should say. I’m not harking back to 1945 being the golden age of medical treatment, you know, far from it. But there’s a lot there’s a long way to go, I think is what I’m saying in finding a great, sweet spot for palliative care.

Yeah, definitely. And I think not that I want to talk about covid physically, but in the pandemic, that is something that we’ve seen is, you know, we went from the very beginning, known to their friends and family around, and it was all about the health care workers having to be with people. And and so I think things are a little bit calm down a little bit now and it’s a little bit easier. But, yeah, it’s it’s tough and it’s something we’ve all got to kind of think about.

And obviously we don’t want to.

So I want to kind of there’s no easy way of doing this, there’s no there’s no skillfull interesting Segway from talking about people who people dying and end of life care into. Let’s talk about marketing. So I’m just going to pull the handbrake up from the way around and let’s head off in a different direction with a salute to the tires. And it’s a marketing podcast. And you, as well as working in BUPA, have some Goldstar marketing credentials behind you as well.

So where did you go namedrop? Where did you work earlier before you stopped?

So I started my career at Ogilvy in the Behavioural Science Unit. We changed as it then was. It’s now Ogilvy Consulting.

Brilliant. And that was working with companies who are using Ogilvy for advertising. Is that right?

Yeah, mostly there were some of our own clients that we had. Zimmy, the biggest client I worked with was Diageo. We spent a lot of time with them. So that’s what they were focussed on, was kind of increasing market share for spirit. So obviously, you know, people walk into a pub or a restaurant and they kind of have their usual that they order, which is more likely to be a glass of wine or or a pint of beer than it is a gin and tonic.

So I spent a lot of time thinking about how we can sell more gin and tonics. So looking at the menu layout. Yeah, exactly. Doing God’s work, looking at menu layout, looking at what happens behind the bar, looking at supermarket layout and all of those different kinds of things. And that was that was a lot of fun.

So the podcast previous to this was with Sarah Simmons, who is now the global marketing director for Smirnoff at the show. And I’ve worked with Sarah over a number of years on various things. I remember when I first started working in alcohol marketing, finding out about the guys and girls who went into bars to sort of bring products in for the beer companies. Have the bigger companies provided the fridges offline to guarantee them top shelf placement? That was what they felt.

Now, it was almost kind of just an industry norm built on height of bars. People would walk up what going to have top roll? And that was it. But so you were almost looking at a similar sort of approach for spirits, but looking at where, you know, where was the best place to be, the menu, what should it be like on the countertop, all that sort of stuff?

Yeah, absolutely. So many psychology is absolutely fascinating. So I spent Eximo billion. I spent a couple of years being the most boring day ever because I would sit down and be like, oh, look, like they want you to order this because of the way it’s later.

What can I do? How did it go? I’m going to swipe opposite. I’m now I’m not Juliet again.

Well, my profile is obviously optimised, but so is things like if something has a box around it, then you’re three times what is order it and a menu. If they’ve taken the pound signs off and you spend about 12 percent more because you see these sort of abstract numbers on the menu, but you don’t think about them in terms of being money, it’s just a sort of no without a pound sign on it. And another thing is the way that the prices are kind of position.

So we tend to think that 999 feels cheaper than ten pounds. But actually, if you take the two zeros off and just have ten, so it’s one zero that feels less than nine nine nine because that’s three spaces two. So you’ll kind of see these things on menus and be like, wow, you want me to order that? And you’ve taken the pounds. And if you think about it like all of these things, though, and yeah, we’re having you back home for like a Christmas special where we’re going to be the takedown of a number of menus because this is genuinely blowing my mind.

So I was talking to a client of mine who sells something for a fiver and they are talking about they want need to push their prices up. They might be listening. So this process is free consultancy. The debate we’re having and it is it’s a debate based on a little bit of experience and a gut feel. You know, let’s be honest, there’s no science in this. Right? They are looking at pushing the price up from five to six quid.

Mm hmm. And the debate is, well, how far can they push it without it being an issue? And there’s a feeling around the discussions that we’re having that actually wants to breach five. They could probably go all the way to nine because ten point ten is the next step. And they would well, number five to six is a jump because we haven’t put prices up for ages of about five to six, seven, eight, ten. Seems like the next and the next natural break, but maybe we don’t even need to worry about that.

Maybe it’s just how the display the price is the important thing.

It could be. It could be. And it’s things as well. Like if you I don’t know kind of what product this is, but if there’s a delivery charge kind of rolling that into the price and being like free delivery, then that is all that kind of framing really helps.

So there’s loads of Amazon, eBay, modern Amazon stories of people spending more. So if it’s 60 quid plus five pound delivery or sixty seven quid with free delivery at the sixty seven quid by. That old white suit could more expensive off redeliver, though.


All right, well done. You know, eBay is awash with that sort of study of that. So we are why as people are so stupid, that’s the interest. Why can’t we do this? Why can’t we compute this?

Is this system one part of the brain? So we tend to talk about it as home is our home brain. And he’s just very driven by this kind of immediate gratification, sort of instinctive. And he’s just not very good at actually calculating what the pros and cons of certain things are. So we are constantly bats are battling this kind of dumb part of our brain that, you know, is just very impulsive.

So I talk at the we met in a digital gaggle just last week, and part of mine was about how the brain works as well and what that means for copyright’s in a very short time, that the chimp part of the brain, and I’m often fond of saying we are just chimps in shoes, aren’t we? I’m not wrong when I say that.

No, no, sadly, no. I mean, I would say if there’s one thing that a career in science has unfortunately done for me is I’ve kind of lost faith in humanity because things are really easy and there’s a kind of immediate benefit that you can get people to do pretty much anything. But even if it’s really important, really worthwhile, if it’s slightly hard, slightly painful, people just won’t engage with it.

So what’s your view is that we’re doomed when it comes to the obesity crisis unless we take sort of government intervention to stop us killing ourselves because it’s easier when you get hit by more sugar.

Yeah, pretty much so. I mean, I spend an awful lot of my time thinking about it for our corporate clients, for, you know, internal projects, how you can get people to sort of exercise and eat better. The problem is it’s boring and it’s hard and there’s nothing that’s going to overcome that. And people try and in a game of fire trying to make it easier. But there’s just no way. And actually it is really fundamentally down to the way the brain is wired.

And there was an amazing study where they put people in an fMRI machine and asked them to think about their future self and it activated. The same part of the brain is when we think about other people. So when you’re thinking about, you know, I’m going to procrastinate, I’m not going to go to the gym, so I’m going to go tomorrow, it feels like somebody else is going to go to the gym tomorrow. For you, it doesn’t feel like your future self is the same person as you.

So that’s why it’s really, really difficult, because any time we put something off with someone else, that’s a future problem. I can’t relate to her at all. But also, it makes it really difficult to make sacrifices. Now, that won’t benefit us until later. So if you have to go to the gym for like a month or two months to see any impacts, you know, not doing it can’t be bothered who’s who’s that in two months, it’s not me.

And the same with saving for pensions. Same with choosing healthy options at dinner. Is all of these things that our brains are actively working against us to help us do it?

It does make me wonder, how did we become the apex predator on this one? We’re all so stupid. And so in in in marketing we are obsessed with data and look at marketing is kind of gone through a couple of different transitions over the years. And when I first started, there was a lot of we think this will work and you could get data if you worked on massive campaigns with TV and radio. But a lot of the time you’re kind of working on gut feel and best practise and stuff like that.

The rise of digital brought pages and pages of data and the rise of performance marketing, which is a phrase that makes my teeth itch. To be honest with you. You know, people think that you can look at a spreadsheet of numbers and derive everything you need to know from it. I’m very much like if you need to make this work. But I think this rise of data has taken out. It’s kind of moved the dial away from the behavioural side and the fact that people are making decisions about what we’re seeing and what we’re showing them.

And just because you can see a percentage going up doesn’t actually tell you the whole picture. So is the rise of nudging and behavioural science. This is this is a good thing, right, to help for marketing, at least to help counterbalance all the data jockeys that we’ve got telling us they know everything about the world. Please tell them right now.

I think it’s I think it’s interesting. There’s lots I think the problems with a big data set is if you don’t have a kind of hypothesis that you’re going in with when you’re analysing it, you will find significant relationships between some of your variables. That doesn’t necessarily mean that’s an effect that’s like strong or significant or important, even in the real world. And I think it’s really easy to get carried away with that and think, oh, you know, we found this thing in our data.

But actually, is that properly controlled for it? Is that an accurate finding that you’re reporting? And I think they can work together. Like I have a really big I think data science is really, really important. I wish. I was kind of better with data than I am, and I think there’s definitely room for experimentation. See what happens in the data and having really strong hypotheses about what’s going to happen based on what you’re doing and all of that stuff.

Yeah, I think I think people also give more credence maybe to data scientists and the behavioural sciences because people don’t understand it so much. And I like data that must be really important and I can see a one or a zero. So this must be true.

Exactly. Exactly. And yeah, people just if anything seems a little bit too complicated for them to understand, they think is it must be right and must be very clever.

And it’s weird, isn’t it, that we’ve put so much faith in data in ones and zeroes. Yet the one thing that proves to me that people don’t have the first idea about data at all is the are no, I’m going to set the covid Klaxons going to go off again. Now, you talk to anyone who’s not a data scientist about the. Ah, no. And you go. Right. So yeah. When are equals warming, when it goes above, what it means is we’ve got exponential growth in the virus, but it’s only one.

Yeah. That one’s not one’s fine. No, no, no. Above one’s exponential growth but nought point nine crime. Yeah well nobody understands it. I’ve been, I’ve spent 14 months trying to understand how one anything above one’s bottom, below one’s good and I still don’t feel I know it. Nobody understands it. But we have so much faith in numbers. You put a number next to a marketing story and a newspaper will publish it. You say we talk to five people and did some focus groups like that.

It’s not proper information that it’s rubbish.

Yeah, yeah, exactly. And actually some of the stats that you do see in marketing are just absolute, like they would never stand up in any kind of academic paper. And I know that’s not the benchmark, but it should be. It should be. It should be like there needs to be. And I think there is a really big problem with organisations not really understanding data on how to use it and what its limitations are. And you end up with people who are just kind of crunching numbers and excel, but they’re not actually doing proper statistics.

And that is a real bugbear of mine. But I think when you have people at the top who don’t really understand it, but I just thought, oh yeah, no, it’s good. Then you end up with people in the mid-level who don’t understand and it just kind of putting whatever numbers they can get out of Excel. But I dunno, it’s a it’s a tricky one.

It’s a massive bugbear. And it’s there’s a whole digital PR field is built around pitching spurious studies in inverted commas to two stupid newspapers or publications and the whole industry about it. Right. And open up a newspaper today or go online and have a look and you will see a story that will sell you, you know. Forty nine percent or 73 percent of people in the UK are planning on painting their kitchen blue this year as leads a story from the blue paint manufacturer.

Oh, shit. Well, what was it when we we interviewed 73 people and ask them a question, do you like the colour blue in your kitchen? That’s not the you know, it’s just yeah, you see all the time, just like leading question given to over extrapolation into some ridiculous headline that when someone publishes because the journalists don’t know what we’re talking about either. Yeah.

And is the worst, I think, in shampoo ads where they’ll be like women said that their hair has never been better. And it’s like 90 percent of 11 women look great.

The other thing is, when I read the because I am I am much more boring than you. I read all the small print and stuff and sometimes go to the websites to see the sciences. And you know what? The test is on a lot of shampoo ads. Well, they do split testing, right. And they do control groups that it might be like seventy five women, but they get that they have seventy five of them wash their hair with just water.

Oh my God. And then they get them to wash it with the shampoo products and then go. And if you read the small print at the bottom it will say vs. water only like no shit. So using chemical treatment. Yeah. They’re not using a chemical. You artificially put a shine on when I hear this. All right. Was like I was a hundred percent.


So, you know. Wow. Yeah. I love diving into all of that stuff. I am, as I’ve told you twice on this call already for so I look at any of the bits of marketing golf that really make it fit about this stuff.

Oh, that’s a good question. I’m sorry. Another siren. This is just my life.

The joy of South London.

I know I never realised until lockdown that I live in such a rough part of town that there are just sirens every like twenty minutes or so insane. Anyway, um, what else I do? I do find bad deployment of behavioural science. Very frustrating. And one big one that everyone has really kind of glommed on to is social norms. So we know that if people are doing something, we’re more likely to do it ourselves. And a few years ago, City had a campaign that was just like nine out of ten people love our broadband or something.

And I kind of thought, you know, I see, you know, I see where you’re going with it. But could you not let you have copyright’s? Could you not have, like, you know what on that a little bit and got a little. Exactly. And I saw an ad on the tube a couple of years ago for a a kind of workplace wellbeing company. And the whole ad was nine out of ten people on this tube are really sad at work.

And the other one person uses our products and isn’t sad. And I was kind of like, so nice. 90 percent of people don’t use your product is what you said in that ad. So it it’s just things like that. I’m like just. Do you better try harder?

My favourite is as a favourite, in inverted commas, is the appalling use of fear of missing out on time based discounts of not time based. What’s the word I’m looking for? Scarcity using scarcity and things that have zero scarcity, digital downloads, you know, it’s like download this product now before it runs out. It’s like it’s a PDF. Ain’t running out, right? It’s not on the left. It’s not running out. It’s a PDF and click download.

Doesn’t matter when the clock ticks to zero and then you let it go past and then you get an email going. Only six more days to download it. You’re like, oh man, it’s like stop drinking the Kool-Aid. Just like you can do this in another way. It’s fine.

Yeah, but I mean, like booking a hotel room now is just an ordeal, like the way the pop ups and the you know, there’s eleven people in this room and they all hey, you’re not going to book it before you realise it’s all just.

Seventy three people know where you live and we’ll break into your house if you’re not going to be there on this date.

Exactly. Yeah. It’s just absolutely horrendous.

Yeah. Scarcity for more terrible. So right back at the beginning, the podcast had a guy on called Forgotten his name. Again, I’m having a nightmare this morning, but he did a thing called the entrepreneur formula might win it. That’s it. And he dug through the steps that entrepreneurs are these often American guys who couldn’t stand on stage and like sell you how to make a million from property and stuff like that. And so and he basically went and watched loads of them and built basically showed you what their formula was of how they use fear of missing out and scarcity, social proof and kind of take all these boxes along the way to to build it to a crescendo.

I find it interesting, fascinating how they stitched together. And for me, the ethical line is, does the product do what you’re saying it’s going to do? And is the price right for that product? So if I don’t have a problem with people stitching that story together to bring people to a point where they’re going to buy if the product was selling them is worth the money, the charging for it. And if it does, the thing that says we’re going to do so, these guys saying give me four grand and I’ll show you how to become a property millionaire is completely unethical because it doesn’t work.

If you that if you’re selling them something at the end that it does work, then OK, that’s fine. Yeah, but do you have any thoughts on the people using this in an unethical way or any of you seen any examples of that type of thing?

Well, when I was at Ogilvy we had a kind of a hard and fast rule that was it’s fine to use these kind of techniques if it’s a products that through normal use will do no harm, basically. So we were kind of like, OK, we’re working with a big alcohol brand, but we’re nudging people from one drink to another. It’s not like people are out for a Diet Coke and we’re like, no, actually add some vodka to that.

Yeah, exactly. So we tended not to work with cigarette companies, for example, because through normal use or doing harm and even gambling, I think is quite a tricky one because you’re losing money if you do it. Really. So we wouldn’t work with gambling companies. And I think that was quite a useful line to have in terms of ethics. Have I seen unethical things there? It definitely says quite an interesting discourse around sludge, which is not used for kind of bad things, I guess.

I think the kind of most egregious examples of normal companies doing this and making it so hard to conceal something. So especially anything, I think it’s so bad when you can order something online like a subscription, you can only cancel it by phone. But I’m a millennial. I’m not phoning anybody like, you know, I’m going to have that subscription till I die. It’s just not right.

I’m a geriatric millennial. Apparently. I’ve got an original millennial, I believe we’ll call it.

OK, that’s the better funded.

Yeah, I’m in those sort of dark patterns of site. Click, click, click. Unsubscribes is moving all over the place, phone calls to expensive numbers, all that sort of stuff. Yeah, yeah, absolute scumbags, those people in the industry. There is someone in the States at the minute. And again, I forget who it is. I was only reading about it the other day. Who’s trying to get the government to legislate against that?

And the way they’re trying to frame the legislation is that the the unsubscribe process can only have the same kind of the same number of steps in it as the sign up process or the same. It has to be able to be done in the same way. So if you can sign up online by putting a credit card in and clicking, OK, you have to be able to unsubscribe by telling them the reason and clicking, OK, that’s the way they’re trying to frame it.

I can’t help but think in that legislation as much as this is a pain in the arse in the industry, legislation feels like a sledgehammer approach to cracking a not, because as soon as you legislate against something, you just find all the holes in it. And then it’s we’re OK now because we’re within the legislation. Yeah. You’re like the right approach to it.

Yeah, I know what you mean. I’d be surprised if something like that passed in the US where they kind of love capitalism and are always on the side of the company rather than consumer. But yeah, I think it’s definitely one for. Yeah, I wouldn’t legislate that that feels like a very shove more than a nudge type approach here.

And tell me, why don’t millennials use the phone anymore? You are now the official spokesperson for all of the millennials. Why do people use the phone anymore?

It’s terrifying. You know, he’s on the other side of it. I don’t know.

I, um, I worked with so some people younger than myself when I was consulting in a company and I said things like, you need to learn to pick the phone to ring people because you’ve sent them six emails. I haven’t responded. We just need to bring them to find out what’s happening and send them an email to to set up an appointment. Just pick the phone from ringing. If they’re not busy, you can’t bring someone without setting an appointment.

You don’t like message people first before you ring them. No, I just bring them. And it was honestly as if I was the biggest monster in the world because I didn’t set an appointment even with a friend. I didn’t message them first to say, can I really wanted this change?

I definitely need appointments. I was even with friends because if someone calls me out of the blue, I’m like, what on earth? Who is dead? Like what? There’s definitely an emergency. Or like what? You want something from me or, you know, like it’s it’s a very stressful experience to have an unexpected phone call.

Definitely. I mean, I get the feeling as well, but that’s usually after nine o’clock at night or before 7:00 in the morning, somebody’s dead. And although I do have some strict rules in the business as well, I don’t ring anyone. After two o’clock on a Friday, an old colleague of mine, Heather Thomas, told me that she was like, only phone call you get after two o’clock on a Friday is a problem. You don’t want to be that person ringing anyway.

I was like, that’s a really good point. Not so. So every time a phone rings and a Friday afternoon, I’m like, oh, we’re coming. Heading quickly towards the last lap of this, unfortunately. Remember, we are going to get you back to talk menu pricing again at Christmas. We’ll probably do its head down of them, something like that. But as we get to the end of each podcast, we talk about books, podcasts, all the things where when you go for your information, and I put links to them all in the show notes, if anybody wants to click on them, you can go off and find them and buy them to.

What books do you read recommend? I obviously wave the nudge unit around and recommend that. But what are your recommendations?

Oh, um, so I have read quite a few books this year about business scams for no apparent reason. I just got really into it. So I read Bad Blood by John Kerry. You about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. Amazing book. Very, very good. I would recommend that to anybody. It’s it’s more like a kind of thriller intrigue type book than just about a kind of business that went a bit wrong. It’s very good. Um, also got quite into Enron, Bernie Madoff.

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend these books as much, but it was a weird rabbit hole I was in in about February. So I was just it’s good. I feel like I probably should recommend a behavioural science book as a behavioural scientist. Um, my favourite, as I would probably say, is misbehaving by Richard Thaler. So it’s kind of the history of how kind of behavioural economics evolved from sort of neoclassical economics and how it kind of uses psychology and then got into policy and Nobel prise winning and all of that stuff is a really good book.

And I wouldn’t if you haven’t read much, if you haven’t read thinking fast and slow, don’t bother. Just you know, I just want to save yourself the time. Like Thinking is a useful reference book. Like, I’ve never read it all the way through, but I’ve used it to kind of flick through like the definition for anchoring or whatever.

But I feel much the same about Simon Sinek. Oh yeah. I forget what is covered with white, not with white. Yeah. Yeah. It was like what’s the TED talk. Ten minutes. You really interesting. Fascinating Ted talk. It’s great. Read the book. Somebody said you need to write forty thousand words and he’s taken a ten minute ted talk into forty thousand words. Is the best book ever. No it’s a shit book. The concepts is fascinating and he explains it in a brilliant, brilliant way.

But just watch the TED talk.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I do find that with a lot of these kind of when someone’s got an idea and it’s a brilliant idea, but then they have to flesh out a whole book for it, like it could have been a pamphlet.

It was a blog wasn’t it. Was like a great blog. Absolutely.

Well, exactly. It’s a shame I think. And I recommend fiction is like, listen, we’ve had cookbooks. So somebody recommended Solange’s cook for a couple of bits of fiction. So, yeah. Anything really anything you recommend. And I feel like well, I mean, on cookbooks, Midnight Chicken by Alan Rusbridger is very, very good. It’s kind of pots. Part cookbook and all of the recipes are really sort of stodgy and comforting and blueberry muffins, I love chicken, lots of chicken recipes in a lot of chicken.

There’s the recipe from Midnight Chicken, which is basically roast chicken that she made one time at midnight when she was in the throes of depression is like it’s written in a very funny way. And then there’s some kind of sticky chicken wing type recipe. It’s is very good. It’s a very good book.

Your frame of reference I’m concerned about usually, actually, because so far we’ve talked about end of life care, people with depression, some of the biggest financial scandals the world has ever seen. Give us something. What do you do for fun? What would you do for kicks?

Read about financial scandals, namely what I really and you and you argue on debt all the way that the and it’s like, come on, Julia, you must do something for kicks.

It’s the sad thing about the pandemic is I realise I have no hobbies that aren’t eating.

Know what a hobby or what I know.

Like when all the restaurants closed, I was like, well, that’s it, I guess my entire lifestyle. So no, I do nothing fun, I’m afraid.

Is that right, and as was one last question is what what one question were you expecting me to ask you that I haven’t asked?

Do you know when you sent me this list of questions, I was like, well, there’s nothing about ethics, so that’s going to be my thing that I thought he’d ask. But we’ve spent a lot of time talking about ethics. So actually, I’ve remembered one question I thought was going to ask you to. I didn’t ask you. Oh, yeah. Tell us briefly about managing stress. You told a lovely story about our hunter gatherer ancestors and how they manage stress and why that influences how we manage stress.

Tell us that story for you.

OK, so this is another book recommendation actually burn out by a a million Goreski, and it’s more aimed at women because it’s kind of how and all of our kind of life pressures plus societal pressures make but don’t happen. But I think men get a lot out of it as well. So they introduced something they call the stress cycle, which is basically a physiological response to stress. So when we were back in all kind of our ancestors on the Serengeti, we would have been stressed out by something like a big Tuesday, sabertooth tiger or another human we didn’t recognise with a big spear.

So that floods our brain with the hormones to respond to it basically. So we’ve got cortisol, adrenaline that kind of get us ready to do fight or flight. We then act on that and run as fast as we can, the opposite direction, or kind of get into a fight or whatever it is. And then we’re using all of that energy. We kind of get back to our safe base with our tribe and all of our family and friends, and then we can kind of relax properly and we’re ready to respond again.

The problem we have now is that instead of being a kind of physical threat, we’re more likely to have a kind of emotional cognitive stressor. So it might be our boss yelling at us. It might be a sort of aggressive email we received. It might be an angry customer, all of these different things. And what that does is it produces the same stress response in our brain. Instead of being able to run away or to fight, we have to just kind of sit there and suck it up and we can’t deal with it the way the brain and our body is kind of wired to to help us deal with it.

So we kind of sit there with all of these wilbourne swirling around our body and they sit over the long term is what causes burnout effectively. But there are ways that you can address that. So in the book, they talk about kind of five ways, which is seven ways maybe I think I might have cut it down, but five ways that you can address that. So it’s things like getting more sleep, getting lots of exercise, of course.

And mindfulness is, one, connecting with others and making sure that we’re spending time with family and friends and even kind of some creative arts therapies and things like drama or singing or dancing or even journaling and doodling and all of those things can really kind of help release all that pent up energy and help us deal with that stress.

Really, the one lesson I took from that is so Juliette Hodges, part of the behavioural insights team at BUPA, recommends punching annoying clients. You’re annoying because that is actually the best way to deal with the physical response or running away really quickly. Punching them really does let out those chemicals. And that’s your recommendation to you? That’s right.

It is. I mean, that’s what the brain wants us to do.

It’s science and science said you can punch your boss or punch a customer. Say it here first on the Strategy Session. And when I edit this up and clip it to put it in pre promotion for the show, that’s all it’s going to say is, Julia, go, you punch your boss. It’s fine. So, Julia, thank you very much for letting me misquote you on the podcast. It’s been a pile of fun. I’ve really, really enjoyed this.

Thank you for your time.

Thank you for having me. It’s been great.