Last week Mark Lewis, one of our Data Scientists, had the privilege of attending the JFDI Early Worm Club to hear Rory Sutherland use case studies from his work, and research from his new book (Alchemy) to share his views on why marketers must learn to identify and understand the basics of ‘psycho-logic’ to breakthrough in today’s world.


Here are 3 really interesting things he learned:

“There is no magic in advertising”


The overarching theme of the talk was that there is “no magic in advertising”. We as marketers are, and should be, more and more reliant on the science of psychology and behavioural science in developing our work. Rory believes that “historically, advertising has suffered from a lack of science to support it”. But now he explains that through Behavioural Psychology there is the science to supply that evidence. “Psychology is an open book, open to interpretation from multiple different viewpoints”.


We’ve seen this insight in action. We have had the privilege of working with the Ogilvy behavioural science team on clients such as British Airways and ODEON; their expertise helped us uncover unique and actionable insights about our target audiences to add to our own profiling and data-led approach. These insights then helped us develop strategies and executions with far greater meaning and impact.



“Good advertising gives good and bad news”


Rory explained that good advertising does both; showing that the product isn’t perfect but does its job well and is very effective because it stops the consumer from imagining the downside and eliminates any fears they may have. The example he used was John Lewis. Their products are often a little on the expensive side (not perfect), but this is balanced against their quality (good).


In our data (ProNetTM) we see the same principle in action across the thousands of promotions we have activated. A “Try Me Free” or a “Money Back Guarantee” is a promotional mechanic which does exactly this. It demonstrates to the consumer that the product is good, high quality and desirable (good), but recognises that they might not find it right for them (ie. it might not be perfect). These mechanics promote the confidence the brand has in the product, but also alleviate any concerns and perceptions of risk that consumers might have. We have seen a significant rise in the popularity of these mechanics in the last 18 months; they now account for 20% of all of our promotional enquires, a significant year on year increase. Rory, we think the industry is taking note of this insight!



“Consumers change their behaviour when they start to appraise the product in a different way.”


An interesting example to explain this is Carlsberg. They are trying to create a brand reappraisal. They not only dropped the iconic “probably the best beer in the world” they have smashed it. Brewing a whole new beer, creating and telling a whole new story.


 “’Probably the best beer in the world.’ Once true, but today? Probably not. Somewhere along the line, we lost our way. We focused on brewing quantity, not quality. We became one of the cheapest, not the best. So, there was only one thing for it. We had to create a better beer. Rebrewed from head to hop.”




This is a strong example of a brand trying to get its consumers to behave in a different way by viewing their brand differently. Whilst not as significant a shift as the leap Carlsberg have made, we saw a similar approach taken by the Whiskas brand in Germany. They partnered with the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) to create a charity partnership. Consumers purchased packs, collected tokens (Tiger Coins) and then redeemed these for tiered rewards. Consumers responded to this new relevant and motivating purpose from the brand, significantly changing their behaviour. Redemptions were 3 times the industry average, and the client was delighted at the impact.


It was a fantastic talk, packed full of great stories and insight. We are big believers in the power of behavioural science, of data and insight to help marketers get it right. Alchemy is on order and we look forward to uncovering more of its insights and applying them for our clients.