Nudge marketing can get the nation back on its feet

Bill Portlock 2Boris Johnson has recently outlined another potential incentive scheme, this time in an attempt to try to combat rising cases of obesity induced deaths. This is no surprise considering the UK has the third highest Covid death rate and the fourth highest rate of obesity.

Living with excessive weight increases your risk of serious illness or death from Covid – around 8% of the Covid critically ill in ICUs have been morbidly obese. This statistic, when compared to the 2.9% of the general population, is clearly alarming.

However, I believe paying people to eat less will have as much success as ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ at saving lives. As part of our research into the health and wellbeing of the UK, we developed several predictive machine learning algorithms and uncovered that a strategy of ‘nudge marketing’ would be a more powerful and efficient way of reducing obesity levels in the UK.

Nudge marketing is the process of influencing consumer decisions indirectly through suggestion and reinforcement over time. For example, large scale health campaigns that ultimately manipulate the attitudes of people to help them get fit.

Nudge theory is a tried and tested methodology in behavioural economics that applies psychological insights of behaviour to explain economic decision-making. In recent years, it has helped governments and brands understand behaviours from making healthier eating decisions, to investment cycles in the stock market.

The possibilities are endless. Each individual is irrational, and by taking into account this theory from behavioural economic literature, we are able to shape attitudes which in turn shape decisions over time. Rome was not built in a day. The quick, incentive led fix that the Government is trying to deploy may work short term, but for long term development, a more sound strategy must be deployed.

That is where data science comes into play. By making subtle interventions to a wide range of marketing campaigns, we are able to adjust the ‘choice architecture’ of people’s attitudes and behaviours in order to make particular outcomes more likely.

Our research has uncovered areas of the UK that have the highest levels of obesity, but knowing where the most obese people are is only one part of the solution. In our eyes, the next part of the puzzle is finding individuals that accept they are obese, and, more importantly, willing to change their lifestyles.

This theory, as mentioned before, can be applied to all areas of life. Using data science tools to identify consumers that fit your target market perfectly, brands can deploy nudge campaigns to ensure long term behavioural change, using real time results to optimise campaigns.

Bill Portlock is managing director of Metrix Data Science

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