Putting theory into practice

Tom Vannozzi and Stephen Skippon


There has been considerable excitement in recent years around the use of Behavioural Economics in market research, advertising and marketing. Whilst it has existed in the world of academia since the late 1970s, a number of recent popular publications such as Nudge (Thaler & Sunstein, 2009), Predictable Irrational (Ariely 2008), Sway (Brafman & Brafman, 2009), Freakonomics (Levitt & Dubner, 2005), and Thinking Fast and Slow (Kahneman, 2011) to name but a few have helped give those interested a common frame of reference and a new terminology to leaven their understanding of human behaviour, as well as keep readers entertained.

As a sign of how seriously it is being taken in the UK market research sector, several consultancies have sprung up focussed purely on applying behavioural economics to commercial market research.

However, recently there seems to have been a cooling of opinion towards Behavioural Economics within market research. The title of the 2013 MRS Conference session on 'Behavioural Sillynomics' goes some way to capturing this sentiment. The camps in the research community seem to be somewhat divided on the value of Behavioural Economics. Some extol the benefits, others argue that Behavioural Economics is nothing new and simply what we, as market researchers, have been doing all along. Others can see some advantages but are unsure how to apply them.