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Why nudge should be a strong focus on your marketing strategy?

In addition to our articles on marketing optimization, I will speak today about a trendy phenomenon: the nudge. We focus a lot on the elements directly involved in the marketing pressure but very little on the satellites that indirectly provide support functions. And that reinforces the implementation of your marketing optimization management.

The discussion on the nudge is more global. In our approach, we consider the marketing pressure phenomenon under the axis of improvement rather than curation. However, it seems to be enriching to associate this increasingly popular trend in order to broaden the debate and the range of possibilities.

For decades, marketing and communication in the broad sense have offered a vision based on the following levers: Convince – Constrain – Make people feel guilty. These practices seem more and more old school and controversial, so what are the alternatives?

What alternatives?

The 3 traditional levers cited have the main purpose of selling. In this perspective, the act of purchase is considered the short term, so punctual. It is then more opportunity and attitude than taking into account behavior. The behavior is measured, meanwhile, in the long run. And this, even if some of its manifestations are very short-terms too.

At a time when companies talk about the value of behavioral data and the black gold that is data, understand the behavior of consumers can not escape them. Yet in the field, confusion and reluctance to change are slowing down the company’s innovation and its transition to a model that would make it attractive to customers again. Of course, some traditional companies, companies with a strong culture of innovation and start-ups are doing well.

Nudge, sweet induction

This is where the “nudge” comes in, which means in English “jerk, a little nudge, graze, encouragement”. Marketing has translated it into our beautiful lands into sweet incentive, which I would personally translate into sweet induction.

The origins of these practices have been widely presented and are well described in the book “Nudge – The Gentle Method to Inspire the Right Decision” by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein, whom I invite you to read.

The nudge, like all practices inherited from behavioral economics, shed new light on known phenomena and allows an understanding and a retreat on them. Do you really know how your client’s decision-making process works? What follows is also valid in B2B marketing.

Indeed, one would tend to think that the B2C buyer and more in B2B is guided by elements from the rational because the man is a being of reason. This is only partially relevant. The vision of the customer who makes a perfect choice and is not mistaken is wrong. It is mainly the result of a patristic view of the economy. But then if it’s irrational, it must go in all directions, you say; so much to say that nothing is reliable. No! These behaviors, irrational as they are, are systematic and therefore not random. However, all that is systematic is predictable: here we are saved!

The subjective criteria, a major weight in the act of purchase

The basic postulate is, therefore, to accept that each of us makes our decisions by giving more weight to subjective criteria than to objective or rational criteria. In our purchases and our everyday decisions, we know that we do not always make the right decisions. And we are plagued by regret after the fact. But all this is natural. In some cases, we do not experience regret, or we try to convince ourselves not to face a troublesome cognitive dissonance.

Congratulations, you’ve just been nudged!

Example! You are browsing a website, during your browsing in deep pages, you come across this ugly dead-end page 404, what are you doing? It’s a waste of time, and the company’s mistake highlights its fallibility. Result: more than 80% of people leave the site and go elsewhere.

On the contrary, if you are browsing a website, and during your browsing in deep pages, you come across a beautiful, funny and personalized page 404 inviting you to bounce on accessible pages of the site and which is contextually phase with your navigation … what are you doing?

Congratulations, you’ve just been nudged!

By a simple solution, fairly comprehensive and generally inexpensive, you have just induced and acted on the decision-making of visitors. And so to gently adopt a new behavior in the same situation. The question is not so much whether the nudge is true or necessary but rather when you take it into account and make it a strong focus of your marketing strategy.

Rely on Maslow’s good old pyramid

To dissect the main axes of understanding of the nudge, we can base ourselves on our good old Maslow pyramid. Indeed, the nudge is not a revolution in itself. It is a model of understanding in the service of a methodology of management of economic problems.

Abraham Maslow thus taught us that human needs and behaviors can be grouped into 5 major classes with a hierarchy between them: primary and physiological needs, security needs, needs of belonging, needs of esteem and recognition, needs of personal achievement.

1. Primary and physiological needs

A rapprochement between the nudge and these primary needs can be demonstrated in our apprehension and use of the spatiotemporal, and therefore of the rhythm and the space that surrounds us. We all undergo a rhythm of life, of work, an impression of suffocation or emptiness, time and space embrace us permanently.

As an example we can recall some great laws that theorize our relationship to space and time:

  • The Parkinson’s Law states that the greater the time to perform an action, the more it takes time to achieve.
  • The Carlson Law stipulates that a task performed continuously is performed faster than the task performed many times.
  • The law Douglas takes Parkinson’s Law but for space, ie, the greater the more we take up space.
  • The Illich law stipulates that there is a threshold beyond which the human becomes purely ineffective or against-productive.
  • etc.

Nudges can use this relationship to time and space to induce behavior and activate a reaction on our part, such as a sense of urgency. For example: not giving us time to answer implies that we will respond faster. Use the information space appropriately so as not to let our eyes disperse …

2. Security needs

The human likes to feel safe and it can be conveyed in many ways.


Humans love simple things or simplify their tasks, those that require the least effort for a visible and meaningful result. Anything that goes in this direction without directly serving a salient business purpose will be an additional incentive to bind to the business. Many time-saving initiatives to access a service or to find information or pre-fill forms are all simplifying nudges.


Change is managed, so it is not the state of normality for the human. All that has vocation proposed a status quo/stability that will be perceived as reassuring. All the boxes pre-checked in the forms are partly for these reasons, why change that?

The fear of failure

Man hates failure, or at least not to master a situation that leads to failure, and it is a strong lever of induction. Failure to present failure as an option induces trust that itself potentially induces action.

3. Membership needs

Man lives in society, certainly multi-cultural, multi-beliefs, multi-clans … But this society provides a framework within which man has his bearings even if he fights certain aspects. Social norms are therefore behavioral inductions and influencers for the human. Nudges can use these social norms because their power is phenomenal in our decision processes.

Another peculiarity of the nudge phenomenon is its approach, which is both individuals but always or almost always with a collective dimension. What is good at the level of the person must necessarily be good for the community and therefore for the world. It’s good to feel part of something bigger than you are, so why not act rather than hesitate?

Within nudges based on belonging, the notion of empathy will be particularly important. The marketer who knows how to put himself in the skin of the customer will be able to detect levers and deviations more easily. The customer feeling understood by the brand will have more kindness to him.

4. The needs of esteem and recognition

Self-esteem and recognition are particularly focused on the ego we all have, which is one of the most powerful levers in terms of induction.

It is common that we take good resolutions, we decide to take care of us because it is quite reasonable, healthy and perfectly justified. Yet the realization of these resolutions is always a nightmare, requires crazy energy … On the other hand, if an external element introduces a challenge or questioning of our capacity to do, then it is not the same force that will us push to act!

The nudges that encourage us to take action by a challenge will play on these elements. Other types of force are then used for the realization, and we want to come out of it by the external gaze. The gamification example is particularly suited to induce a behavior with an energy that we would not have had without necessarily.

5. The needs for personal fulfillment

At the last level, it is self-fulfillment that culminates. There are phenomena identical to the search for esteem that are at work but which are deeper in the sense that no external element has any influence on our appreciation.

But be careful not to confuse nudge and marketing action. Indeed, it is one that can be put at the service of the other. To keep all its effectiveness, it is necessary to remain in a pattern of induction of behavior, of incentive to a reflection which attracts the man to act according to an intention. The use of instinct or conventional marketing mechanisms does not fall into this category. Above all, they are no longer effective at this stage.

The boundary between incitement and animation can be fine and the nudge should in no way serve a consumerist purpose. It is a support, a tool for proximity and decision support, not a marketing and sales tool. These practices are likely to creep into the heart of the company and its practices, so we must be careful not to distort and lose their original stature.

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