The darker side of nudging

Author: CIM Charity and Social Marketing group

Charity and social marketers, behaviour change practitioners and social policy campaigners do good, well that’s their aim. Supported by clear objectives, detailed policies, defined behavioural outcomes and ethical codes of conduct, the choice of marketing techniques should be straightforward.

But certain tactics often used in commercial environments have triggered debate, particularly when used in not-for-profit contexts. For example, greater digital automation and AI algorithms (meaning absence of human decision-making) may cause messages to be re-targeted to vulnerable or inappropriate audiences. Or the use of ‘urgency messaging’, tapping into scarcity bias, to manipulate an action.

We may consider that our messages are just sensibly framed (copywritten) or that we’ve made good use of anchoring or defaults to encourage larger donations or more sign-ups, but if these are primarily ‘reactive’ decisions rather than ‘reasoned’ decisions, are we being deceptive by exploiting certain susceptibilities? When is choice not a choice? And is transparency a pre-requisite?

In this presentation Liz will discuss which tactics we should be worried about, which techniques might be considered unethical and ways we can influence and persuade with integrity.

Liz Barnes, Vice Chair of the CIM Charity and Social Marketing Group, Behavioural Scientist and Marketer, will share her insights from her work in social marketing, customer experience and third sector where she has seen behaviour change techniques applied for good and learned from the bad.