9th December 2022

BeSci Explained: The Pratfall Effect

Behavioural Science is the study of human behaviour. Through an understanding of behavioural science, you can better understand why people act the way they do. In turn, this understanding can help you influence, motivate and change the behaviour of people. 

In the study of Behavioural Science, there are biases and nudges. Understanding common human behaioural biases enables us as practitioners to identify behavioiural insights. Biases are the unconscious behaviour people do every day, while a ‘nudge’ is a technique used in behavioral campaigns to influence people and their everyday behaviour (i.e. through an understanding of a bias we can nudge people in the right direction). Nudges in behavioural science can only be used to point someone in the direction of a good decision. 

For marketing and advertising practitioners, an understanding of behavioural biases can heighten the effectiveness of your creative campaigns. Specifically, behavioural biases become particularly helpful in behavioural change campaigns where you are looking to change a consumer's behaviour. However, it can also be used to help influence smaller actions such as liking a social media post or going in-store vs. online. 

The best approach is to layer different behavioural science biases on top of each other to create an even stronger effect (i.e. social proof, the messenger effect, costly signaling etc…). 

For more practical examples of how to influence people we recommend checking out How to Win Friend and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

In this blog, we will explore one behavioural science bias - The Pratfall Effect.

What is the Pratfall Effect? 

The Pratfall Effect is the idea that our faults or flaws actually make us more appealing. Afterall, being imperfect is perfectly natural and often makes us more relatable and therefore more likable. This ingenious insight shows how a negative can truly become a positive.

For brands, there is a big lesson to learn from the Pratfall Effect. As brands often look to humanise themselves in order to become more adored by customers. One key part of humanising a brand is to not be unrealistically perfect. In fact, brands who show the people behind the brand, building it from the ground up, tend to have more followers than those who don’t. 

This is, in part, because of the Pratfall Effect bias. The idea that a brand's journey is more interesting when it goes through struggles and challenges. Just like with people we follow on social media, we want brands to be transparent, vulnerable and real. 

The more we understand someone or a brand's faults, flaws and struggles, the deeper our relationship becomes and the more connected we feel to them. 

The Pratfall Effect is also often used for public relations campaigns. As often the best strategy is to be transparent and get ahead of the story rather than try and hide. People have an incredible power to forgive and, often, when brands admit to a mistake we accept the apology and move on. However, when brands try to cover up the error we become even more skeptical of their intentions and character and struggle to move past it. 

What is an example of a creative advertising campaign using The Pratfall Effect? 

An example of a creative campaign using the Pratfall Effect is one Big Cat Agency recently did for Cardinal Clinic, a private mental health hospital in Windsor, UK. 

Cardinal Clinic was experiencing a problem on social media. A lot of people were commenting negatively talking about how expensive mental health services from the clinic are. Further, a lot of people were using the channel to voice their overall dislike of private health care in general. 

Our strategy? Admit to the toughest aspect of the clinic for patients, the price. Through a series of paid social adverts we came clean about the reality of the clinic's high prices, while also transparently showing everything that goes into that cost for patients.

The result? Negative comments turned to positive ones. With comments praising the clinic's great quality care and bravery to say "we are expensive, we hear you."

Behavioural Science Social Media Campaign Example

If you are interested in learning more about behavioural science and how it can apply to your brand or business, book a free workshop with us by emailing [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you.

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