Anthony Tattum Colour
17th December 2020

A Reflection on Big Cat’s Behavioural Science Journey.

To end 2020, Anthony Tattum takes a look back at Big Cat’s partnerships to uncover our journey of linking behaviour to advertising and marketing campaigns.

Where the Journey First Began…

I’ve always found that Christmas is a time to reflect and prepare for the year ahead. This year, I’ve been thinking about the journey we, as a business, have been on since our re-tooling in 2014 (Big Cat divested from the Big Cat Group to become a Marketing & Creative Advertising Agency) and how we came to be obsessed with applying behavioural science to brand communications.

The start of our behavioural science journey can be traced back to December 2015, when I was invited to speak at an event for health entrepreneurs at the University of Birmingham‘s Research Park with two academics: Professor Jeannette Littlemore and Dr. Paula Perez-Sobrino. At the time, Professor Littlemore and Dr. Perez-Sobrino were researching the use and application of metaphor to enhance advertising effectiveness.

As a self-professed science geek, their research was intriguing. I’ve always been a lover of science, devouring information by post-Darwinian authors, like Yuval Noah Harari and Richard Dawkins. Any concept pertaining to evolution or anthropology fascinates me and so, when the opportunity arose to apply some academic rigour to our marketing strategies, I inevitably JUMPED at the chance.

The Next Chapter

By the Autumn of 2016, we had recruited Cognitive Academic Researcher, Samantha Ford, and began our work together on brand development; testing creative concepts and their applications to marketing campaigns.

Our first project together was the headline creative for Aspire's 2016 Annual Charity Swim; Aspire’s flagship fundraising event. Whilst the recommendations were clear and compelling, the results unfortunately came too late to apply to their marketing campaign.

We realised that we needed a way of working both faster and smarter to get recommendations aligned efficiently with clients’ and brands’ marketing projects.

Roll on Aspire’s 2017 Annual Charity Swim and the results were astounding! The application of these results across all of Aspire’s designated channels led to participation and donations being the highest in the charity's 17 year history! Needless to say, we were on to something…

Aspire Webimages 1280X720

When the Plan Comes Together

So 2018 came in full-swing and with our new-found strategy, we were excited to say the least. We began work on creative for Umbrella’s sexual health campaign: Let's Talk About Sex, Baby.

During the planning process, we tested the most effective level of cognitive load in using sexual innuendo to maximise effective results. In layman’s terms, how easily did the audience get the joke?

Then came my “AHA!” Moment! Creativity is not simply the production of excellent artistry but is driven by applied linguistics and powered by an understanding of heuristics. In the applications of these mental short cuts and biases, we can truly drive desired behaviours to, in this case, get consumers to order STI test kits.

The results did not just provide a substantial improvement in engagements and site visits, but more significantly, showed a 50% improvement in ordering kits on any previous campaign in the services’ five year history.

Umbrella STI Self Sampling Campaign Case Study 3

The Meaningful Takeaway

I can see it now: the moment when we decided to 'bet the farm' on becoming an agency purely focussing on applying behavioural science to brand communications, marketing, advertising, PR and social media. The year was 2019.

It was July and I was at the IPA's Agency Growth Conference. I had finished reading Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman that week and we had just heard Rory Sutherland talk about Behavioural Economics.

Suddenly, all of our research, all of our campaigns, all of the readings linked back to my “AHA!” Moment the year before.

Why consumers don't say what they think or do what they say.

Why changing attitudes and intention-to-buy isn't enough.

Marketing communications must generate ACTION. Get people to buy, to care, to think, to feel and then, they will do.

With these simple assertions, our mission was clear: to understand the quirks of human nature so that we might be able to interrupt and influence audiences through digital marketing, PR and social media in a way that matters to them.

But, What’s to Come?

In 2021, we will be working with Samantha Ford, Professor Jeannette Littlemore and the School of Linguistics at the University of Birmingham on our applied behavioural science process for brand communications.

Specifically, looking at how language shapes the way we think and how words affect the way people behave to apply the link between language and behaviour in advertising further in our campaigns.

From a practical standpoint, we’ve developed a workshop and SPRINT-like process for applying behavioural science to brand communications with author and guru, Richard Shotton, which we will be taking to market in 2021.

This workshop is a really exciting development for us, providing essentially the “Greatest Hits” of marketing strategy, innovation, behavioural science, and creative thinking packaged into a battle-tested process that any brand can deploy.

Emerging from the dark days of 2020 and into the light of 2021, we will continue to learn about human behaviour, asking real questions and talking to real people. Looking for the magic that lies between head and gut and using creativity to make a real difference.

The Choice Factory Richard Shotton

We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happier New Year!

Think your business or brand needs a Greatest Hits List in the New Year? Then get in touch today!

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