In conversation with Anand Damani, a behavioural scientist who works at Briefcase.

“Behavioural science is about real experiments done in human decision-making across several fields like consumer, employee, investor, public, personal behaviour and more. Behavioural science is a combination of behavioural economics, cognitive neuroscience and psychology. So behavioural science studies is our knowledge base, our input. And the application of behavioural science to real-world problems is Behavioural Design, the output or solution. Behavioural Design is a high-impact, low-cost method of changing human behaviour.”

 1. How have brands used behavioural science effectively?

We at Briefcase are working with companies to apply behavioural science to increase marketing conversions, product adoption and creating consumer habits. We’ve done projects in increasing subscription renewals, increasing credit card conversions, getting first-time investors to adopt mutual funds faster and more such kind of projects. Our work influences consumers in their decision-making process in the last mile and nudge them to buy/subscribe/apply/renew/upgrade/pay. Our Behavioural Design practice is quickly becoming popular amongst marketers because small changes in communication and product are making a big difference in results. The process involves 7 steps – understand client processes, map customer journey,  apply behavioural science principles, develop behavioural design solutions, test multiple solutions using A/B testing or RCTs – randomised control trials, revise them as required, scale the winning solution. Behavioural Design is a better process because otherwise companies have been used to picking one solution out of a few solutions based on collective experience and intuition of the team, which could go wrong. But with the Behavioural Design process it’s about reducing risk, by applying behavioural science findings and testing multiple solutions to find out which one works best, before scaling it up.

2. What are the new trends in behavioural science and how much does technology aid it?

It’s fascinating that behavioural scientists have actually been doing experiments in human behaviour and publishing their findings since the last 50 years and more, but businesses have yet to take full advantage of such knowledge. In the US and Europe, behavioural science is being applied, in a rigorous way, since the last ten years, by the government of UK, in particular and companies like Amazon, Google, Apple and others. In India, behavioural science is just starting to get popular amongst the corporate world. In our work at Briefcase with clients, we use their existing infrastructure like traditional and digital media. Technology plays a role because a lot of customer interactions happen digitally, but because we only tweak existing technology, our work involves making simple, low cost and practical nudges. So we don’t create new technology for clients, we only tweak it to get the desired results. Small changes that lead to big results.

3. What are the common misinterpretations when it comes to behavioural science?

In India, behavioural science is just starting to get popular amongst the corporate world. India is in the interpretation stage, misinterpretations will follow soon. We’ve just begun scoping the various kinds of applications of behavioural science. Outside India, behavioural science has begun to show tremendous results across several fields of consumer, employee, investor, public, personal behaviour and more. Government of UK has more than a hundred trials going on as we speak. Institutions like the World Bank too has been using behavioural science in several of their work across the world from improving hygiene to improving school attendance. Companies like Amazon, Google, Apple and others have been applying behavioural science to make their products and marketing efforts more effective, intuitive and appealing to consumers.

4.  What are the cons of behavioural science?

Behavioural science techniques and principles work on the subconscious part of the brain and are therefore potent in achieving the desired actions. That’s why companies and consultants applying them need to be ethically and morally cognizant of its usage and consequences. That’s why Richard Thaler, Nobel prize winner and modern founder of behavioural science, says ‘Nudge for good.’

5. Traditional marketing focuses on ensuring the consumers make the decision to buy the product/service while behavioural science relies on influencing their subconscious into possibly buying the product/ service. By that definition, would traditional marketing be more effective?

Traditional marketing is about appealing to the conscious part of consumers’ brains. Behavioural science/design is about appealing to the powerful subconscious part of consumers’ brains, which actually makes most of the decisions.

Traditional marketing is about changing consumers’ attitudes and hoping that attitude converts into real action. Behavioural science/design is about changing consumer behaviour and getting them to take the desired action directly, and not relying on changing attitude, because many times change in attitude does not change real behaviour.

Traditional marketing assumes people are rational and take in all information in their decision-making. Behavioural science/design is proving that people are not rational, in fact they are predictably irrational and use rule of thumbs or short-cuts in deciding whether to buy or not. So Behavioural science/design understands and uses such short-cuts to get consumers to buy.

Traditional marketing is about using feedback from consumers to make better marketing decisions via focus groups or interviews. Behavioural science/design is about using already done experiments and underlying behavioural principles to make better marketing decisions, because consumers don’t know what they want. Consumers often say something and do something else.

Traditional marketing is about selecting one solution from a few solutions presented, based on the team’s collective judgement or often the senior most person’s judgement. Behavioural science/design is about testing multiple solutions in a low-cost rapid trial before scaling up the winning solution. Else one would have never known which solutions works best.

So which method do you think is more likely to be effective?


I’m a behavioural scientist. I use behavioural science to increase marketing conversions and improve employee performance for our clients; I invent and innovate products and solutions like Bleep that change public behaviour; my work has been featured in TIME, BBC, Forbes, France 24, The Atlantic, CNBC and several other media. I read thousands of behavioural science papers and books, write about behavioural design in Mint, ET and which gets visitors from over 100 countries; my TEDxGateway talk has been featured in TEDx worldwide editor’s pick. I speak on consumer, employee, investor and public behaviour on various platforms and corporate conferences; and help brands achieve their goals by using communication design. Before starting Briefcase in 2013, I worked for thirteen years in advertising companies like Lowe Lintas for clients like Unilever, P&G, Cadbury, Asian Paints amongst many others and spent few years in sales and marketing at L’Oreal.


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