The Nudge Unit – from tax dodgers to lifestyle advice
Last weekend’s Sunday Times (paywall, sorry) had a great piece in it about the government’s Behavioural Insights Team (aka The Nudge Unit). I’ve read quite a few articles about them before (mainly in the business and research press), covering how they use behavioural economics and Malcolm Gladwell style ‘Nudges’ to influence behaviour change. But this piece was handily full of mini case studies that make perfect ammunition for persuading clients to let us dig a bit deeper into their customer touch points:
- In a trial targeting 3,000 doctors who had failed to file their tax returns, ‘nudge’ letters highlighting the high degree of tax compliance among doctors and reminding them of the profession’s trustworthy and honest reputation resulted in a 35% response rate, vs. 4% with the generic HMRC reminder letter.
- Personalised text messages that were sent to people who owe money to the courts the week before bailiffs were due resulted in a third of all recipients subsequently paying up.
- Since last year, people who apply for a new or replacement UK driving licence are required to state on their application whether or not they’d like to be an organ donor…although this one will obviously take a while for any measurable results to come.
If the Nudge Unit survives its review next month, they apparently want to get their hands on supermarket loyalty card data to start prompting shoppers on an individual level to make healthier choices. We’d all love to get out hands on some Clubcard data, but I suspect that this lot won’t want to pay for it! The Behavioural Insights Team are moving towards some interesting grey areas and I suspect the debate about how much the government should seek to influence our lifestyle choices is going to run for years to come.
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