At the IIEX conference in Atlanta last week, Alex Batchelor of Brainjuicer introduced himself as a “recovering Insightsaholic,” someone who loved insights for their own sake. But insights aren’t enough.

Market research needs to “find out how [consumers] decide and what affects that decision making,” Alex said. And decisions are influenced by environment (“sense, choose, act”), by social influences (“see, share, copy”), as well as by personal processes (“feel, do, think”).

Environmental Impact on Behavior Change

As an example of an environmental change to decision making, Alex discussed how, before 2007, customers tipped New York taxi drivers an average of 10%. In 2007, customers suddenly started tipping taxi drivers an average of 22%. Did consumers choose to do this in reaction to a sudden increase in the quality of the service provided by taxi-cab drivers?

Hardly. Instead, a new user interface anchored tipping at higher rates:

NYC taxi cab tipping user interface

“The addition of default choices – 20%, 25% and 30% – makes us assume that’s the normal expected rate so we’re happy to go with it. If anything it helps us to avoid the embarrassment of under-tipping!”

Social Influence on Behavior Change

Speaking of embarrassment, as social creatures, not so dissimilar to monkeys, we take our cues from what our peers do. Alex showed the following video, in which one monkey gets paid for completing a task with a cucumber, and the other monkey gets paid for completing the same task with a grape:

Our decision-making is influenced by our peers more than we care to admit. “We are influenced by other people – and they unconsciously change our behavior…. People change slowly, until they think everyone else is changing/has changed.”

Personal Impact on Behavior Change

We tend to overestimate our personal decision making process. Framing, or re-framing, often changes our decision. Digital Shoreditch found that court fine payments had 5% compliance to a letter, 25% compliance when sent a standard text message, and 33% compliance when sent a personalized text message.

Case Study

Alex shared the following Brainjuicer case study:

Drinkaware wanted to encourage shoppers in Glasgow to start drinking lower strength beer and wine. So with their creative agency they designed some POS [Point Of Sale] material to extol the virtues of lower strength drinks. Our role was to test how effective the POS was at changing behavior and gain behavioral insights that could help them to improve in the future.

We collected three types of data: Exit interviews to see if there was any attitudinal shift, sales data to see if weaker beer and wine was being sold, and accompanied shoppers to see how people approach the alcohol aisle and their behavior in it.

Over the campaign period there was a positive attitudinal shift. We see more people disagreeing with low strength beer being lower quality, fewer people felt social pressure against drinking low strength beer, and there was a large uplift in the proportion of people seeing low strength alternatives as a good way to avoid unhealthy drinking.

What was the impact on behavior?

Zero. The average ABV [Alcohol By Volume] of beer consumed remained at 4.4% and of wine consumed remained at 12.3%.

As Alex concluded, “simply giving us more information doesn’t seem to change our behavior.” Brainjuicer will look to behavioral economics to come up with other approaches to test.


Among his concluding points, Alex said, “We aren’t intelligent or rational decision makers… Context is everything… Emotion drives our behavior – so if you want to turn human understanding into business advantage then understand emotion.”

Finally, “market research companies also need to work ‘with the grain’ of human behavior!”

Author Notes:

Jeffrey Henning

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Jeffrey Henning, IPC is a professionally certified researcher and has personally conducted over 1,400 survey research projects. Jeffrey is a member of the Insights Association and the American Association of Public Opinion Researchers. In 2012, he was the inaugural winner of the MRA’s Impact award, which “recognizes an industry professional, team or organization that has demonstrated tremendous vision, leadership, and innovation, within the past year, that has led to advances in the marketing research profession.” In 2022, the Insights Association named him an IPC Laureate. Before founding Researchscape in 2012, Jeffrey co-founded Perseus Development Corporation in 1993, which introduced the first web-survey software, and Vovici in 2006, which pioneered the enterprise-feedback management category. A 35-year veteran of the research industry, he began his career as an industry analyst for an Inc. 500 research firm.