How Behavioural Economics can create marital bliss

How behavioural economics can create marital bliss.

Holidays. I am addicted to them, exotic tastes, diverse cultures, Family adventures. It’s the main reason I go to work. I can blissfully while away the hours scouring t’internet dreaming of the perfect little getaway for my brood. However if I ever want to turn one of my dreams into a reality there is always someone I have to get it passed first; My gorgeous husband who simply comes from a place of ‘No!’ But where there is a will there is a way and after 15 years of hard slog(trial and error), I have finally cracked how to turn his adamant ‘No’ into a frivolous ‘Yes’ thanks to behavioural economics. And here is how I do it.

Behavioural economics (BE) is a method of economic analysis that applies psychological insights into human behaviour to explain economic decision-making. (source: Oxford Dictionary).

When applied BE is a powerful marketing tool that can be used to influence a consumer's thought process in order to achieve a desired action. Have you ever wondered why you end up spending closer to £20 on stuff you don’t really need when you're in a pound shop? Or why you would rather be a little late for work than miss out on the freebie coffee being handed out at your station in the morning? Its because the way in which we all make decisions about how to spend our money is influenced by the way in which we perceive the opportunity. So, if I understand how my husband will react when making decisions about our family finances, then I can lovingly frame any proposal in such a way that he will not only agree to it, but also think it was his idea all along!

Sales people will tell you that you need to be clear and get your offer out there on the table quickly and confidently, but I’d be mad to directly approach my husband with a statement like “Shall we go on holiday to Turkey on the 16th June?” He’d simply walk away. This is because he has little interest in the subject, so the thought of having to actually research and book a holiday is quite a daunting task. However, I've learnt that if I break each decision that we have to make down into a series of casual lighthearted chats, then he inadvertently becomes warm to the idea and before you know it we're sipping sangria in the San Sebastian sunshine!

Principle one: Chunking.

"Parts" are easier than "The Whole". If something presented as one long task to be conducted in a single act, it will be less likely to attract people than something that is "chunked up" into bite-sized stages.

  • Chat 1) I prime him by randomly pointing out anything holiday related; From complaining about the poor British weather to our mentioning our friends holiday plans whilst never neglecting to remind him of the financial benefits of booking a holiday at a specific time.
  • Chat 2) Casually I suggest a time of year to go and maybe a length of stay. I ask if he maybe able to get this time of work? If he can, then I know I have him so I start to up the ante.
  • Chat 3) What type of holiday do we fancy? Sun? Snow? Long haul? Short haul? If he engages with me then great. However if he starts to bring up holidays in conversations with others (Seeking Authority & Gaining Consensus) then I know he is emotionally invested and we are one step closer to that plane.
  • Chat 4) Now the difficult part. What are we going to spend? If I don’t handle this conversation right, then I can spook him and it’s game over. So I carefully do my calculations before hand to suggest an affordable price and means to pay. Then I drop it lightly over dinner one night, and hold my breath...... until he agrees.

Meanwhile I am feverishly researching the perfect getaway, because I have to be ready to present at the precise moment he has agrees to a budget. Inevitably my dream destination will be over our agreed budget but I have no fear because this is where I deploy Choice Architecture.

Principle Two : Choice Architecture.

Choice Architecture is the design of different ways in which choices can be presented to consumers, and the impact of that presentation on consumer decision-making.

When applied to my significant other, I firstly pick three hotels and sandwich them around the hotel of my holiday dreams.

  • Hotel .1. Will be the cheapest and the lowest rated.
  • Hotel .2. Will be bang on budget but again mid range in terms of ratings.
  • Hotel .3. My dream location, probably above our budget but has the added touches that would make our stay wonderful.
  • Hotel .4. Over priced, 5+ star luxury that offers many of the same features as my dream location but for a significantly greater price.

Now with arms ladened with my four choices, I give him a beer and the power to decide. I walk away comfortable in the knowledge that he will make the right choice.

You see no-one ever buys the cheapest wine on the menu so Hotel.1. will be quickly dismissed. As will Hotel .4. as no-one ever wants to be fooled into paying over the odds for something either, unless of course money is no object. So with just two locations left, I know he will choose Hotel .3. as he will perceive this one to be of better value (another behavioral economics trick; Perceived Value). Now that our choice has been made I must act quickly to get him to agree to part with our precious pennies.

Principle Three : Scarcity value.

When we perceive something to be scarce, it has a greater value in our eyes.

I refer you to Easyjet's website to witness the scarcity value in all of its glory. Not only do Easyjet tell you how many people are viewing the same seats as you, but those who are booking it too. With more and more people taking action, you start to feel anxiety building because you don’t want to miss out. You become pressured and start to believe that you cannot live without that particular flight to wintery Cracow until you finally push that button!

So I look for my hook. Can I talk up a limited time offer? Are there limited rooms remaining? Can I apply the seasonal pressure of school holidays or do I think that stay-cations will be all the rage this year? I deploy whatever I can to get him over that finishing line and then it’s ‘Bon-voyage’ as we embark on our family holiday that my husband is convinced he chose!

So, if I can apply the simplest form of behavioural Economics to get my unwitting hubby to buy a family holiday, you won't be surprised to discover that we apply the same principles to all our client projects.

Want to discuss this further, then get in Tutch….

Written by a happy wife, with a happy life and holiday number 46 in planning.

P.S. Please don't share if you know my other half!