Behavioural economics for breakfast

Traditional market research focuses on what we know or think. Behavioural economics, is different. The focus is as much on what consumers actually do, and the reasons underlying that. Why? Because consumer behaviour is more often instinctive than rational. Behavioural economics aims to uncover and understand the invisible behavioural mechanics of the marketplace. Take a famous brand like Weetabix…

On conventional research measures Weetabix is a winner – fantastic awareness, high stated preference, superb values, amazing loyalty. In short, consumers love it and there is not much to be done to make it better. Right?

Wrong. Using research products designed to look beyond the usual brand questions, a host of hitherto unseen behavioural insights were uncovered that could dramatically affect Weetabix’s market performance. These tools allow the observation and better understanding of what consumers really do at breakfast, revealing their intuitive tendencies and biases, the context of their behaviour, the influence of others and the power of the social norm.

The data revealed that while Weetabix was one of the brands most likely to be found in people’s kitchen cupboards, it was also one of the cereals least likely to be removed from the cupboard and eaten on a given morning. This unexpected behaviour had the power to hold back sales. What was causing it?

There were a number of hidden issues:

  • The influence of what behavioural economists call the ‘default option’ (the quick, easy, familiar one) was very marked. People choosing cereal in the morning tend to reach for the product that is easiest to get into a bowl. And in this respect Weetabix’s inner packaging placed it at a distinct disadvantage. Corn Flakes and most other cereals can simply be tipped into a bowl, but with Weetabix you have to first tackle the inner wrapping – which is that bit more fiddly.
  • Counterintuitive aspects of behaviour were also evident. Consumers who had bought into Weetabix’s branding at the supermarket would often throw away the outer packaging when they got home to save cupboard space (something we didn’t see with other cereals). This leaves only the plain inner lining, bearing none of the branding. As a result these people were less likely to notice and choose Weetabix when taking a cereal from the cupboard…..

Research-live.com: Read full article

Additional reading: Behavioural research and why it’s here to stay