Behavioral Economics as a Marketing and Communication Tool

Nanna Nygaard & Alexandra Maria Munk

Student thesis: Master thesis


This research contributes to the general understanding of nudging as an effective marketing and communication tool. Today, nudging has become a popular theme within most marketing and communication departments, and there seems to be a general conviction that nudging can be used for all kinds of issues with the intention of changing behavior of both employees, consumers and oneself. The purpose of this thesis is to broaden the understanding of when and how nudging can and cannot be used in a marketing and communication context. We challenge the conviction that nudging should be used uncritically to solve any kind of marketing and communication problem. Further, the research provides a better understanding of how certain heuristics function to influence behavior. Finally, we seek to determine whether the effect of an individual heuristic can be isolated to be able to identify and measure the actual outcome of a nudge. To provide a valid answer for the problem that we attend to, we develop an experiment of our own, within which we seek to investigate the different heuristics and biases that come into function during a real-life nudge. Herein, we give special attention to the availability heuristic with the purpose of determining when a nudge must happen for it to have a decisive impact on behavior. To do so, we include two experimental units to which we apply the same treatment, i.e. the nudge, at two different points in time to be able to determine whether the bias of retrievability proves to impact the two groups differently. In this, we seek to isolate the effects of the availability heuristic from other heuristics and biases that prove to influence the behavior that we attend to. The primary finding of the thesis is that the effects of the availability heuristic cannot be isolated from other heuristics and biases, as they prove to be interdependent. We find that certain heuristics may come into effect at one point of the decision-making process, whereas others influence other parts of the process, and others again increase or decrease the effects of the other biases and heuristics. Though, we did observe immediate differences between the two experimental units, and we argue that the individual heuristics might impact the experimental units differently due to the different times of treatment. The findings lead us to a general discussion about the dynamics of heuristics in decisionmaking and the challenges that this poses to marketing and communication professionals.

EducationsMaster of Business, Language and Culture, Intercultural Management, (Graduate Programme) Final ThesisMSc in Organisational Communication, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2018
Number of pages116
SupervisorsFlorian Kock