Nudgestock 2019 Wrap-up

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Rory Sutherland’s Nudgestock is probably the best conference you’ve never heard of. Luckily though, now you know, and the videos are a go, on YouTube if you must know. We’ll hit a few of the highlights from the wrap up podcast. If you want more Rory, check out his book, Alchemy, or my book about Rory, Thinking Like a Marketing Genius. The current and previous years of Nudgestock are also on YouTube.

Tricia Wang spoke about thick data and big data.

“You want to close the gap between your data model and your human model.”

One shortcoming of designers is that they often want to solve a problem when it might not be the problem. That’s what Wang warns against too. It’s only through a combination of data that someone can get a full picture. Marc Stickdorn encourages designers to triangulate between the qualitative, quantitative, and questioner-noting that we all bring some bias but through diversity we can reduce our data misuse.

Robert Frank was a huge influence on Sutherland. Years ago Rory fell sick and needed entertainment-or at least distraction. Through Amazon he found Frank’s book, The Economic Naturalist. In that book (p. 2007) Frank offers answers from quandaries like; why do men rent a tuxedo when they might wear it again, while women buy a dress they’ll only wear once? And, why do hockey players vote for helmets but almost never wear them?

Frank’s Nudgestock talk was about “the expenditure cascades process.” People compare in relative not absolute terms. So when a higher income group buys something, the next highest group compares with them and so on down the chain.

Stefanie Johnson spoke about the unconscious bias and referenced what happened when the Boston orchestra switched to blind auditions. With a closed curtain, musicians walked across the stage and played for judge who sat on the other side of the curtain.

What you track is what you prioritize. The orchestra was (unknowingly) tracking and rewarding gender as a metric. When they stripped everything away – including the musician’s shoes – so only the music played on the people they selected changed.

Will Page talked about the work done at Spotify, a company we’ve covered before. Part of the reason Spotify succeeded is because of top down support to test things like Discover Weekly. The company has also worked well because they look for a ladder of possible answers, not a single one. For example, if someone gives a thumbs-down to a song on their Discover Weekly podcast does that mean they don’t like the song or that they didn’t want to discover it?

Finally, at the end was a rapid fire section about solutions to problems and Rory wondered how much of the plastic and paper straw debate was about virtue signaling. It’s helpful to remember as brand owners and consumers that there is the literal conversation taking place but also the meta conversation. When your kid says, ‘I hate you,’ it’s the consequence of an amalgam of feelings. The same is true for brands and the work we do.

Thanks for reading. If you want more book recommendations of the likes of Alchemy and The Economic Naturalist sign up for the monthly book list.

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