Bigeye Book Club – Using Behavioral Science in Marketing

Nancy Harhut is the Chief Creative Officer of an agency leveraging behavioral science to drive more leads and conversions. In this episode, we discuss Nancy’s new book, Using Behavioral Science in Marketing, and learn how advertising professionals and brand marketers can benefit from applying key principles to campaigns. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can claim a 20 percent discount on the book by purchasing directly at and using the promo code BIGEYE20 at checkout. 

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS: 

Nancy Harhut: The human brain finds it easier to process things that rhyme. And if it’s easier for the brand to process something, it feels right. I’ve done some work for Nationwide, and their slogan is “Nationwide is on your side.” You remember it, you know, it rhymes, but it’s also more believable because it rhymes. 

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency, growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. Since the publication of the book Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion by Dr. Robert Cialdini in 1998, our knowledge about the relationships between neuroscience, psychology, and real-world consumer behavior has grown considerably. We now know, for example, that many of our personal decisions are made at a subconscious level. Consumers can change habitual behaviors through non-conscious persuasion or the introduction of “nudges.” Evidence-based behavioral research results can have significant implications for advertisers and marketers, and today’s guest is on a mission to share principles and techniques drawn from behavioral science. Nancy Harhut is the co-founder and chief creative officer at HBT Marketing, a consultancy specializing in applying human behavior techniques to marketing problems. Nancy previously held senior creative management positions with agencies within the IPG and Publicis networks. In her career, Nancy has worked with clients including Dell, Bank of America, AT&T, H&R Block, AARP, Four Seasons, and many others. A regular international conference keynote speaker, Nancy has been recognized as an Online Marketing Institute Top 40 Digital Strategist and Ad Club Top 100 Creative Influencer. Nancy is also the author of a new book, entitled, Using Behavioral Science In Marketing: Drive customer action and loyalty by prompting instinctive responses. To talk about her book, and how brand marketers and agency creative teams can leverage principles from behavioral science, Nancy is joining us today from her home near Boston, Massachusetts. Nancy, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Nancy Harhut: Thank you very much, Adrian. Very happy to be here. 

Adrian Tennant: Nancy, what is behavioral science?

Nancy Harhut: That’s a very simple question, and I’ll give you a simple answer, actually. It’s the study of how people behave. And more specifically, though, from a marketing perspective, it’s the study of how people make decisions. And, that’s important to us as marketers, because obviously, we want people to make decisions and what behavioral scientists have found is people very often don’t make these well-thought-out, well-considered decisions. Sometimes they do, but very often they don’t. Very often what they do is they rely on automatic, instinctive, reflexive behaviors. They cruise along through life on autopilot. When they encounter a certain situation, they just default to these hardwired behaviors, giving them little to no thought. And that’s why I’m so fascinated about behavioral science. Because again, as a marketer, we want people to make decisions, and it turns out that people are making them based on hardwired decision defaults. So it presents a real opportunity for us as marketers. 

Adrian Tennant: Before establishing your business, you held senior management positions with agencies within the IPG and Publicis networks. When did you first become aware of behavioral science and realize that it might be useful in your work? 

Nancy Harhut: So, you know, it’s funny. A while ago, a colleague, I think, and I’m not even sure which one, but a colleague recommended Robert Cialdini’s Influence: The Science of Persuasion. And I read that, and I still have the copy. He’s got a brand new edition out now, which I also have, but I have the original, and you can see my margin notes and my underlines and my highlights and notes about very specific projects that I was working on and clients that I was working with. And I just read that, and it just opened up, you know, my eyes to this whole idea of behavioral science and how we might apply it. And that kind of set me down the rabbit hole, after I read that, I started to read anything I could get my hands on. I read Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational and Nudge by Sunstein and Thaler. And I just really became a behavioral science junkie. But, I think that’s what started it way back then because I was like, “This would be very useful to us in marketing!” 

Adrian Tennant: How did you introduce behavioral science-based campaign concepts to the ad agencies you worked at? Were your colleagues at that time skeptical?

Nancy Harhut: Yes, they were until they started to see how things worked. So, when I was working at some of the larger agencies where I was in the direct marketing or relationship marketing division of a much larger agency, the larger agency would often have their procedure or their banner that they would go to market under. And so we would just fall into that. But every once in a while, if we were pitching something on our own, then we would really rely more heavily on this. And so I think, the people that I worked with most closely who were more direct marketing oriented, who were more results-oriented, they saw firsthand how things worked. And so they were a little bit easier to convert, to get on the bandwagon. You know, they saw it, and they liked it. Some of my colleagues who were outside of my division, who didn’t see it as much. They were a little bit more skeptical, but they eventually would come along. But, I found that, when I started to work at a much smaller agency, that’s when people all got on board because we were smaller. There was just a finite group of us. And we said, “Alright, this is where we’re going to stake our turf. This is what we’re going to say we do.” And, people absolutely got on board. And, there were no skeptics after a while. So we had a client who came to us, and they sold a very exciting product to a very exciting target market. They sold disability insurance to dentists. So not at all that exciting, but it was a good product, and it’s certainly one that people needed. They had sold disability insurance to these dentists, and now they’re trying to sell them more. And it’s a smart thing to do because your practice changes, your family changes – over time, you have more to protect. And what they found was it’s really hard to sell this kind of a product to anybody. And once someone makes the decision, they check the box, they never want to go back to it. So they had a direct mail package, actually that was doing pretty well, but it wasn’t lighting the world on fire. And we decided to apply some behavioral science. So we did a little fine-tuning. And one of the big things we did is we added something called the pull of the magnetic middle, where we put in a little chart, and we said, “At one end, there’s $0 of insurance, the least you can have. At the other end is $3 million,” the most that this particular company sold. And then we said, “Here’s where you are.” And in every case, people were left of center. So we made sure that everyone that we targeted had less than $1.5 million. So when they looked at the chart, they would find themselves left of center. And the way the magnetic middle works is behavioral scientists have found that for the most part, people don’t like to be way out on the bleeding edge, nor do they like to be lagging behind. They feel good in the middle. It feels comfortable there, it feels safe there. It feels like it’s a good choice. And so when they looked at the message, and they right away saw the chart, and they saw themselves left of center, we didn’t expect they’d right away go, “Oh my gosh, I need $3 million in coverage,” but we did think they would move closer to the center. We got a 459 percent lift in response. And when we did that, I think there wasn’t a doubter left in the agency. Like that’s when things really crystallized, they were like, “Wow! Okay. I’ve seen it. It works. It’s not just someone who’s writing about it. It’s not just Nancy, who’s read the person who’s written about it. Like we’re seeing it work for our clients.” And that can be quite a proof point. 

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Your new book is entitled Using Behavioral Science In Marketing. Now, this is your first book, so what prompted you to write it? 

Nancy Harhut: That’s a really nice question, thank you for asking. And it’s kind of a funny story. Every once in a while, I’d be speaking at a conference and someone would come up to me and say, “I really want to buy your book.” I’d be, “I don’t have a book.” And the first time it happened, I thought, “Oh, that’s so flattering.” The second time it happened, I thought, “Oh, what a funny coincidence.” And then it began to happen more and more and I thought, “I don’t know, maybe I should write one.” And then I was scheduled to speak at South by Southwest, the conference down in Austin, Texas. And the conference got canceled because of COVID but Kogan Page, which is a UK-based publisher, that I think your listeners are probably very familiar with, reached out to me and said, “We saw what you’re planning to speak about. We find it very interesting. Would you like to submit a proposal?” And I was like, “I think I would.” So I submitted it, they accepted it, and, boom! I had the opportunity to write a book, and I thought, “I’m going to do this because A: I really believe in the efficacy of adding behavioral science to marketing, and B: this will allow me to get the word to more people because I can only work with so many clients. I can only speak at so many conferences, but this is going to be a chance for anyone who’s a marketer or who does marketing among all the other things that they have to do. This is a chance for them to easily access the tactics that work.” You know, here’s a little bit about the science, very short on the science, and here’s a lot more about how you can use these practical tips, actionable tips, try this tactic, try that tactic, say it this way. If you have the opportunity to mention this, definitely mention it. I included case studies and examples and little stories to really bring it to life so people could see how this actually works. That’s the story of how I wrote the book. And, so I’m just really grateful for Kogan Page giving me the opportunity, and I’m also very grateful that I’ve finished writing it!

Adrian Tennant: It can be a challenge to know how to incorporate behavioral science into the practice of advertising, so you’ve structured your book in a way that introduces readers to key principles. Let’s start with one of these: loss aversion. Nancy, what is this? And how might we apply it? 

Nancy Harhut: So, Adrian, that’s a good place to start because loss aversion may seem a little counterintuitive to marketers. Because in marketing, we focus on benefits, and we know that benefits work. So we really double down on them, the benefits, the gains, the advantages, all the wonderful things that will happen if you just do what I’m asking you to do, if you just buy my product, sign up for my service, just reply to my email or click my ad. And there’s nothing wrong with benefits. We know they work, but behavioral science has found that people are actually twice as motivated to avoid the pain of loss as they are to achieve the pleasure of gain. So here we are focusing on the gains, and it turns out that people are even more motivated to avoid losses. So what it means is we want to introduce a little well-placed loss aversion. I am not suggesting that marketers should walk away from benefits. Again, we know benefits work. But a little bit of well-placed loss aversion can go a long way. So maybe instead of saying, “Take advantage of this,” we say, “Don’t miss out on this.” Or maybe we talk about the pain that you can avoid if you buy my product or the pain you may find yourself in if you don’t buy my product. But a little bit of loss aversion balanced in with the normal benefits that we talk about can actually be a very, very powerful thing. One of the most interesting examples I came across was an email that I received from a company that wanted me to buy a bottle of wine. And they said to me, “You have a $15 credit in your account that expires tomorrow.” And that’s very different than saying, “Buy a bottle tomorrow and we’ll give you $15,” or “Buy a bottle tomorrow, and we’ll take $15 off.” The possession was mine, right? The 15 bucks was in my account, and if I didn’t use it, I was going to lose it. And that made it so much more valuable. So I think that marketers can use loss aversion in a strategic way to get people to pay more attention and to get them to act more quickly. 

Adrian Tennant: I love that example. Well, some listeners may be familiar with the concept of the paradox of choice, that actually there is such a thing as too many choices, which is a bad thing leading to analysis paralysis. Now, in the book, you write about a related principle called autonomy bias. What’s that? 

Nancy Harhut: So autonomy bias is really interesting. Behavioral scientists have found that we have this deep-seated desire to exercise some kind of control over ourselves and our environment, some kind of control, some kind of agency, if you will. And we don’t like to be forced to do things – we don’t like to be told what to do. We like some kind of autonomy, and providing people a choice gives them that autonomy. So while you’re absolutely right –  too many choices that can go south pretty quickly –  but some choices can actually be very good. Tulane University ran a study, and they found that you can nearly quadruple the likelihood of someone making a buying decision in the moment if you give them a few choices. And if you think about it, it makes sense. If you put one thing down in front of someone, their question is, “Do I, or do I not want this?” It’s out of context, they have nothing to compare it to. So very often, it’s human nature. We think, “I’ll think about it. I’ll do my own research. I’ll check with a friend or my spouse, or, I’ll give it some thought I’ll sleep on it.” And you know what happens. A lot of times, we don’t get back to it. We don’t do the research. We don’t talk to our spouse. We don’t talk to our friends. And we just forget about it. But what the research found was if you put two or three or maybe even four options in front of someone, then the question is no longer, “Do I, or do I not want this?” but, “Which of these would I like?” It just leapfrogs over the idea of “Do I want it?” and it’s more about “Which of the ones am I going to get?” And the Tulane University research found that you can nearly quadruple the likelihood someone will make that decision in the moment. There was also a researcher named Chris Carpenter, and he did a deep dive into something called the B.Y.A.F. Technique. B.Y.A.F. stands for, “But You Are Free.” And the way this works is if you ask someone to do something, but then you remind them, “But you’re free to choose, but it’s up to you, but the choice is yours,” you know, language to that effect. It can actually double the likelihood that people will say yes, because you’re reminding them they’re the ones in control. They’re the ones in charge. It’s their decision. So autonomy bias is really a deep-seated desire in our customers, and our prospects, and marketers would do well to think about that and to think about ways that we can make people feel that they’re in charge, make them feel that they have some kind of choices – because people respond to that.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after these messages. 

Tim McCormack: I’m Tim McCormack, Bigeye’s VP of Media and Analytics. Every week, IN CLEAR FOCUS addresses topics that impact our work as media professionals, often inspired by data points reported in consumer research studies. At Bigeye, we put audiences first. For every engagement, through our own research, we develop a deep understanding of our client’s prospects and customers – analyzing their attitudes, behaviors, and motivations. We distill this data into actionable insights to inspire creative brand-building and persuasive activation campaigns – with strategic, cost-efficient media placements. If you’d like to know more about how to put Bigeye’s audience-focused media and analytics to work for your brand, please contact us. Email

Adrian Tennant: Each month, in partnership with our friends at Kogan Page, The Bigeye Book Club features interviews with authors who are experts in marketing, consumer research, and customer experience. Our featured book for September is Using Behavioral Science in Marketing: Drive customer action and loyalty by prompting instinctive responses by Nancy Harhut. IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners can save 20 percent on a print or electronic version of the book with exclusive promo code BIGEYE20. This code is valid for all products and pre-orders and applies to Kogan Page’s free e-book offer. To order your copy of Using Behavioral Science in Marketing, go to – that’s K O G A N, P A G E dot com.

Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at HBT Marketing and the author of this month’s featured Bigeye book club selection, Using Behavioral Science In Marketing: Drive customer action and loyalty by prompting instinctive responses. Another principle you write about is reciprocity, one of those hardwired human behaviors. The idea is that when we receive something, we feel compelled to give something back. So Nancy, how can we use this in advertising?

Nancy Harhut: So, yeah, it’s the classic give to get and it’s interesting. You’re absolutely right, Adrian, when you give someone something, they feel compelled to return the favor, to answer in kind. And this holds true even if the person didn’t necessarily ask for the gift or the servicer or whatever in the first place. It’s one thing if somebody asked for it. But, even if you didn’t ask for it, if you’ve been given something, you kind of feel like, you know, I should return the favor.” Charities use this a lot. You open up the solicitation, and you find personalized address labels. You didn’t ask for them, but you’re holding them in one hand, and in the other hand, you’re holding a letter saying, “Could you please make a donation?” And you feel funny, and so you make a donation, you think, “Oh, well, alright, I’ll do that.” One of my clients actually benefited from the reciprocity principle. They came to us with an assignment. They were a financial marketing firm, and some of the financial advisors who used to sell their funds had stopped selling their funds. And they said, “We want to reactivate these financial advisors, so, we’d like to send them something.” And somebody might think, “Gee, that’s crazy. They’re not selling your funds. Don’t you want to send the gift to the people who are selling your funds?” You know, reinforce the positive behavior. “Why would you be spending money on people who used to sell your funds, but who stopped?” And these people stopped 12 months or more ago. So a year or more ago. So it’s been a while, but they want to do this. So we said, “Alright.” So we ended up creating this campaign where we sent them an email. And the email said, “Hey, Adrian, watch your USPS mail. We picked out a gift, especially for you and it’s coming soon.” And then, a day or two later, in the mail, this box shows up and inside the box is a framed New Yorker cartoon. And the New Yorker cartoon had something to do with selling retirement funds or it was a salesman selling retirement funds, and it was cute, and it was funny. And in the caption, not only was the caption humorous, the individual financial advisor’s name was in the caption. So your caption would’ve had your name. Mine would’ve had my name. So it’s a New Yorker-style cartoon. It’s framed. It’s going to be sitting there on your wall. So top of mind for the company, and there was a short note from the wholesaler of that particular company, saying, “Hey, we miss you. We’d love to update you on what’s going on. We’d love to find out what’s going on with you, let’s have a conversation.” The client reported that they got a $68 million incremental revenue lift because of that campaign. So, you know, you think like, “Why would you spend money on people who aren’t doing what you want them to do?” Because maybe they’ll A: be thinking of you, and B: feel like, “Ah, I should start doing business with them again. I should return the favor. Every time I look at that framed cartoon, it’s reminding me, I owe those guys something.” So the reciprocity principle can be very, very powerful. People are, you know, they’re nice, as a species, we’re civil people. We’re nice people. We like to return favors. We like to do for others what they do for us.

Adrian Tennant: I love that example. For any copywriters listening. I think they’ll be particularly interested in the rhyme as reason effect. Nancy, could you unpack this one for us? 

Nancy Harhut: Yeah, this is a fun one! We think about rhymes and so what springs to mind? Oh, rhymes are fun, they’re memorable, certainly. But they actually have another effect on people. Behavioral scientists have found that people will judge rhyming phrases to be more accurate and more truthful than a similar phrase that basically conveys the same information. So they did a study, “Woes unite foes.” vs “Woes unite enemies.” Both of those sentences convey the same information. They pretty much mean the same thing. One of them rhymes, the other one doesn’t. People judge the rhyming phrase to be the more truthful, more accurate expression. And the reason for this is the human brain finds it easier to process things that rhyme. And if it’s easier for the brand to process something, it feels right. And if something feels right, it’s really not a big leap to assume that it is right. So when you think about slogans and taglines and strap lines, not only are they easier to remember, but they actually kind of resonate more, they sound truer. I’ve done some work for Nationwide, and their slogan is “Nationwide is on your side.” You remember it, you know it rhymes, but it’s also more believable because it rhymes. And we’re marketers, we’re not going to be writing everything the way a poet would. We’re not going to have everything rhyme. We’re not going to be writing in Iambic Pentameter, but a little well-placed rhyme in a high-read piece of real estate, like a subject line, a content title, a headline, even a call to action, “Don’t delay, sign up today,” it can help. It’s one of those little things that just nudges people in the right direction, just makes things a little bit easier for marketers to accomplish their goals. 

Adrian Tennant: In Using Behavioral Science In Marketing, you introduce the concepts of temporal landmarks and temporal discounting. Could you explain what these are? And again, how we might apply them?

Nancy Harhut: Yes. So I paired those two up because they’re almost two sides of the same coin. So they’re both talking about timing. So the first one is temporal landmarks. And what behavioral scientists have found is there are points of time that are almost like points of demarcation, where the old you is gone, and the new you is now present. It’s like you close the chapter on who you used to be, and you turn over a new page. You’re the new you. Some people refer to it as the fresh start effect. So think about New Year’s Day, right? That’s when everyone makes their New Year’s resolutions. “It’s a new year. The person I was last year, well, you know, I failed here and there, but this year, no, this year I’m going to succeed!” So at these temporal landmarks, we actually feel more positive that we’re going to be able to accomplish our goals. And as a result, we’re more willing to tackle them. So obviously, New Year’s Day with the resolutions is a big one. There are lots of other ones. Your birthday is a temporal landmark for you. An anniversary could be a temporal landmark. The start of the week can be a temporal landmark. People say, “Ah, I’m going to quit smoking on Monday.” You don’t say, “Oh, I’m going to quit smoking on Thursday or Tuesday.” No! “Oh, on Monday, you know, when Monday comes, I’ll start.” So we have this idea that there are certain days where it’s just, “The person I was? That person’s gone. The new person is here, and this person is here to conquer.” So you can do a lot with that. I did some work with Berklee Online, which I think it’s the world’s largest online music school. And one of the things that we talked about was incorporating temporal landmarks into the work they did. So it could be as easy as sending out an email on a Monday, but it could also be focusing on the start of a new semester, the start of a new class, or the start of a new year. So they really started to weave that into their marketing materials. I worked with some insurance companies, and so there, we looked at the birth of a new child. That’s a temporal landmark. An anniversary, a birthday, retiring from work, and purchasing a new home. Those are all very personal individual temporal landmarks, but again, they represent those kinds of points of demarcation where I’m a new person. And, as a result, people are much more likely from a marketing perspective to engage. So that’s temporal landmarks. The other side of it, the other side of the coin, is something called temporal discounting. And that is the human tendency to discount rewards that come in the future, things that are in the future just seem awfully far away, and we don’t have a good handle on them. So human beings are actually very present-focus biased. We want instant gratification. So if you’re offered, I don’t know, what? $10 today and $15 tomorrow, a lot of people would grab the 10 bucks today, and then tomorrow comes, and they’re like, “Doggone it! Why didn’t I hold out for the $15?” Right? We make the decision in the moment, we want that instant gratification. And then often time passes, and we regret it. And so temporal discounting is the preference for sooner, albeit smaller rewards versus later, albeit larger ones. And so what this means to certain marketers is we need to overcome this feeling of temporal discounting. If you sell a product that has an immediate benefit, great. But what if you sell insurance? What if you sell retirement funds? What if you sell education? Something where the benefit is going to come at a distance? It’s going to be down the road or maybe not even at all, how do you get people to make that purchase? Because behavioral scientists have found that when we think about our future selves, they’re like strangers to us. My future self is like the person who just drove by me, on the street, I just don’t know them. We don’t really know ourselves. And so what we need to do is we need to overcome that. And there’s a few ways that we can do that. But basically, what we need to do is create that bridge between who a person is today, with all their preferences, likes, goals, feelings, and who they are tomorrow. We have to get them to remember that the person they are today is going to be the same person down the road. And there’s a bank, actually, that did a great job with this. They were selling CDs. So it’s a great example of something that’s got a distant payoff, and they said, “We asked the future you if you wanted more money. And you said yes.” And when you think about that, you’re like, “Well, of course the future may would say that because if someone asked me today, if I wanted more money, I would say yes. So the same needs and wants that I have today – of course I’ll have them in the future. And then as a result, it would make sense for me to maybe take out this CD.” Merrill Edge did something really interesting. This is a little bit more sophisticated, but they invested in age progression software. They were trying to sell retirement funds. They had this age progression software where you could upload a picture of yourself, then age progress at 10, 20, 30, 40 years, 50 years down the road. See what you would look like. I tried it, Adrian. It wasn’t a pleasant experience! But I was one of over a million people who tried it, and Merrill reports that about 60 percent of those people said, “You know what? I want more information on your retirement services. I think I need to look into this.” So that was a very powerful way of overcoming temporal discounting. So it’s interesting, on the one hand, temporal landmarks, who I was yesterday is not who I am today. It’s a fresh start. And temporal discounting is almost the opposite. It’s who I am today is who I’m going to be in the future with the same likes and needs and goals and wants. So I need to build a bridge between the two. So two interesting, almost slightly opposing, principles, but they come in handy depending on the marketer and what the marketer is offering.

Adrian Tennant: What are some of the most common mistakes you see being made in advertising, which could be avoided if behavioral science principles were applied?

Nancy Harhut: Ah, good question. Three of them spring to mind. One of them is in marketing, we overemphasize the company’s point of view at the expense of the customer’s point of view. So we’re all about I, we, our customer, our company, our product, our service, and we don’t use the word you enough. But the truth of the matter is people’s eyes glaze right over. They skim right over the I’s, the We’s, the Our’s, but they zero in on you. You is one of the most powerful words in the English language, and behavioral scientists talk about something called the principle of liking. And what they found is we’re more interested in and more influenced by people that remind us of ourselves, things that remind us of ourselves. And when we see the word you, that reminds us of ourselves. So we pay attention. We zero in on something. I think sometimes, companies’ marketers are, they love their product or service. Their heart is in the right place. And they just want to tell you everything: “We did this and we did this and we did this.” And you know that we is not a good thing. They really need to be more you focused. I think another thing is, the use of acronyms and jargon and tech speak. Behavioral scientists talk about cognitive fluency, which is people’s preference for things that are easy to understand and easy to think about. And even in a B2B environment, even with an educated audience, there are studies that show that people still prefer things that are easier to think about, easier to understand. You don’t really score points by using the 75-cent word when the 25-cent word will do. And they’ve studied this even among very highly educated people, and they still prefer the 25-cent word version because it’s easier. Anything we can do to make things easier for people – we should be doing. And, sometimes we fall into the trap of, “We’ve got to sound super intelligent,” and it’s not always a good thing for us. And then I think maybe the last thing is we fail to think about why people won’t want to do what we’re asking them to do. A lot of times we’re like, “Oh, you’ll love this because …” but as marketers, we should be thinking about why wouldn’t someone want to do what we’re asking them to do. And I think that if we start to do that, it will make us a lot better in terms of hitting our KPIs and being more effective.

Adrian Tennant: Nancy, today you are the chief creative officer of HBT Marketing. How does your agency typically work with clients? And I’m curious, do you ever partner with other agencies? 

Nancy Harhut: Basically, a client will come to us with a particular need, whether it’s a strategy need or a strategy and creative need. And they’ll say, “This is what we want to do. This is our goal.” “We want to introduce this product.” “We want to sell more of this product,” or “We want to enroll more people.” And we will work with them to create a strategy. And then, we will do the creative execution. It could be email, social, direct mail, landing page. Less about branding, way more about one-to-one marketing, response marketing, where we’re trying to actually get people to respond. And, so yes, as a result of that, very often we will partner with other agencies. It could be a branding agency, could be a media agency, could be a company that crunches data. But what we really focus on is strategy and execution. And what we like to do is we like to take the marketing best practices for the particular channel and add to that the behavioral science, which gives our clients an advantage. It’s like a one-two-punch in order for them to achieve their goals, to get the engagement, and to get the response that they’re looking for.

Adrian Tennant: Now you’ve just had the book published. Do you foresee a broader adoption of behavioral science principles in marketing communications over the next few years?

Nancy Harhut: Yeah, I do. I think so. In fact, even over the last couple of years, I’ve seen more and more of it. What we’re starting to see now is behavioral science getting into the C-suite. So you’re finding like a Chief Behavioral Science Officer at this company or that company. I was fortunate enough to have Jeff Chrysler endorse my book. He’s the Head of Behavioral Science at JP Morgan Chase, for example. So you’re seeing this more and more. And I personally think that what we’re going to see increased incidences of is data science blending with behavioral science. So the data scientists – they’re going to tell us which segment to focus on, where we can find that segment, the best places and times to reach them. And then the behavioral science is going to tell us the best ways to serve up the message, the ways to frame it, to phrase it, to design it so that it’s most likely to appeal to the human brain, that people are going to notice it from among all the other competing messages. And that they’re going to understand it, that they’re going to remember it, and that they’re going to want to act on it. So I think it’s going to be that increased close working relationship between data science and behavioral science. 

Adrian Tennant: Nancy, where do you find inspiration away from work?

Nancy Harhut: So, you know, I am a behavioral science junkie, but sometimes I do step away from things. I love the beach, and there are actually interesting behavioral science studies that show that, if you’re exposed to nature, if you’re outside or even looking at the outdoors, it actually increases your creativity. So that’s probably a good thing. So a lot of times, I love to be at the beach, whether it’s swimming or just sitting there, reading a good book. So I like that, and I also happen to really like Broadway. I’m a Broadway show tune junkie. And I just think some of the lyrics are so creative, and I can be very happy. I go to New York for a weekend and cram in a Friday night show with Saturday afternoon matinee, a Saturday night show, and a Sunday matinee, before heading back to Boston! 

Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners would like to learn more about you or HBT Marketing, where can they find you?

Nancy Harhut: So I’m in a few places you can find me on social media. I’m on Twitter, @NHarhut, H A R H UT with an N in front of it. I’m on LinkedIn, I’m on Facebook. My agency is HBT Marketing. HBT stands for Human Behavior Triggers and we abbreviate marketing – so it’s And on our website, we have papers and interviews and podcasts. So there’s a lot of information there. And I would love to talk to anybody. Anyone can connect with me, they can email me even! And then of course, if people are interested in my book, they can find it at Kogan Page, which is something I would recommend checking out if people are interested. It’s called Using Behavioral Science In Marketing: Drive customer action and loyalty by prompting instinctive responses

Adrian Tennant: And if you’d like to obtain a copy of Nancy’s book, as an IN CLEAR FOCUS listener, you can save 20 percent when you order directly from the publisher at Just enter the promo code BIGEYE20, that’s B I G E Y E two-zero at the checkout. And that discount applies to printed and electronic versions of the book. Nancy, thank you very much for being our guest this week on IN CLEAR FOCUS!

Nancy Harhut: Adrian, thank you so much. It was absolutely delightful. I really enjoyed speaking with you. Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Thanks to my guest this week, Nancy Harhut, Chief Creative Officer at HBT Marketing and the author of Using Behavioral Science In Marketing. You’ll find a transcript with links to the resources we discussed today on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Just select ‘podcast’ from the menu. If you enjoyed this episode, please consider following us wherever you listen to podcasts. Thank you for joining us for IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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