Maxus’ behavioural science lab Moribus is all set to help brands connect better with their target audiences as it analyses consumer purchase decisions
On October 2, 2014, the Union government had launched its national campaign, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Mission) with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself cleaning the roads. The campaign, estimated to cost over Rs 62,000 crore, aims to eliminate open defecation and has been labeled as the pet project of the PM.
However, even after crores of rupees have been spent and numerous celebrities have vouched for it, very little has been achieved. So what’s wrong with the campaign? The objective or the way it is being implemented? Moribus, a behavioural science lab of media agency Maxus, has an unorthodox answer. It says that using a toilet isn’t something that comes easily to the Indian. For the campaign to be a success, it needs to be kept in mind that if “going to the fields” is a social norm then people will not build toilets even if there is a government subsidy, it explains further.
“The government is using the social media to create awareness about the need to build toilets. But that’s not a solution, people need to prefer to go to a toilet too,” says Priti Murthy, chief strategy officer at Maxus.
This and many other vexing human behaviours that undermine the best laid plans, is what the lab, launched last year by WPP’s media agency, Maxus, with an exclusive tie-up with Mumbai University’s Center for Computational & Social Sciences (CCSS), tries to understand and analyse. Moribus, which in Latin means behaviour, uses behavioural science, behavioural economics, sociology and psychology and so on to solve real-life business problems. Created to conduct various experiments to study consumers’ behaviour and help clients use that insight to sell their products, it aims to understand why people behave the way they do.
In today’s era of constant change, consumer understanding has to move beyond the traditional. While traditional research helps, it sometimes doesn’t unearth some of the insights that marketers are looking for. According to Dr. Neeraj Hatekar of CCSS, the standard rational choice model fails to explain significant deviations from rational decision-making that is routinely observed. If these deviations are regular features of human decision-making, marketers and planners can use them.
“The media ecosystem has become very complex. In the last 15 years we have gone from print being the dominant medium to television gaining ground and now digital at the center of all activities. This consumer—product—media triad is in a churn that will only accelerate. We saw this coming a few years back and took it as a challenge – what are we going to do about it? All this, with one intent – to get behavioural science from the academician’s lab to the practitioner’s, the marketer’s lab,” says Kartik Sharma, managing director, South Asia, Maxus.
This is the first time that a media agency has launched a behaviour science lab in Asia Pacific and it is happy with the response it has got from the industry. “Brands want to come to us and learn about what they have been doing or where they need to change to reach out to more and more consumers. This is especially for brands launching new products,” says Murthy. The lab has conducted numerous studies on issues such as ego depletion, loss aversion, etc. One of the major insights which the lab has attained is decoding how decisions on health are made, and what makes people consume more of junk food.
Sharma and Murthy believe that consumer behaviour is the answer for marketers looking to connect better with their consumers. The future will be to integrate it with digital, content and data to give more uniformed solutions to consumer behaviour.