The Behavioral Science View of the Pharma Market Research Conference (PMRC)

Suzanne Kirkendall, Consultant, BVA Nudge Consulting US

The BVA Nudge Consulting had the fantastic opportunity to spend two days at the Pharma Market Research Conference on Feb. 5-6 in Newark, NJ.  There were several hundred attendees, over two dozen vendors, and a schedule packed with fascinating presentations.  The BVA Nudge Consulting even got to present to an audience of almost 50 people on the topic “Designing Your First Nudge.”  Participants fed back that this interactive session was a great way to end the conference, as it gave them a hands-on, workshop-style way to apply and consolidate two full days of learning. 

We also got to attend many of the other talks and hear directly from the experts in their fields about the latest and greatest market research approaches and technology. From our behavioral science view, there were 3 key takeaways from PMRC:

“Behavioral Economics” is a buzzword – beware! 

At least half-a-dozen of the presentations throughout the conference mentioned Behavioral Economics, and each seemed to define it differently.  Some focused exclusively on cognitive biases, some on habit, and still others on broader behavioral science.  As practitioners, we need to agree on a consistent definition for the sake of ourselves, our clients, and the science itself.  For those looking to engage a practitioner, make sure you don’t take for granted that Behavioral Economics isn’t a universal concept – really drill down to make sure all parties are clear about the definition and what you can expect.

Big Data + AI – will the robots take over Behavioral Science, too? 

Big Data and AI were inevitable topics of conversation when the opening keynote was given by Sachin Nanavati, from Google, to a room full of researchers and data enthusiasts. The question for us, which is still very open to debate, is: how will this technology impact Behavioral Science?

We think an interesting possibility is using natural language processing and other linguistic analyses to identify decision-making patterns in qualitative research, which can form the basis for whole new levels of psychological segmentation. 

From a quantitative perspective, being able to identify if, and when, unconscious vs conscious decision-making is happening based on response times, consistency over time, and other hard measures is likely going to eventually become a standard offering. Together, this will give us the information we need to decide when it will be most effective to intervene, how to do so, and with whom. 

How can market researchers Nudge for Good? 

This was a common question – what is a consulting company doing at a market research conference?  But in fact, there are 3 key ways that market researchers could benefit tremendously from incorporating behavioral science into their work. 

  • Bake it into the research design itself from the very beginning – how specifically are you defining the behaviors you are studying? What approaches are you using as you drill down as deeply as you can into the drivers and barriers of that behavior? 
  • Use behavioral tools, including the Drivers of Influence, in the recommendations you make. Once you have a deep dive into the drivers and barriers for the desired behavior, you are well-prepared to address them using a behavioral science toolkit.
  • Apply it to optimize your own ways of working.  Think about how you could apply nudges to your recruitment and survey forms to increase response rates, or how you can even nudge your team to greater productivity! 

The BVA Nudge Consulting is a consultancy that specializes in applying behavioral science to nudge effective behavior change.  To learn more, please contact us at contact@bvanudgeconsulting.com and follow us on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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