Nudge marketing is exactly what it sounds like: compelling consumers to behave in a desired manner by “nudging” them with a marketing message that straddles the delicate balance of not being too soft and subtle nor being too heavy handed and forceful.
It turns out that the public doesn’t mind being marketed to, as long as the marketing strategies behind the messaging is respectful of the public’s vigilant sensibilities. This revelation has emboldened health advocacy groups who feel outgunned by larger food corporations that aggressively, and successfully, market junk food and sugary sweets to an obese and unhealthy public.
This article in the New York Times reveals how several supermarkets are experimenting with nudge marketing techniques ranging from painting arrows on the floor pointing toward the produce section to adding a vegetables only section to shopping carts. The nudge techniques resulted in a dramatic increase in the sales of produce—and decline in the sales of unhealthy foods competing for the same dollars. Not to mention, these techniques require little overhead, which makes them all the more powerful.
However, of all the strategies discussed in the article, one stands out the most: mirrors. Yes, the public loves, or maybe hates, mirrors. In an experiment where mirrors were attached to the front of shopping carts so shoppers were constantly looking at the reflection of their own faces, customers made healthier choices and spent more money in the produce section than ever before.
Mirrors provide the perfect “nudge” perhaps because we feel the decisions we are making are based on an internal dialogue and not with a marketing campaign. When it comes to your personal health, it’s difficult to feel you’re being manipulated by your own face. Our powerful insecurities and own poor images of our bodies and stomachs and arms win out for the greater good of eating well.
Sometimes all the nudge we need is a good look at ourselves.