Using Behavioral Insights to Win at Cannes Lions 2017

Who used behavioral insights the best at Cannes?

There was a wealth of creativity and innovation at Cannes Lions this year. Many entries relied upon wit (a personal favorite being Burger King’s “Okay Google” campaign) or leveraging new technology (such as the AI-driven campaign for The Young Pope). However, a number of winners stood out to us for their fantastic application of behavioral insights.

Immunity Charm – Lions Health Grand Prix for Good – Cultural Compatibility

The Immunity Charm is an effort in Afghanistan to provide doctors with immunization information for children. According to the case study, people in Afghanistan are often resistant to the concept of vaccines. As a result, parents are often unmotivated to keep and maintain an immunization history. This brilliant initiative took a cultural incompatibility (traditional biases against vaccinations) and developed a solution that merged seamlessly with an existing behavior (bracelets already worn by infants). Now, doctors have immediate knowledge of a child’s vaccine history simply by referencing a color-coded bracelet.

This approach reminds me of efforts to reduce post-harvest loss in Tanzania, led by the excellent behavioral change organization ideas42. One of the ways ideas42 was able to increase adoption of efficient harvest bags was to change their functionality (a layer that could double as a tarp) and look (such that the bag met expectations of performance). Much like the Immunity Charm, changing the appearance or adding a feature of an intervention to align with cultural standards can be incredibly effective.

Seem – Mobile Grand Prix – Tackling Embarrassment

A male home-fertility testing kit may not be the most glamourous of winners. However, Seem stands out to me as a fantastic example of understanding underlying behavioral obstacles. As noted by the case study above, male infertility often results in shame and a reluctance to be tested at a nearby facility.

How then to overcome this barrier? One intuitive solution backed up by research (buying condoms has been shown to be more embarrassing when accompanied by real or imagined social presence) is to reduce public exposure. Seem allows this potentially embarrassing procedure to be conducted in private and with increased convenience, which contributes to increased participation rates and adoption.

Åland Index Initiative – Cyber Grand Prix – Social Norms

The Finnish Bank of Åland now offers a metric that reports customers’ environmental impact based on credit card transactions and investment data. On its own, I am doubtful that such an index would really motivate people to change their behavior. What would you do with the information that your monthly transactions resulted in 1400 kg of CO2?

However, Aland Bank provides actions that customers can take to offset this footprint (thereby giving a sense of proportion to the number). They also provide normative social information (the size of other customers’ footprints). The latter point is especially relevant, as research has shown that information about our peers’ behavior can be very effective at motivating change. One classic example is that information about other people’s behavior can promote towel reuse at hotels.

Nike Unlimited Stadium – Gold Medal in Entertainment – Raising Competition

I saved what I thought was the most exciting innovation for last. The Nike Unlimited Stadium tracks runners using RFID, and then projects an avatar of them on the inner stadium wall for their next lap. This clever installation allows runners to jog against themselves, and turns a solo activity into a competition. As shown by research on the subject, people are most competitive when there are low numbers of competitors. Even more so when the competitors are similar to them. Therefore, a single competitor based on your performance should serve to bring out the best in athletes.

What I find even more exciting is combining this approach with technologies like virtual and augmented reality. Imagine if you could practice your golf swing next to an avatar of yourself or a pro, allowing for comparison and improvement. Although The Nike Unlimited Stadium is relatively low-tech (low-resolution avatars constructed out of LEDs), it highlights what will likely become a growing trend in sports: the ability to visualize performance data and optimize training.