B. Listening: Unlock Your Audience with Behavioural Science

Podcast episodes
In this episode of B.Listening, we discuss behavioural science as a powerful tool for insight driven marketing and brand experiences with Lea Karam, Consulting Director at Behave. She dissects how we can create audience centred brand experiences by creating better buyer segments that go beyond demographics and have predictability over the unpredictable. 

Having an understanding of human behaviour and, for brands having an understanding of their consumer segments specifically how they segment a certain market, then dive into them, then position themselves around them, then grow certain prospect audiences; that’s the power of consumer behaviour. 

It’s merging marketing, psychology, and technology to get to a point where you have such an expert understanding of why you exist in the market, who your consumers are, and how you can grow that and provide value to them.

I don’t see that being effective without the use of behavioural science, without an understanding of how your consumers behave”

About the host 

With over 17 years experience, Broadsword is a multi award-winning event communications agency specialising in live event experiences and digital content for a variety of B2B and B2E projects.

To learn more about how to harness the power of behavioural science for your event marketing and planning please get in touch with us.

About the guest:

Lea Karam is a multi-award-winning marketing leader and Behavioural Scientist named a pioneer in the field of Behavioural Science” by Campaign Magazine and a director at Behave working with clients such as the Financial Times, Investec and Amazon to layer behavioural expertise with artificial intelligence.

Read the transcript here: 


Hello and welcome to our podcast series (created by us here at Broadsword) called B. Listening. Today we are talking to an award-winning behavioural scientist and director at Behave, Leah Karam, on how behavioural science can be used to create better brand experiences. Thank you for joining us on our podcast today.

My pleasure, Christine. Thanks for having me. 

Introduction to behavioural science


Leah, you are a consulting director at a behavioural science consultancy. Can you give some background on how behavioural science is essential or has been for brands to better understand and therefore change their messaging to connect with audiences? 


Yeah, of course. I always give the example of King Charles and Ozzie Osbourne. They’re the same age, same gender, they’ve got the same socio-demographic profile, but they’re very different behaviourally. You can’t speak to them the same way. So essentially what would resonate with King Charles wouldn’t resonate with Ozzie Osborne and vice versa. So that’s essentially the study of behavioural science. 

It’s looking at those patterns and nuances that group a certain community together and understanding that enables you to go beyond those broad factors that are sometimes, especially nowadays, very, very ineffective because they don’t give you the full story. They don’t give colour to a certain strategy. So the study of behavioural science enables you to spot patterns, it enables you to spot nuances, it’s growing a lot at the moment with the use of technology because technology enables to find those new nuances. Essentially behavioural science enables you to gain more predictability over unpredictability. 

Another example that I always love to give is, and you know the visual is really funny, but it’s like, when you look at Spock, Spock was very rational, versus Homer Simpson that’s just chilling there and just like going on with life. We’re Homer Simpson. We’re irrational, we’re driven by emotional factors, we’re not always rational people and rational beings. More often than not, we’re just not rational at all. So it’s kind of tapping into that human irrationality and actually understanding what drives that irrationality to be able to predict that a bit better and connect with people in a way that’s human instead of connecting with them in a way that’s very much in a box because no one actually lives in the box. We evolve, we change, and it enables that agility and real understanding of people. 

So that’s behavioural science, and I’m excited to dive into it further with you. 

Understanding Cognitive Biases


A part of audience decision is making cognitive biases. Can you explain what some of these are and why brands need to tackle these?


Yeah, of course. I mean, cognitive biases is a way to really predict the unpredictable. So essentially, behavioural science is about finding predictable nuances and signals within an unpredictable human behaviour. We’re all humans, you know, we’re social animals, but we’re very irrational. You know, we stay on bad contracts, we can be very lazy, we take shortcuts. We are not very rational. We’d rather do something if it kind of gives us this kind of personal gratification instead of, for instance, maximising a certain material gain in some instances. 

It’s actually the study of behavioural economics, where it’s refused the classical theory point of view, where everyone wants to maximise their material gain, because there is a psychological factor, an ego that sits there, and an emotional, irrational behaviour as part of who we are. Now biases and nuances and cognitive biases (essentially cognitive biases that sit with the nuances) enable us to actually find why we’re so unpredictable. And literally, if you look at cognitive bias, for instance, social proof. Social proof is about how we are all influenced and anchored in whatever someone else does. So if someone comes in a room and says, this is the best cookie ever, everyone would be excited to go and try it. If you walk by Soho somewhere and look at a huge queue, you’d be curious about it. That’s social proof. I know it’s simple, but it’s anchored in a lot of things that we do. 

Authority bias, for instance, that’s another bias. Authority bias is about how an expert figure in certain industries drive you to adopt a certain behaviour. It depends per culture, so you have to study that very, very specifically because authority bias might be better or kind of more effective in a certain culture than in another. That’s the beauty of behavioural science. It gives you more predictability over unpredictability. You know that someone or a community behave this way because they were affected by a certain factor. So when you understand those biases, those kind of factors that make it that we could fall short on some things as humans, then you kind of find those biases that explain why. And then that helps you in kind of better predicting behaviour because you understand what drove a certain behaviour.

So that’s the beauty of behavioural science as well. It’s kind of understanding the theories and the science and the psychology behind a community, a culture, like an audience segment behaving a certain way. 

Navigating a crowded digital market


How can events planners or marketeers grab their audience’s attention in a digital world that is crowded and consumer centric? 


Yeah, so I always speak about the and I think it’s very important to keep in mind the shift in the funnel. So basically, I always say it’s not a funnel anymore. The traditional marketing funnel, let’s say the AIDA model, from awareness to interest, et cetera, it’s not that anymore. It’s a loop now. The community sits at the centre, and then you’ve got awareness and consideration that can happen at the same time, because your brand is mentioned whenever you’re not even aware of it. So essentially, the consumer has more bargaining power. There’s more user ‑generated content out there. It goes without saying. So I think it’s quite difficult or some brands see it as challenging in the moment to kind of grasp what consumers want because it’s a crowded ecosystem.

But again, because it’s a crowded ecosystem, that means that it provides you with more opportunities and more signals and more consumer nuances than ever and more consumer needs states than ever. So this gives you an opportunity to really understand them and grasp them. So essentially for event planners, my main recommendation is to really tap into the new tools that are out there to be able to get those new consumer needs, states, and nuances. So I see it as a big opportunity. And the brands that can really capitalise on that are those that are going to do really well. But there needs to be a learning curve involved and an opportunity for test and learn. And they need to work with experts, like you guys, for instance, or us, to be able to really grasp that and understand how to go about it and how to improve that over time. 


On the technology side, what opportunities does technological advancements such as predictive AI present to drive insight-driven strategies? 

Yeah, so predictive AI, I love talking about it as predictive AI, obviously, because there are a lot of people that come up to me and ask me if robots are going to take over. And the thing is I always, always say and differentiate between generative AI and predictive AI, because let’s look at it as generative AI. 

Generative AI is your chat GPT, it’s your mid-journey, the kind of anything that creates new text, new content, new pictures, new images, the voices, you know those Taylor Swift covers, of course I mentioned her — everyone mentions her 24–7 she’s great obviously, but Taylor Swift covers basically turn into like Harry Styles, Harry Styles’ voice with Taylor Swift songs. That’s Generative AI. It’s using something and creating something that’s new and different, but the thing is that’s going to be very regulated because it’s quite dangerous. It ends up not becoming your content and whatever you’re doing. So that’s generative AI. 

Now I wanted to say that because predictive AI, you know, what you just asked, presents a huge opportunity. It’s going to be a bit less regulated or it should be less regulated than generative AI, which should be heavily regulated. Because it’s a tool, it’s a new tool, it’s a new way to predict behaviour in a way that you can’t from a human point of view. I can’t analyse billions of data points without using that. I can’t really understand the top themes, the top sentiment in the market, do some semantic analysis for instance without it. So I see predictive AI as being a new tool that we could use to really dive into consumer behaviour and understand that. So that’s predictive analytics and essentially that’s going to keep growing and keep booming because for instance if you want to tap into a certain event you could understand the pain points in that event, the sentiment that happened when this happened, the intensity of that sentiment and prioritise that. We didn’t have that 10–12 years ago, or we did because AI self learns but it could have been 50 ‑60 % accurate not 90–93% accurate. So it’s going to keep growing over time and it gives an opportunity to tap into things that we would otherwise not have. 

So that’s why predictive AI is going to keep growing and brands need to capitalise on it now, ideally a year ago, but you know, now is the time to do it as well so they don’t fall behind.


How can behavioural science be used internally and what impact can employee experience have on brand experience? 


You know I always say that behavioural science is in everything that we do. And I always obviously try to not use it in my day to day. It’s hard, but I try not to. And essentially, literally behavioural science could be in anything it could be in how you speak to people, how you speak to clients, it could be in how you train your employees. Behavioural science can be used in any form of response to brief as well. 

Could it be, we talked about cognitive biases, so cognitive biases can be integrated in their response. For instance, if you look at Australia versus the UK, they’ve got a different behaviour when it comes to let’s say pet supplement brands. You can’t really walk in Australia and then get that, right? So essentially you would empower and embody authority bias because they follow a lot of vets, they get their advice versus in the UK you could maybe walk in and get some recommendations so you would use, for example, planning fallacy. You would use another bias, you would understand another bias to be able to integrate that. So I’d say a lot of brands can start by using behavioural biases and looking at how those actually impact and kind of provide more value to consumers. 

We could also use behavioural science in a way that gives you more insights with technology. So essentially, if there are some consumer needs states that we find through research tools, through consulting briefs and all of that, there’s a way to really integrate that to understand how consumers would respond. 

So for instance, in financial services if there is an email communication that you want to send to clients and you talk to private clients, for instance. One of our clients wanted to share the fact that they’re there for them during the crisis. They want to speak to them, reassure them, but they use a negative tone of voice. Using predictive AI and emotion AI within predictive AI we found that there was a lot of fear and anxiousness in the actual client tone of voice. So we said, why not change it? Add action verbs, add positive queries, add a positive tone of voice to it. We changed that using our solution called behavioural copy. And then we increased trust by 136% within the tone of voice. So instead of saying, you know, it’s hard to contemplate, to contemplate the future and plan’ you just say something on the lines of so you could spend more time with your friends and family, we would do this, we have a team of experts to do that’.

That’s a quick win for a big impact, that that’s behavioural science. It’s understanding how to speak to people in a way that would drive them to drive them through a certain behaviour, but also drive them in a way that’s effective and not just do something because you know, hey, that’s something that we want to do. It’s to do something because that’s something that we have to do. So that’s the difference. It’s providing more value for people. 


Yeah. It’s very interesting. Like it doesn’t come to mind sometimes that this is an everyday thing as well.


Yeah, it’s so embedded in what we do. Like the amounts of self ‑control I have sometimes when I’m like at dinner or something, when I want to say something, I’m like, nope, nope, I’m not going to say it.

Implementing behavioural science in events and marketing


But yeah, it’s in everything that we do, it’s behavioural science, it’s human behaviour. We’re obviously all humans. And I think sometimes people forget I’m a consumer. I’m also someone that also obviously travels and goes out and all of that. And we’re all kind of just so busy out there, it’s so noisy out there. So we’re all embedded and anchored in certain behaviours. And we always want to obviously learn and grow as people as we go through life stages. So life stages is huge in behavioural science because it takes that age element away and it looks at the life stage. So you could be 28 and go through a certain life stage that someone else would go through at 40. And there are a lot of changes within those. There’s something called, for instance, the nine enders. So when you’re 29 and you’re turning 30, there are lot of changes that happen. When you’re 39 and you’re going to turn 40, a lot of changes happen. But cognitively, some people feel 29 at 25. 

So it’s really about understanding those moments within a certain community to be able to drive that. And I think the beauty of behavioural science is it sometimes take the individual person away when we look at like marketing. So it takes you away, it takes me away. It’s very regulated and it’s very kind of privacy focused because it looks at what we have in common. So for instance, with the rise of the cookie-less word at the moment, the restrictions with first party data, it’s really tough to predict behaviour without a strong understanding and a knowledge bank of human behaviour. For instance, human behaviour is all about understanding that we all cluster in groups, in communities, in behaviours. So for instance, if you like the same music, if you encourage the same football team, all of that, those are signals that give you an understanding of a certain community. And we can tap into that more than ever. So I think that’s the power of behaviour science. It’s growing because it gives you an understanding of things that you can’t use at the moment with the traditional kind of data collection, for instance. 

So from a marketing and tech point of view, it has more creds and more power than ever because it gives you a real understanding of what’s happening regardless of the things that you can’t access anymore because the law of polarity, there are other things that come to light that can give you a better understanding of that. So I think having an understanding of human behaviour and for brands, having an understanding of their consumer segments, specifically how they kind of segment a certain market, then dive into them, then position themselves around them, then grow certain prospect audiences, that’s the power of consumer behaviour. It’s merging marketing, psychology, and technology to get to a point where you have such an expert understanding of why you exist in the market, who your consumers are, and how you can grow that and provide value to them. I don’t see that, maybe I’m biased, but I don’t see that being effective without the use of behavioural science, without an understanding of how your consumers behave. So that’s really fundamental to be able to grow. 

And yeah going back to your question around, you know, what’s the power of behavioural science and you know, how can we use it? Again, I insist that it’s everywhere. It’s in everything we do, every single interaction we have, like our interaction at the moment, you know, everything is based on behavioural science. So we were just like talking before that about shows like reality shows and how actually those people are in an environment and it’s interesting to like look at what they do and actually their behaviours. And we’re all interested by that. We’re all interested in, you reactions and, and, and reconnection and all of that. And really looking at people in controlled environments and it’s everywhere. It’s in everything that we do. And I think obviously it boomed, it grew so much as a field and it’s going to keep growing because a lot of brands, during COVID again, saw that they don’t really know their consumers as much as they think they do. And that gave them this kind of will and need and want to understand them better. So it’s up to the decision makers within those companies to encourage their employees to be able to innovate, test and learn, go to trainings for instance, try different tools. And that comes down to employee experience because you can’t really have behavioural science within a company or you can’t really have innovation within a company without the leadership team, for instance, cultivating that and giving people the opportunity to learn and grow and try. And I think the more different leaders are going to embed that and empower that, the more the brand is going to grow and actually learn from different tools and different tests and trials. So yeah, that’s the most important thing. I always say employee experience and consumer experience are so interrelated because how do you expect to add value to your consumers if you don’t provide that to your employees? So again, that’s what’s important to keep in mind. You can’t really expect consumer experience to be improved using behavioural science like this. You have to be able to put the right trainings in, the right team in, empower that, and then grow that with people. There’s always a human behind a decision maker. That’s really important to keep in mind. 


As we have come to the end of this episode, I do have one more question for you. What are some tangible ways event managers and marketeers can implement behavioural science?


Of course, I’m going to try not to give out all my secrets. There are tangible ways in different senses. So essentially, one way to do that is through segmenting differently. So an example that we did with one of our clients is they tried to grow their brand, they’re huge, they’re like a business communication platform. They tried to grow their client base by using trade classification. So you’re in tech, you’re in finance, you’re in … which could work in some instances, not when you’re trying to put up, so it’s a strategy, not when you’re trying to grow that kind of brand in the market as a new way, as a new behaviour. So essentially what we told them was at the start, you should go by psychological profiles, not trade classification. So for instance, looking at the personality model, the ocean model, so openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Looking at, for instance, those that score high in openness to experience and conscientiousness, and finding those profiles regardless of the trade. So for instance, finding those decision makers or your early adopters, you know, in that kind of adoption trend curve but in tangible ways using personality profiles. That’s a tangible way to bring the kind of trend adoption curves that we all learned in business school in tangible terms. It’s actually finding those people with those profiles based on the signals that they communicate with. And those people within the personality type are the ones that provide a lot of recommendations, their networkers, because openness to experience, word of mouth, et cetera. So it’s a strategy to be able to really put yourself out there, raise awareness on something using personality types. And there’s a tangible way to actually drive that using behavioural science within your marketing strategy. So that could be one way to do it. 

I think obviously like a second way to do it is you’re talking about events here. So for instance, you found those people, it’s important to capture that data. So to capture the people that interact with you. That’s for example, we call it zero party data. So zero party data is any data that your consumers give you consciously. It’s not first party data. It’s not second party data, surveys, et cetera. It’s zero party data where you add choice architecture and prompts, for instance, on your newsletters, on your website, et cetera. You really study the journey to get them to give you information on what they want. People that have high openness to experience are twice more likely to respond to that because they want to give you their advice. They want better experiences. And those people, and we found that, actually respond, 80% of those people actually said on the website what they wanted. You then retarget them using newsletters, tell them about the event, and at least 20% will come. So really understanding how to find your early adopters, for instance, when you launch something, getting them there. Then building a strategy based on personality profiles and psychographic profiles. Then understanding on social, for instance, using predictive AI, what they really want during that event is a perfect way to start developing that appeal instead of starting in very traditional terms. So that’s the beauty of behavioural science. It’s clever, it’s very interlinked. You start somewhere, you don’t stop. It brings you towards an ecosystem that’s more effective and that gives you better ideas to innovate. So that’s kind of a tangible way to kind of apply behavioural science for events. I hope it can inspire people to kind of use that and also find different ways to do it. But yeah, we’re always available to talk, obviously. 


Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I’ve honestly learned so much about behavioural science today. 


I see in your eyes, I have so many more questions. 


There’s so many more. Is there anything else you would like to kind of share with the audience who’s listening?


I think obviously don’t be, because a lot of people, feel overwhelmed by new things, and that’s also behavioural science. You know, some audiences love change, other audiences are overwhelmed by change.
That’s why you have to speak to them differently. You can speak to them the same way. So for those that are overwhelmed by change, I tell them, you know, there’s a step by step way to go about it. Read BJ Fox tiny habits, for example. So it’s really good because he speaks about how you can actually take tiny steps to get somewhere. So when you want to start exercising again, for instance, you can wake up and do like this. The next day you could do two, three days after you do one push-up, that’s the same thing here. You can start little by little. So for audiences that are intimidated by that, I want to tell them it’s not that hard. It’s literally not that hard. And for audiences that are excited by change, I tell them that you’ve got the biggest opportunity to do that now. Now is the time. And yeah, I mean, it’s really interesting because I feel like some people think they’re so behind the curve, but actually by listening to this in itself, they’re a bit ahead of the curve now. So I think those people are the ones that can take that forward and be able to apply that. 

So I’m excited to see, you know, those people as well, like drive that and encourage others to adopt it. But yeah, I mean, if, if there’s any other question, then I’m more than happy to answer and yeah. 

Christine: Thank you again so much for sharing your thoughts on behavioural science with us today. 


No, of course. I mean, it’s my pleasure and I’m really excited to be part of that. I think change and shift and hopefully it’s just the beginning, you know. And yeah, there are so many ways to kind of innovate and grow the field. There are so many ways to integrate that within different sectors, different industries. And I think events, because events is what brings us together as people, it’s what drives us to communicate, to connect, is going to be one of the main industries that’s going to obviously adopt that because it’s anchored in behavioural science. So yeah, thank you for having me and I’m excited to see where this goes.