Imagine you are on a diet. May be because of a desire to lose weight, could be just part of a new regime to adopt a healthier lifestyle. You’re doing really well, sticking to your new dietary regime and counting the calories like a seasoned pro. Then a well-meaning friend or loved one offers you that last slice of cheesecake. You succumb to temptation, devour that tasty sugar hit, and your diet is blown out of the window.
Sound familiar? It’s probably happened to most of us at one time or another. But why? A simple answer is that we all differ in our ability to exercise self-control, which is of course true, but there is more to it than that. To fully explain the last-slice-of-cheescake effect, we need to consider the brain that is finding all that sugar tempting and take a quick trip back in time to our species’ past.
Suppose the whole of human history was just one twenty-four-hour day. Stable settlements – farms, villages, and so on – would not begin to emerge until around 23:59 at the end of that hypothetical day. For most of our history, modern humans lived a nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle, inhabiting an at times harsh environment not dissimilar to the African Savanna region today. It was a world far more challenging than the comparatively sedate lifestyles that even the busiest of us enjoy today and, crucially, it was an environment in which calories were scarce. So, that last slice of cheesecake could have been of huge survival significance to our ancestors. And that’s the ultimate answer to our failure of self-control!
This is the focus of my own work – uncovering the real motivations behind consumer behaviour, their origins in our evolutionary past, and figuring out how brands can better leverage these in crafting their marketing messages. The pages in this section of my website present a useful framework for understanding and applying these DRDs in everyday marketing activities. I shall also post a growing repository of examples of the marketing insights a behavioural science approach can bring. Enjoy!