Professor Zoe Chance on the Rise of Behavioural Economics, Persuasion, Buzzwords and Her Upcoming Speech at DME2018

September, 11 2018



Zoe Chance is a Marketing Professor at Yale school of Management, writer and keynote speaker for DME2018.

When Zoe isn’t helping people to master the art of influence and persuasion, she attends conferences to talk with marketers and business leaders of global firms and NGOs.

For us, Zoe represents the best of two worlds: she combines scientific research with hands-on cases from “the real world”.

That’s why we’re thrilled to have Zoe travel across the pond to reveal what she regards as beyond the buzzwords of digital marketing.

We’re excited to have you at DME2018. For people who don’t know who you are, who is Zoe?

– I’m a bridge between academia and the real world. I moved from being a brand manager for Barbie to doing research in behavioural economics with Dan Ariely because I wanted to understand how people really make decisions. And now I try to help others understand it too. My favourite part of my job as a marketing professor at Yale is translating academic research to make it practically useful. I love teaching, writing, and traveling the world to share behavioural science with industry audiences.

You’ve been working for industry leading brands such as Google and Mattel. What’s the biggest changes you’ve seen within the marketing industry since you started?

– I’m excited about the increasing interest in behavioural science in general and behavioural economics in particular. An increasing number of firms have Chief Behavioural Officers and similar roles. These firms understand that even the smartest people are making irrational decisions most of the time.

People are influenced by message framing, comparisons, and seemingly irrelevant factors like low blood sugar. Behavioural economics takes those factors into account to predict what people will actually do, regardless of what they “should” do.

You’re currently teaching a popular MBA course on influence and persuasion at Yale School of Management. Why do you think there’s such a huge interest in persuasion these days?

– People will always be interested in learning about persuasion, because persuasion is power. What excites me about the current wave of interest in persuasion is that many of those who attend my MBA course and my executive workshops are upset by how power is being abused by oligarchs, autocrats, narcissists, and populists. They want to shift the balance of power and empower the people, the customers, the voters, and the employees.

DME2018 will go beyond the marketing buzzwords and focus on how marketers can increase value here and now. What buzzword would you most like to get rid off?

– I’m really sick of hearing people brag about the size of their data. “Big data” only becomes an asset when you figure out what questions to ask. In my first marketing research job, I was handed a dataset of customer and sales information and told to discover something interesting. I did discover something interesting about customer loyalty, but only after months of dead ends. And the finding that ultimately proved interesting and lucrative came from a discussion with one of my colleagues. What I learned from that experience is that data are unlocked by hypotheses, hypotheses are only interesting when supported by data, and that most good ideas come from other people. Because there are billions of them and only one of you.

Are there any buzzwords you like?

It’s not a sexy buzzword, but I’d love to hear people using “hypothesis” more. “Hypothesis” entails having a specific idea that can—and should—be tested with data. Researchers know that 90% of our hypotheses turn out to be invalid. So we understand the importance of testing theories with data. When people share vague ideas or assumptions, we should all be asking questions like, “What’s your specific hypothesis?” “How could we test that hypothesis?” “What data would we need to test your hypothesis?” And we should be formulating our own ideas as testable hypotheses—and testing them.

What will you bring to the table at DME?

I’ll be sharing with you a number of tools for applying behavioural economics to influence customers online, but the simplest idea is the most important. Ease matters more than price, quality, satisfaction, and almost anything else. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to do business with you. Then make it even easier. You already know ease is important. I’ll explain why.

How would you like people to prepare for your presentation at DME, can you recommend anything to watch or read before attending your speech?

You don’t need to do anything to prepare for my session at DME, your work experience has prepared you already. If you want some suggested reading, check out Everybody Lies, by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. Published last year, it’s a New York Times best-seller and Economist Book of the Year. I love this book because Seth is a genius question-asker. He analyzes big data to make surprising discoveries about racism, sex, and everything else people are embarrassed to talk about. And as a New York Times journalist, he’s a brilliant storyteller, which makes his book a pleasure to read.

Want to see Zoe live? Grab your ticket to DME2018 today!