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The100: Performance plateaus, the demise of nudges and horses ruling the world

Horses run the world

Ever wondered why the distance between US train rails is 4 feet, 8.5 inches? 

In short – because that’s how they were built in England, because that was the width of tramways, because that was the width of wagons, because that was the width of Roman roads, because that was the width of Roman war chariots, because that was the width of two war horses’ ummmm… derrières. 

And that is how, due to being transported by train and having to go through a tunnel just wider than the tracks…

A major Space Shuttle design feature [booster rockets], of what is arguably the world’s most advanced transportation system, was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse’s a*s.

Glorious. And a worthy reminder to ask whether something is being done because it’s the best way, or because it’s the easiest way. (h/t Adam Tooze.)

What worked then, won’t work now

Next up on the dojo floor is Tom Roach asking whether your brand is stuck on the performance plateau, and if it is, how to get off of it.

You’ll need to get comfortable with a greater level of ambiguity, with irrational consumers, qualitative research, the huge variation of effects from different creative campaigns. Where you’re going you’ll need balance: of data and judgement, technology and creativity, art and science, long and short.

“Can we add this quick little deliverable?”

As tricky as it can be, sometimes you have to say no to clients. Jamie Brindle has listed 5 ways to do so without uttering those 2 little letters. His response to “can you do this for less?” is very good:

If budget is our priority, let’s start with the amount you have in mind and back into a deliverable that makes sense for that number.

The demise of nudging

After running a meta analysis on the hundreds of Nudge tests out there, The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) concluded that there was no evidence for nudging after adjusting for publication bias. Wow.

But here’s the other side of the coin. Michael Hallsworth pointed to strong evidence where nudges did in fact have significant effects, even with publication bias taken off the table, and said:

We have a simplistic and binary “works” versus “does not work” debate. But this is based on lumping together a massive range of different things under the “nudge” label, and then attaching a single effect size to that label. The studies involved cover a bewildering range of interventions, settings, and populations.

Both worth a spot in Camp Something to be Aware of.

Find your tagline 

Following an article in the last issue on moments having a moment in advertising, may I point your attention to the number of taglines that use “Find Your…

Talking of campaigns, Richard Shotton shared an interesting study on Pareidolia …word of the day, surely?

And finally…

STOP. EVERYTHING. (Well, if you’re in the UK.) We have our map of the year. Enter your postcode and see the current OS map seemed together with that of the early 1900s. I was surprised by the number of roads that match up. Allow 4hrs.

Ever wondered why kids still play the same games we used to? (h/t storythings).

A great example of video footage being used to identify behaviour in the wild (ahem). This time female Octopuses chuck seashells at males who get on their nerves. Ace.