Richard Thaler was jolted awake by an early-morning phone call from Sweden. Over the days and weeks that followed, he was flooded with felicitations—e-mails, phone calls, media requests— leaving him more than swamped. The caller from Sweden told Thaler he had won the 2017 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his research in behavioral economics. “Nothing more between now and the prize,” Thaler wrote two weeks after yet another request on his time, declining an interview to talk about how his nudge theory influences marketing.
Thaler is busy, caught in the surreal muck of a career-defining victory, but his wake-up call from Sweden should serve as a wake-up call for marketers to learn about his work and field of research. Thaler’s nudge theory carries serious weight in marketing, says Joel Rubinson, founder of Rubinson Partners and former chief research officer at The Advertising Research Foundation. “You can’t be in a meeting and say, ‘I never read [Nudge],’” Rubinson says with a chuckle.
Everyone gets nudged. If you weren’t nudged by this story’s headline to read on, then perhaps you were nudged by a snack wrapper, imploring you to pick up, unwrap and devour its salty-sweet contents. Perhaps you were nudged by a mobile notification: Respond to a friend request, tip your rideshare driver or—hey, it’s raining—order some delivery food.