Nudge – Giving a little PR push


Last week, I learned a new word and expanded my vocabulary : nudge. In fact, without having the right translation, I knew what the word implied and meant. Literally, a nudge is a small push given to somebody to do something. The same way you would gently push your shy friend who can’t seem to be able to go talk to that boy.

What I didn’t know, more precisely what I didn’t want to acknowledge, is that this technique is used by PR agencies topush people to change their behaviours, either towards alcohol, cigarettes or the environment for example. So, is nudge becoming the new technique that could change the PR world ? After all, the PR industry has always aimed at changing the public’s opinions and behaviours, especially on social and environmental matters and it seems that talking and rational discourse is not enough anymore.

The car manufacturer Volkswagen has actually had a brilliant idea when they initiated the website ‘The Fun Theory’, a website dedicated to the thought that something as simple as fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour for the better’.

the fun theory - copie

The Fun Theory website

Brilliant PR move indeed, especially from an automobile brand that will always have to counterbalance their production of polluting products with ‘good deeds’ or socially responsible initiatives.

The interesting idea about the Fun Theory is how you can easily change people’s behaviours with funny and playful PRtactics. And Volkswagen’s Piano Staircase for example proves that talking is overrated.

The brand has even created the Fun Theory Awards to push people to take part in making the world better with funny ideas and it worked as they received a lot of very creative things.

So, is nudge the future of PR campaigns ? Will it become the essential tool that PR people need to include in their programs ?

It seems to be working well for now and it is quite understandable : in a society where anything and everything is judged by the public opinion and where you have to be careful about any moral implication when you do something, the rational discourse can be seen as moralistic and aiming at making you feel guilty. Adding a little fun to social PR campaigns won’t hurt anyone, on the contrary.

Source :

Further Reading :

Nudge : improving decisions about health, wealth and happiness, Thaler and Sunstein (2009)

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