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Planning for Good vs. Evil

By John Balz, Senior Strategic Planner, Draftfcb Chicago

Editor’s Note: Together, behavioral economics and user experience design can change behavior and create innovative business strategies that work in any marketing environment or channel. That’s the message John Balz and Johnny Schroepfer, Experience Planner at Draftfcb Chicago recently presented to more than 200 planners at the 2012 4A’s Strategy Festival in New York City.

Selected as part of the Festival’s young planners speaking series, Johnny and I presented as a team. My background is in behavioral economics and psychology. Johnny’s is in user experience architecture. Draftfcb’s planning department is bringing together a series of distinct disciplines that have not lived together under one roof. Neither Johnny nor I realized this before we arrived at the agency, but there is tremendous overlap between our backgrounds. Since arriving at Draftfcb earlier this year, that overlap has become a formal open collaboration between the two of us, all in the interest of generating transformative ideas that drive behavioral change.

At Strategy Fest, we spoke about the inherent tensions that come with working in the ad industry. Be a champion for the consumer. Make money for our clients. Design and create emotional, rich experiences that people can value for years. Manipulate decisions and behaviors in the interest of satisfying shallow, fleeting urges today.

The dilemma we posed was whether to design for good or for evil. Turning a client’s assignment brief into a “best in class” strategic brief is a difficult balancing act. Since we know something about how humans behave, we know that if we’re not careful we can fall into evil habits.

Thankfully, the understanding of human behavior that has emerged from behavioral economics combined with a set of smart design principles can help all of us steer clear of evil design and improve brand reputation over the long-term.

Johnny and I have been collaborating on a digital project that would help people set and achieve long-term goals. We’re following the guide we laid out at Strategy Fest, bringing our own perspectives and skills to an exciting challenge – all in an effort to create a smart, great user experience.