Behavioural Economics is a rapidly expanding field and everyday new research is being developed in academia, tested and implemented by practitioners in financial organisation, development agencies, government ‘nudge’ units and more. This interview is part of a series interviewing prominent people in the field. And in today's interview the answers are provided by Prince Ghuman.
Prince is an author, professor, and a neuro-marketer. He started his first company while attending UC San Diego. He went on to be the founding Head of Marketing at BAP, one of the earliest automotive e-commerce platforms. Then he moved on to be the founding Chief Marketing Office of ZipZap, a cryptocurrency tech startup in San Francisco. Most recently, he held dual roles as the U.S. Director of Consumer Marketing and the Global Director of B2B Marketing for OFX, a publicly-traded FinTech company. In his "free time" Prince contributes to major news outlets including Forbes, Refinery29, Entrepreneur, & The Washington Post. As a result he was named one of the 'Movers and Shakers' by the San Francisco Chronicle. He is the co-founder of the Neuromarketing Blog and co-author of the neuro-marketing book Blindsight. Take it away Prince!
Who or what got you into Behavioural Economics?
Strangely enough, entrepreneurship is how I got into B.E. Starting a company as a full-time undergrad pushes you to find structure. Game theory was the structure for me that opened me up to the world of B.E. Entrepreneurship led me to devour much of the classic BE literature. The undergraduate startup failed, but it led to my first marketing director position at an e-commerce startup.
At this company is where I started to connect the BE pieces with marketing. At the time, there were zero playbooks showing how to apply B.E. to UX, products, social media, and copywriting. In many ways, it was a case of ‘right place, right time’ because I was able to test many of the B.E. principles at my fast-growing startup. What started as a chance introduction to game theory evolved into a love for B.E. and, ultimately, neuromarketing.
What is the accomplishment you are proudest of as a behavioural economist?
Communication has always been a fun social puzzle for me. I wished the communication of research behind behavior science was better calibrated to the public at large. There is immense value hidden in abstracts, which needs to see the day. People need to understand how behavioral science connects to their everyday lives.
My proudest moment has been the publishing of the neuromarketing book Blindsight. I feel the book solves the communication puzzle described above. Not only does it humanize behavior science, but it also connects it to unexpected-but-relatable-things like the popularity of Old Town Road and the impact of apps like TikTok on children. A book, by definition, is stationary. The adventure continues to my consumer behavior blog, PopNeuro.com, where we keep the behavioral party going. The blog reveals the behavior science behind everyday things like Halloween, KPop, Kanye West, Veganism, Cancel-Culture, and much much more.
If you weren’t a behavioural economist, what would you be doing?
It is a coin flip - either an airline pilot or a standup comedian. Maybe an airline pilot who makes jokes over the intercom? Both areas tap two sharp corners of my personality. Stand up comedy taps into the communication nerd in me who loves to connect with people through the universal language of humor. Flying taps into the mechanic part of me who loves playing with and controlling machines. In the wise words of Ricky Bobby, ‘I wanna go fast!’
How do you apply behavioural economics in your personal life?
Availability Heuristic - The word of PR and media an industry that manufactures recency bias. I make it a point to be mindful when I am chewing on information and its impact on my ultimate decisions and opinions.
Lean Into Loss Aversion - Knowing that losses hurt more than gains heal had a strange effect on it. It made me re-examine things in life which I may initially flinch away from. Pain hurts more than pleasure feels good, but that shouldn't keep you from trying again.
With all your experience, what skills would you say are needed to be a behavioural economist? Are there any recommendations you would make?
It comes down to what you want. If I had to, I would put BE in two buckets - research and practice. Knowing which bucket you want to drink from will help acquire appropriate skills. I am a practitioner, not a researcher, so I will give one piece of advice if you want to practice BE. Find a specialization, no matter how niche, and find a way to apply BE principles within the niche.
How do you think behavioural economics will develop (in the next 10 years)?
I can’t say how it will, but I can say how I wish B.E. would develop. Here are my three wishes:
● I wish neuroimaging tech would become cheaper and easier to use for non-researchers.
● I wish B.E. to be applied openly to self-development and life design.
● I wish B.E. researchers to play a more active role in ethical and regulatory discussions.
Which other behavioural economist would you love to read an interview by?
Easy, the Kobe of B.E., Daniel Kahneman.
Thank you for these amazing answers Prince! As mentioned before, Prince, together with Matt Johnson, who's interview you can read here, have published their book Blindsight, combining marketing and consumer behaviour and neuroscience. It is a must read, so make sure to get it sooner rather than later! As I said before, this interview is part of a larger series which can also be found here on the blog. Make sure you don't miss any of those, nor any of the upcoming interviews! Keep your eye on Money on the Mind!