When we marketers design a marketing campaign, we typically design them for "rational" buyers. But do buyers ever act rationally?

And what about us? When we make decisions, we think we're in control and making rational choices. But are we?

Dan Ariely, a faculty member at MIT's Sloan School of Management and member of the Media Lab, wrote a book called Predictably Irrational (he publishes a blog, too) dedicated to the study of behaviors. The New York Times bestseller is a fascinating, enlightening read for marketers.

Dan, who is also a visiting professor at Duke University, is going to be the Day One keynote speaker at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum this June 9 and 10 in Boston. In advance of meeting him in Boston (where I will be conducting a panel as well), I talked to Dan about his book and what it means for those of us in the B2B space (podcast, below).

Dan's immersive introduction to irrationality took place many years ago, while he was overcoming injuries sustained in an explosion. The range of treatments in the burn department, and particularly the daily "bath," made him face a variety of irrational behaviors that were immensely painful and persistent.

After that experience, he wanted to understand how to better deliver painful and unavoidable treatments to patients, so he began conducting research in that area.

After completing his initial research project, he became engrossed with the idea that we repeatedly and predictably make the wrong decisions in many aspects of our lives and that research could help change some of these patterns.

A few years later, decision-making and behavioral economics dramatically influenced his personal life when he found himself using all of the knowledge he'd accumulated in an effort to convince his wife to marry him (a decision, he says, was in his best interest, but not necessarily in hers). After managing to convince her, he realized that if understanding decision-making could help him achieve this goal, it could help anyone in daily life.

Predictably Irrational is his attempt to take research findings in behavioral economics and describe them in nonacademic terms so that more people will learn about this type of research, discover the excitement of this field, and possibly use some of the insights to enrich their own lives. 

Link to Original Audio Source

See Dan in person at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Driving Sales: What's New + What Works. Sign up for the event and use promo code ESPK08 to save $200 on the $1,295 registration fee (save $350 if you sign up before May 19).

Catch Paul Dunay's session on Day Two of the "Driving Sales" event, "Is social media Harder for B2B vs. B2C?"

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Paul Dunay is director of global field and interactive marketing for Bearing Point (www.bearingpoint.com).