The environmental doughnut goes youtube

Feeling privileged to have been involved in this project, designing the now famous ‘environmental doughnut‘ graphics.


Brexit, Brands and the Butterfly Effect

How framing a question can give you different results.

This is such an interesting article, byRichard ShottonDeputy Head of Evidence at MG OMD, on how social psychology can make advertising more effective.

I just had to copy to in it’s entirety:

One winter’s day in 1961, Professor Edward Lorenz – one of the first meteorologists to use computer-based prediction – decided to run a weather simulation in his MIT lab. He’d run this one before, so he was pretty sure he knew what to expect. But on this occasion, to save time, he inputted the data using three decimals places, rather than six as he had used originally. So, for example, 23.348 rather than 23.347813: a difference of just 0.000187.

When he ran the programme, the model’s prediction varied radically from the original. This confused Lorenz. Why hadn’t a small change had a small impact?

Over the next decade, came to recognise that his finding wasn’t an aberration. Lorenz had uncovered what we now call “the butterfly effect”: the theory that in complex systems, small differences can have radical effects.

And it’s as relevant for communications as it is for climatology.

The Butterfly Effect in action

Take Brexit, described by David Cameron as the biggest political decision of a generation, with far-reaching consequences.

Brexit comes down to a single question: stay or go? To investigate what happens when a seemingly inconsequential change is made to this question, Zenith recruited 500 nationally representative people and asked them about their voting intention. However, we made a subtle tweak to the wording. Half were asked if they wanted the UK to remain in the EU; the rest if the UK should become independent from the EU.

Considering the gravity of the matter, you might expect the wording to be insignificant. However, we found the opposite. When voters were asked about remaining, the majority wanted to stay. But when the question was phrased as a matter of independence, more people wanted to leave.

Stop and consider how strange this is. On a vote of international importance, the result could be swung by a peripheral factor – the mere phrasing of the question.

What is depressing for democrats is interesting for marketers

If a referendum can be swayed by wording, then seemingly peripheral tweaks can be a far more powerful influence on the unthinking purchase of everyday goods, like deodorants, shampoo or beer. If our views are lightly held, then a nudge can create a dramatic shift in behaviour.

The sales impact generated by subtle changes in purchasing conditions has been demonstrated by Adrian North, psychology professor at Heriot Watt University. He persuaded a supermarket to alternate the music in the wine aisle: one week it would be traditional German oompah music, the next French accordion music.

When accordion music was played French wine accounted for 77% of wine sales whereas when oompah music played German wine accounted for 73% of sales. A detail so small that most consumers failed to notice, had a huge impact on sales volumes.

Start from a principle of zero budget

There is a misconception, rife in marketing, that big problems can only be solved with big budgets. However, our research shows that minor changes in the context of decision making can have a disproportionate influence. Before assuming that a multi-million pound marketing campaign is the answer, brands should imagine they have no ad budget. What simple change could they make to the purchasing context?

The power of words

Fittingly, the popularity of the butterfly effect itself shows the importance of apparently trivial changes in communications.

Lorenz originally published his findings in 1963 in a paper called ‘Deterministic Nonperiodic flow’. It was a flop: cited just three times in the next decade.

In 1972 he presented his work at a conference under the title “Predictability: Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” The emotive title attracted attention and was a hit among scientists and public alike. His ideas became the basis of chaos theory and one of the few scientific principles of recent years that has taken a hold on the popular imagination.

So remember, in communications as in climatology, tiny changes really can have huge effects.

Things that the world worries about…

…or not. Let’s start with the good news: It isn’t all doom and gloom.

In some countries the population is more optimistic than not. The countries include China, Saudi Arabia, India, Argentina, Peru, Canada and Russia.


A sizeable chunk of the world’s population is unhappy with the direction their country is going in, according to a survey that also reveals what people in different nations are most concerned about.

Then again, just as an example, Sweden seems to be worried about homicide – yet it has one of the lowest homicide rates in the world. Which just goes to show that what people are worried about and what they should be worried about doesn’t always tie up.

But, if it makes good headlines, why hold back? Thus, if you keep in mind the Swedish example mentioned above, as you read the World Economic Forums article What are people in your country most worried about?  – you’ll come to realise that there is much less to worry about than suggested.

“Fear nothing but fear itself” comes to mind.


Think of economics… as a doughnut

Economics is broken.

It has failed to predict, let alone prevent, financial crises that have shaken the foundations of our societies. Its out-dated theories have permitted a world in which extreme poverty persists while the wealth of the super-rich grows year on year. And its blind spots have led to policies that are degrading the living world on a scale that threatens all of our futures.

Can it be fixed? InDoughnut Economics, Kate Raworth identifies seven critical ways in which mainstream economics has led us astray, and sets out a roadmap for bringing humanity into a sweet spot that meets the needs of all within the means of the planet. In the process, she creates a new economic model that is fit for the 21st century – one in which a doughnut-shaped compass points the way to human progress.

Playful and eloquent, Doughnut Economics offers a game-changing analysis and inspiration for a new generation of economic thinkers.

The bookDoughnut Economics: seven ways to think like a 21st century economist by Kate Raworth is out on 6 April 2017. You can buy the book at all good bookshops or on Amazon UK at and Amazon US at

And my part in all this?  For the last 5 years I have been working with Kate Raworth on the core graphics which she used in lectures and presentations of her research papers. Just last year we worked on the updated graphics which are now in the book. If you google Doughnut Economics you’ll find the top image results will always by those graphics (as well as plenty of derivatives that it has spawned).