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Marketing agency harnesses the power of behavioural science to develop unique sales tool


A Durham University Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) has helped independent marketing agency KHWS to harness the power of behavioural science to uncover and influence the buying habits of consumers.

Together, they’ve developed a purchase behaviour  insight tool to identify and manage key moments of the path to purchase, meaning KHWS can offer brands powerful knowledge to inform marketing plans and accelerate sales.

This unique proposition has given KHWS a distinct market advantage, securing £1million-worth of new business from blue chip brands including Samsung, Bacardi, Haagen-Dazs, Bridgestone Tyres, Tilda Rice, Twinings Tea and Asahi Beer. 

The challenge

Back in 2016, KHWS set out to find a new way to help the agency stand out in an increasingly homogenised and crowded market.

The team identified an exciting opportunity to bring robust and rigorous behavioural science into the development of an innovative sales and marketing planning model. This could then be used to deliver creative marketing campaigns by understanding how consumers unconsciously make purchase decisions.

After developing an initial model, they approached Durham University Business School to explore ways to build on their work and validate their thinking and a KTP was suggested as the best way to collaborate.

University student
“This has been a life changing collaboration and a real highlight of my career. The KTP way exceeded our expectations. We are no longer an ordinary marketing agency – we have a unique proprietary tool that gives us a new proposition. “We are immensely proud of what we achieved and the ongoing relationship we have built with Durham University Business School. The enthusiasm and creativity we share as a partnership is phenomenal. “The academic rigour that has been injected into our business has broadened our horizons and we now have the ability to uncover buying behaviours that traditional research simply cannot deliver.”

Andrew Watts, Founding Partner

The solution

A new methodology was needed to identify the unconscious cues consumers use to make a purchase – and the most effective time to trigger marketing effort.

An academic with experience in purchase behaviour was matched with the company to provide a bridge between the academic and commercial worlds that the KTP straddled.

Working together, the KTP team analysed the 120 heuristics (hardwired mental shortcuts) and cognitive biases consumers use to make decisions. These were reframed into 9 Sales Triggers that guide and inform purchasing decisions.

After tapping into this advanced consumer psychology knowledge, the team created digital tools and interfaces to translate insight into a useable output.

Using the Sales Trigger Insight tool, brands can now discover their own sales triggers and ensure strategic planning and marketing activity matches the way their audiences make purchasing decisions.


The Sales Trigger Insight tool has provided KHWS with a unique market advantage as an agency that makes behavioural science-led marketing accessible for brands.

The company is now able to offer clients enhanced services such as:

  • The opportunity to identify the key heuristics that an audience uses to shop a category
  • Deeper creative testing that uses emotional, facial and eye tracking to gauge reaction to marketing materials.
  • Laser focused marketing campaigns that benefit from unprecedented insight into purchase behaviour

To date, KHWS has secured £1million-worth of new insight-led projects from big brands including Samsung, Bacardi and General Mills who use the model to understand the buying behaviours of their audiences in various sales channels and global markets.

An ongoing partnership with Durham University Business School has led to KHWS teaching opportunities, student research projects, job opportunities and plans for a joint research lab.


Could your business benefit from a KTP?

Get in touch with one of our Business Team to find out more

Research and Innovation Services
Durham University
Mountjoy Centre
Stockton Road

T: 0191 334 4650