I've been meaning to write this post for a very long time. So long that I'm not sure if I've already written it. But a conversation with Charlotte the other day reminded me about it.
I watch a lot of football on TV. The more you watch, the more you notice that every game is more like a story with an author than an actual report of events - much like Big Brother footage is edited into a narrative that suits the story the editors are telling.
It might be paranoia, but I'm sure that there is a journalistic bias dependent on who controls the footage, i.e. quick replays of dubious decisions against favoured clubs, accidentally "missing" certain players out-of-order behaviour (which magically appears on the highlight reel after the fact). And also the longing shots of certain players or managers WHEN THERE'S A GAME GOING ON! The La Liga footage when Real Madrid are playing is the most blatant, but you see it quite a bit in the Prem too.
Are there times when a layered narrative isn't welcome? Can we ever not have bias?
So you know how all chain food brands have a 'taste'? Is it actually detrimental to branch out into take home sauces etc because people get used to the 'taste' and then find it boring when they eat out?
Or do some people never get bored of certain tastes? It's not like you eat it every day.
I read somewhere the other day how amazing it is that Apple have a core base of customers so dedicated that, in essence, they (the customers) pay for the privilege of testing Apple's products without diminishing their likelihood to buy the brand again (think of anyone who's bought a 1st generation Apple product vs. someone who's Dell laptop broke). You have to admire the strength of a brand that can do that. I tip my hat.
It got me thinking about fanboys, and which companies in the world actually have proper ones - as in people who treat brands like family members - i.e. I can critisize them, but you can't, people who would defend their brand against all competitors and allcomes, who find it hard to concede that their competitors could even have a sliver of positivity around them.
I could only really think of Apple and Nike (and maybe Nokia if you count @Whatleydude). The two brands that make it into 93.4% of case study decks - usually together (I never, never want to see Nike+ in a presentation again).
Both Nike and Apple have a Sith counterpart (Microsoft and Adidas), who they make more money than but end up being seen more revolutionary than. Ah, the power of communications at work. Now I think about it both Microsoft and Adidas have fanboys too, but I wonder if they are a result of/reaction to the fervent Apple/Nike fanboys? As in, listening to someone steamroller a conversation about how shit your choice was makes you get up and defend your choice?
While fanboys and girls don't really exist in massive numbers, they do make an awful lot of noise, especially online, so their comments do probably help form the opinions of normal people, who haven't really thought about it that much.
I was one of the audience at a night at the RSA hosted by Mark Earls last week. It was about 'cultural evolution', and it was one of the few talks I've been to that actually created a dust storm between these ears of mine (Obliquity for example, was pretty uninspired). As usual, a couple of bits that I found interesting...
Professor Mike O'Brien:
An awesome story about a Boston department store where people used to hide clothes in different departments in order to hold them till the price dropped. My only question is what were the sales assistants up to?
O'Brien's talk was mainly about similarities between biological spread and cultural spread. He asked some interesting questions about how inventions (mutations in biology) become innovation, i.e. how they get picked up and spread. Something that marketers are mad interested in.
Three ways of passing information: Vertically (parents to offspring, teachers to students, etc), horizontally (through friends), and obliquely.
What is the bias on social transmission of information?
Dr. Alex Bentley:
Alex Bentley plotted a chart (which I will draw and add at some point) which you could plot data against to help understand macro trends and their drivers. Interesting stuff.
He underlined the point that we now live in an era when choices are increasingly equivalent, i.e. we make decisions less on the inherent quality/benefits, but because of social networks. For example it's easier to understand the benefits of biking vs. walking, but not necessarily between two styles of eyeglass.
Remembering that social networks are dynamic not static. Also, a single persons sphere overlaps many different 'networks'.
Anyway, what the talks directed my brain to was actually articulated in the Q&A. Dr. Alex Bentley was all about looking at a population overview and trying to understand what makes trends spread through populations. And therefore how we can understand how to influence populations instead of individuals. It got me thinking about the creative brief and how it's often easier to bring it down to the individual level because it's something we can relate to. How do we re-train ourselves to understand the nuances of populations when thinking about individuals is our default setting?
Completely unrelated someone in the audience (a scientist I presume) made an analogy between physics and marketing. Bear with me. Back in the day they both subscribed to deterministic models (think Newton, Mad Men) and now are dealing with masses of uncertainty (quantum mechanics). I liked that. I might use it in a slide.
So yesterday I got myself down to the inaugural (I think) Future Human event, which promised much but delivered little. The title was the rather seductive ’Advertising at the Frontiers of Consciousness’, which I guess sounds like a Josh Wink song or the sort of stuff that makes planners happy. What happened was an amble through neuroscience principles and semiotics with some pretty heavyweight people, but nothing you hadn't heard about or read before. I'm increasingly becoming disillusioned with talks, especially one's you pay for or are on subjects that you know even a little about. My basic conclusion was 'the answer lies somewhere between the two', as it generally does for everything. Sadly (for economists) we don't live in a world of absolutes, and neither the science of neuromarketing or the cultural context of semiotics has all the answers. My favourite quote of the night was 'neuromarketing teaches advertising to suck eggs', which is kind of true in that the best work ticks all the science boxes without really thinking about it.
Science-fiction writer Matthew De Abaitua’s far-out vision for the future was ‘automatically generated micro-targeted message customised by our own existence that nudges your behaviour at relevant junctures’. Hmm, that just sounds like the Architect talking about search. To be fair De Abaitua did see evolution of search as the future, but still.
The case study about Bird's Eye in NZ using neuroscience to determine that 'the Frozen moment' part of a bombing ad was what consumers responded to, and then extending that moment and sticking the logo after it was interesting. Again, not a revolutionary use of neuromarketing in advertising, but interesting nonetheless.
The middle section of the event was devoted to watching TV ads and either looking at how they affected the brain or the neuromarketing techniques (memes and the likes) that they used. Mat Riches, who made sure my spare ticket didn't go to waste, noted that their examples seemed to underline the impact that TV can have as a channel in marketing.
Slightly related, it was interesting to see the discussion around Mark's 'To TV or not to TV?' post this afternoon. It's worth reading the post and more worth reading the comments. Personally, I prefer watching stuff on a big lovely screen than on a laptop screen, especially Blu-Ray films. I like having music telly on when I'm doing other stuff. I like not having to find a new stream for live sports events. I like vegging out when my brain's been on full power or full party. I like watching ads in situe to see what pops up.
This is my TV and I love it: Anyway it's the Power vs. The Wizard rematch. I'm off.
I would be surprised if you haven't heard the words 'behavioural economics' banded about over the last six months. Rory Sutherland has made it the cornerstone of his IPA presidency, and with Thaler and Sunstein the writers du jour, it is undeniably the hot topic.
I went to 44 Club talk back in June where Sutherland and Matthew Taylor from the RSA introduced behavioural theory and it's implications for advertising. I remember being massively impressed and incredibly excited by the possibility, and have kept an eye on the project as it evolves.
On Wednesday night, the 44 Club held another event, billed as examples of practical application of the theory. I have mixed feelings about the night. One one hand I came away feeling that behavioural economics is a fancy name for best practice advertising thinking (that is already going on), and on the other, armed with some interesting examples of human nature. For example, one of the practical examples of choice architecture is that choice and availability has more of an impact on preference than taste, a fact that is the driving force behind brands wanting to be the shelf of every supermarket in the land, but not a particularly new thought. Some of the advice was 'don't rip people off because they won't come back' and see people as smart, not stupid, i.e. respect the fact that they just bought something 'because I did...' - things that we as an industry should never be doing anyway.
Sutherland feels that behavioural economics is so timely because as an industry the time we spend marketing things with a relatively low behavioural element (FMCGs) is falling, and we are increasingly being asked to step up to challenges with a high behavioural element, for example, getting people to switch to Streetcar.
While I realise he wasn't being completely serious, in part of Sutherland's set up he enthused about how behavioural economics could provide our industry with a set of impressive jargon (this did spring to mind). Maybe I'm just young and naïve, but shouldn't we be looking for new ways to genuinely understand people and what influences decisions rather than a rationale to impress our clients with?
Anyway, the key take out was probably that context is more powerful than preference. And also that as a species we're bloody good at post-rationalising things. The likely consequence of a decision has little bearing on what decision we make, i.e. we don't act rationally, but we use rational reasons to justify our actions in hindsight. Isn't that part of the role of advertising, to provide the rational reason as to why we bought/did something?
As I said before there was some stuff that I liked/found useful:
That it might be a better idea to study the market/competition in detail rather than knowing your brand inside out because that's how consumers see it
Teens eat at Pizza Hut, etc, because they know what's going to happen and therefore avoid embarrassment
That the power of massive brands such as Ford, M&S is actually a license to innovate. Gave the sad example that Britain has 9% of Europe's population but eats 50% (?) of its ready meals, which was down to M&S offering them and making it acceptable
The idea that we should be challenging metrics (again, something that we should be doing anyway). I liked the idea that trains are being made more punctual because that's what customer research says, but things like wi-fi aren't considered because noone says it
A lot of the examples being given fall under the umbrella of product development and design, i.e. making forms easier to fill in, or making the last pills of a course of antibiotics blue so that patients finish it ("take the 4 white ones, followed by the 3 blue ones"). Weren't advertisers traditionally more involved with NPD back in the day? The ideas of branded utility/service marketing show that we are headed back that way.
It's beginning to feel that behavioural economics might just be a neat wrapper for the theory and practice that already makes good advertising, and that we will just be hearing the same speech in various guises over the coming year. This may be an unfair criticism at this early point in the IPA's exploration into the theory - the IPA's BETT (Beahvioural Economics Think Tank) is planning to work on some live briefs over the next two years - but I couldn't help but feel underwhelmed. I hope I'm proven wrong.
In the meantime, the IPA have made a PDF of their thinking up to date, which will bring you up to speed with where BETT are up to in their thinking: Download BE_short_FINAL_Animated
the most interesting things I noted from the recent developers
presentation of Google Wave was that they have built in functionality
that allows you to start generating a response before the person you're
communicating with has actually finished their reply.
This effectively replicates one of the least useful characteristics
of human communication i.e. a speedy response rather than a considered
one, that takes into account what has been communicated, not what you
think is going to be communicated."
Reminded me of this quote that I really liked in Herd: Just one of things that you never really thought about, but when someone points out creates a little spark.
One part truth, two parts mixer is a digital notebook for Priyanka/@pristyles. Yes, you've reached another planner's blog - but it's mainly full of random thoughts and pretty pictures.
If you're reading, hello - it's nice to meet you.