Revolutionary Measures

Thinking, Fast and Slow

A Cadbury Dairy Milk bar in 2006.

Probably because it is a difficult discipline to predict, we marketers love the idea of systems that are proven to deliver results. Whether it is putting the call to action in a certain font, including a free pen with a mailing or emailing at a specific time of the day, anything that can help convince consumers is considered fair game.

So it is no surprise that marketers, and particularly advertisers, have long looked at psychology to help predict what will work and what won’t. I’ve previously talked about Mark Earls and the theory that, basically, we all want to belong to the herd, an ingrained, unthinking, attitude that makes us enormously susceptible to peer pressure.

Much of herd theory is related to the work of Daniel Kahneman, a psychologist who was awarded a Nobel Prize in 2002. His work (including the seminal Thinking, Fast and Slow), shows that the human mind is comprised of two systems. The first (system one) is intuitive, making decisions automatically, while system two rationalises the ideas of system one and sometimes overrules it. Essentially, what this means is that we think far less about decisions than we believe we do, and are much less rational than people expect. As Kahneman put it, “We are to thinking as cats are to swimming. We can do it if we have to, but we don’t particularly like it.”

Theories such as these are a godsend to marketers. If you can convince system one to like/buy something then chances are it’ll slip past the lazy watchdog that is system two without anyone noticing. Potentially scary if you are a consumer (or a citizen during an election campaign) but perfect for ad agencies.

Hence, as a recent story in The Economist points out, the phenomenal success of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk Gorilla advert, which delivered an ROI three times the industry average. In reality the advert had nothing to do with chocolate at all, but led with emotion (rather than information) and brand (rather than product benefits). Ad men love Kahneman’s theories because:

(a)  They get the chance to do fun, extravagant ads that could win prizes rather than list the benefits of cough syrup

(b)  Traditional ways of measuring ad impact don’t work with system one-led ads. So there won’t be an annoying (uncreative) market researcher telling you your ad doesn’t resonate with the audience.

As the current crop of Christmas adverts shows, reason and rationality have very much gone out the window, with a focus on brand, emotion and slowed-down songs sung by female pop stars. But I don’t think all is lost for the system two adverts – if they are clever, informative and delivered with humour they can appeal to our rational selves, and by being the opposite of the mainstream can stand out by being different. There’s always a trade-off – if all things were equal, most of us wouldn’t choose to fly Ryanair, but system two looks at the price difference on tickets and forces us onboard. So, before they get carried away, marketers and ad men shouldn’t throw system two out with the bathwater (or should that be gorilla?). 

December 18, 2013 Posted by | Creative, Marketing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The (marketing) meaning of Christmas

christmas tree

As everyone by now has been reminded by their children/mother, there’s less than a month to Christmas, cueing mass panic and a rush to Amazon.

Rather than starting shopping I thought I’d look at the marketing behind Christmas and how it has evolved over the past centuries. From the Christian Church to John Lewis brands have attempted with varying degrees of success to link to a midwinter celebration. Here’s a top four of marketing successes:

1          The Church
Before people start getting upset about the hijacking of the Baby Jesus’ birthday by commercial interests it is worth going back to pagan times. Before the Christian Christmas began there was a major celebration of the midwinter solstice, around the end of December. There’s no record of when Christ was actually born in the Bible, so essentially the church merged the existing pagan festival with Christ’s birth from around the fourth century as part of a move to increase converts and popularity.

2          The Victorians
For popularising other traditions (such as present giving around the day itself, rather than at New Year, and Christmas trees) we have to thank Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert, helped by the pen of Charles Dickens. The stereotypical Christmas scene of snow, robins and greenery comes directly from Victorian times, despite the current lack of ‘seasonal’ weather on the day itself. What better way to spread colonial strength than by giving the world an excuse to celebrate?

3          Coca Cola
There’s a widespread belief that Father Christmas’ red and white costume comes directly from Coca Cola’s 1930s ad campaigns. This may not be completely true – his forerunner St Nicholas dressed in red and white bishop’s vestments – but it is certainly something that the soft drinks giant cannily exploits to this day.

4          John Lewis
Over the last twenty years the competition to own the Christmas experience has led to more and more lavish advertising campaigns. Thanks to a heavy dose of hype these ads now attract press coverage on their own, with commentators discussing their relative merits, and now monitoring the social media buzz. Undoubted winner of the past few festive seasons has been John Lewis, which has knocked Marks & Spencer off its perch as the must see Christmas advert. This year it has spent a reported £7m on its animated Hare and Bear campaign, which generated over 14,500 tweets in its first few hours of release.

So, why is it important? Firstly, Christmas has come to dominate the retail landscape, with many chains doing the majority of their business in the months around 25 December. Secondly, spending is still cautious (despite what official figures say about the UK moving out of recession), so competition for every pound spent is fierce. If you can tap into the Christmas spirit not only will you generate seasonal goodwill, but you will also bring in revenue from customers who will remain loyal over the whole year.

This means that while it is easy to sneer at the over-excitement about TV ad campaigns, they are only the successors to previous attempts by brands to ‘own’ Christmas and therefore win over their audiences – whether to sell soft drinks, Victorian values or even Christianity itself. As the investment shows Christmas is far too important to be left to Father Christmas. Myself, I’ll stick to Scrooge………

 

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Creative, Marketing | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

easyBrand Damage?

Aircraft: Boeing 737-33V Airline: EasyJet Regi...

Like a lot of people I’ve been impressed by the current easyJet TV ads. Celebrating ‘generation easyJet’, the group of travellers that the airline claims was created due to its low fares and wide range of destinations, it is modern, engaging and aspirational. There’s no overt mention of price (in contrast to Ryanair’s pile them high and sell them cheap advertising), and the overall approach is grown up and comparable to ‘proper’ airlines. The message is travel with easyJet to do the things you love.

However in an age of social media and consumer activism advertising can’t trump reality. Two recent easyJet blunders threaten to undo the slick ads, damage its brand and put off prospective passengers.

Firstly, it initially refused to let a passenger who criticised it on Twitter board his flight. Lawyer Mark Leiser sent a tweet after his plane from Glasgow to London was delayed, potentially preventing a soldier on his way to active service reaching his base in Portsmouth. easyJet allegedly said they wouldn’t help pay for him to get to his destination. After tweeting Leiser was pulled out of the boarding queue and told by a manager that he couldn’t get on the plane as ‘you can’t tweet stuff like that and get on an easyJet flight.’ It was only when the manager found out that Leiser was a lawyer that they changed their mind and let him on. easyJet later apologised and denied that it was its policy to ban passengers based on what they’d said. However by then the damage was done as Leiser’s original tweets were shared around the world and then picked up by major media.

A couple of weeks later easyJet managed to leave 29 passengers behind even though they’d passed through the boarding gate and completed check-in (and had hold luggage on the plane). Interestingly statistics from YouGov found that nearly 10% of UK Twitter users heard about the story, showing the power of social media to spread bad news.

Obviously easyJet is not the only airline to suffer at the hands of social media. After BA lost his parent’s luggage, Hasan Syed invested in a campaign of promoted tweets focused on the airline’s target audience, leading to the #BASucks hashtag trending. Eventually BA customer service responded, apologising for not getting back sooner but (I kid you not) the global airline’s social media team only works 9-5. Like easyJet, BA has an ambitious new ad campaign out now, highlighting its “To Fly, To Serve” motto. No news on whether they are going to amend that to “To Serve (business hours only).”

easyJet has invested over £5m in its new ad campaign and I’m sure BA has spent a lot more. But it looks like a classic case of being distracted by shiny things. A much smaller investment in social media and staff training might not look as impressive, but in today’s world may well go a lot further.

October 16, 2013 Posted by | Creative, Marketing | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The thigh’s the limit for advertising

Advertising

In an increasingly cluttered world, reaching consumers with your ads is becoming incredibly difficult. We watch programmes on catch-up TV and fast forward the adverts, ignore online banner ads and routinely delete marketing emails unread.

So how can advertisers respond? Step forward the latest Japanese idea – using women as walking billboards. Public relations consultant Hidenori Atsumi is paying young Japanese women to put adverts on their thighs and walk round Tokyo for eight hours a day. His rationale is that it is an area that men want to look at anyway and that women are happy to expose. Even ignoring all the inherent sexism in the idea I think it is a tactic that doesn’t have a long term future, despite the column inches it is currently generating. While men won’t get bored of looking at women’s thighs, the impact will wear off – they’ll remember the medium rather than the message.

However the idea got me thinking, so here’s my top five underexploited ways of advertising and reaching the right audience

1          Heads
In a counterpoint to young women’s thighs, another body part that gets a lot of attention is the head. You could dye hair in corporate colours or sculpt it to look like a product or company logo. Beards and moustaches offer another great opportunity. Alternatively for the follicly challenged, bald heads make a great space to display your message.

2          Beer glasses
I have seen some adverts on the bottom of beer glasses, but it still seems like an underused space. Obviously you need to keep the message simple so it is understandable after a few pints, but it would be a perfect way of reaching drinkers. How about a ‘Buy Crisps’ advert to boost pub snack sales – or for the more hardened drinker ‘Buy Alka Seltzer’……

3          Plants
You can buy bean seeds that supposedly grow a leaf with a word on them, but that’s small in comparison to what could be done with careful breeding and a bit of ingenuity. Individual plants with a sponsor’s name or whole fields that display a message when viewed from above. Perfect for farmers near airports to boost their income.

4          3D Printers
3D printers are becoming cheaper and cheaper – you can now buy one for £699 in Maplin. But what if you were actually given one for free – but in return every third or fourth thing it made was an advert or replica of a product someone was trying to sell you. Essentially the Spotify model brought into the physical world. You could even hook up a webcam and social media so that it automatically tweeted a picture of the object to your social media followers.

5          Personalised billboards
We walk past billboards every day and often don’t give them a second glance. But if they addressed us by name and delivered a personalised advert that would be different. It should be relatively simple to use smartphone proximity to trigger ‘your’ ad to appear – and it could even be based on your location. A billboard between the train station and your house would advise you to buy milk on your way home or one outside a clothes shop can offer a discount on new trousers. Providing you situate them in less busy areas (Leicester Square isn’t going to work) they’d be able to deliver a personalised message to a steady stream of consumers.

Any other ideas I’ve missed? Tattooing toddlers or affixing ads to animals? Let me know in the comment section.

July 24, 2013 Posted by | Creative, Marketing | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Psychology, marketing and Twitter

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

Everyone is bombarded with marketing messages – from the moment you switch on the TV or radio in the morning to emails with the latest offers, posters by the side of the road and adverts on the internet.

The trouble is, as every marketer knows, even the most targeted consumer campaign has a lot of waste. Only 3% of unsolicited postal marketing leads to a sale and online conversion rates hover well under fractions of per cent. Not only is this expensive from a company point of view, but it also risks alienating consumers who object to being spammed with things that simply don’t interest them at that point in time.

And all of this is despite the fact that companies now hold massive amounts of data on our buying habits and can easily access our demographic profiles that we’ve provided to loyalty schemes or just posted up on the likes of Facebook.

According to researchers from IBM, the problem is that studying demographics and buying habits is a deeply flawed method. Just because you live in the same area as another 40-something bloke and earn around the same doesn’t mean you have the same interests. What is needed, according to the IBM team at the Almaden Research Centre, is to discover the deep psychological profiles of customers, including their personalities, values and needs.

There are five dimensions of personality recognised by modern psychology:

  • Extroversion
  • Agreeableness
  • Conscientiousness
  • Neuroticism
  • Openness to experience

Research has already shown that these traits link to buying behaviour. Agreeable people prefer Pepsi to Coke and if you link your product messages to excitement and adventure, it will appeal to the extroverts.

All well and good, but how can brands find out the psychological profiles of their potential customers? After all, no-one is going to go through a long personality test to give marketers the information they need to harass them.

The answer is via social media, specifically Twitter. IBM’s research has used software to analyse three months data from 90m Twitter users, matching the words people use against their values and needs. It took just 50 tweets to get a reasonable match for their personality and a very good fit from 200.

The moral of this story? As I’ve said many times, you are what you tweet. And as Sally Bercow’s court case has shown, it isn’t just words, but how they are interpreted, that define you. So be careful what you say, and if you want to put advertisers off the scent throw in a few random comments to confuse the targeting software…………..

 

June 5, 2013 Posted by | Creative, Marketing, Social Media | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Social media and the sales funnel

Due to its massive growth companies are flocking to social media. In today’s world you can’t be a self-respecting marketer without a Facebook page, Twitter handle, YouTube channel, LinkedIn profile, blog, Pinterestboard etc.

facebook

facebook (Photo credit: sitmonkeysupreme)

This is all very well – social media provide a completely new channel that lets your brand interact with consumers in a genuine conversation. However there’s not a lot of thought (or rigour) going into the social media presence of a lot of companies. Some are simply chasing follower numbers, despite the fact that these can be easily bought and others are launching campaigns (like the Waitrose Twitter hashtag project) which seem doomed to attract only ridicule.

Companies need to take a step back and work out where social media is going to help them. If you’re selling a toilet cleaner is it worth having a Facebook page – will people really think it is cool to Like a bottle of bleach? It is time for marketers to put their puppyish enthusiasm to one side and look at some basic marketing and sales concepts.

When it comes to generating sales there’s a well recognised marketing acronym called AIDA, standing for:

  • Attention/Awareness – i.e. attracting the consumer
  • Interest – piquing their interest by focusing on benefits
  • Desire – making them want what you’ve got
  • Action – getting them to take a positive step such as purchase

Essentially lots of social media marketing is focusing on the first point, but doesn’t have a strategy to move people through the rest of the process. I think marketers are getting confused by the speed and accessibility of social media to think that you can skip the middle sections and go straight to Action. In some cases consumers do work like that – a tweet with a special offer on a new film/book/CD is a straightforward transaction, but these are the exception rather than the rule and merely replicate what you are doing through other channels.

Building interest and engagement with your brand takes time – you need to create a community, listen to your consumers and deliver sustained benefits to them. A money off voucher may be good for short term sales, but isn’t building long term loyalty (and who’s to say they wouldn’t have bought your product anyway?)

So marketers need to take a step back and ask themselves an honest question. Do consumers want to have a conversation either with or about your brand? Would they talk about it positively down the pub or is it just something that they buy because the toilet needs disinfecting? It could be that you don’t need that all singing, all dancing Facebook page and you should focus on other offline channels. Less sexy (and not as exciting on your CV) but there could well be better ways of connecting with consumers and driving sales.

   

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 61 other followers