Behaviour Change, Behavioural Economics, Customer Service, Marketing Strategy, Predatory Thinking

A famous insight mis-Queue

queueIf ever there was a good example of an insight misfire, it’s this one:

It pertains to a popular tourist destination in London.

This visitor attraction is extremely famous. And it’s also extremely famous for the extremely long queue of tourists who are always standing outside it.

Story goes that incoming head of marketing conducted some research to ‘map the customer journey’ – good stuff.

The research told him that everyone loved the experience, but hated the queue. It was the worst queue ever.

Customer is king – so the queue had to go.

In came a snazzy new timeslot booking arrangement and – hey presto – no more queue.

Then visitor numbers began to fall.

Oops.

Turns out one vital piece of data had been ignored:

Namely, that the huge majority of tourist visitors tended to visit the attraction only once.

It didn’t matter how much they hated the queue.

Because the attraction already had their money.

Far more importantly, the queue was a compelling physical manifestation of the popularity of the product, keeping the attraction front of mind to Londoners (who drive past the queue regularly) as well as Tourists.

So they fired the new booking system and the extremely long queue returned

And so did the visitors.

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Advertising, Behaviour Change, Behavioural Economics, Marketing Strategy, Persuasion, Predatory Thinking, Social Decision Making

Sperm-bank promotion strategy. It’s a toss-up.

Today the news that the UK’s National Sperm Bank, set up a year ago, has only nine donors so far, and is about to unveil a promotional campaign to ramp-up the volume of in-flows.

I can’t wait.

On the surface, it seems a straightforward problem to solve. But read on…

Turns out the sperm bank needs ‘super-sperm’ not just ordinary, run-of-the-mill, 33-Acacia-Avenue sperm. This is because it needs to survive the constant freezing and unfreezing process inherent in the final customer service procedure (giving infertility sufferers the chance of a child).

Out of 100 potential donor applicants, only ten survive the screening process and only 1 of those 10 will actually become a donor.

The lucky participant must attend the clinic twice a week for four months and, in exchange for £70 a session, abstain from ejaculating for two days before each visit, which essentially ensures an entirely monogamous relationship with the clinic, for the duration of the programme.

And that’s before you get to the customer selection process. People in the market for sperm tend to be quite choosy, apparently. They want donors of 6’ or more, for instance, which rules out 90% of potential UK donors straight away. And they all want doctors or barristers – most of whom are too busy, too rich, or both, to sign up.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that most donated sperm in the UK currently comes from Denmark and USA.

The forthcoming advertising campaign will ape a successful precedent in Denmark, in which men are challenged to prove their manliness by demonstrating the ‘vigour’ of their ‘guys’. A follow-up planned for Christmas is going to ask men to consider giving “an alternative Christmas gift”.

I’ll be delighted if either of these approaches works. But I wonder if they’ve learned as fully as they might, the lessons behavioural economics might teach.

In one sense it’s a bit like the Royal Marines campaign, which broadcasts the fact that 99% need not apply. “We’re only for the hardest nuts,” they say.

But the sperm-bank version would have to be – surely – “Have you got the ballsiest, bounciest swimmers in the business? (And are you also over 6’, handsome, intelligent, well adjusted and gainfully employed in a respected professional occupation). If so come and subject yourself to our test and win yourself the prize of wanking into a test-tube for four months in exchange for not much money and the eternal admiration of all your friends – who you’ll definitely tell straight away”.

Better surely to normalise the act of one-off donation, along the lines of blood donorship (where they don’t tell you – and please don’t ask – how many already donated blood samples need to be excluded from the transfusion bank).

That way the largest possible number of men could begin to imagine it was normal, your duty even, to donate, without becoming alarmed as to the potential consequences or commitment.

Once you’ve got your contingent of suitable donors in through the door, you could then explain what they’ve got themselves, and their “guys”, into.

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Customer Service

Aviva wins on customer service

I was on the ‘phone to Aviva earlier.

Talking to their Life Insurance team about a policy.

They were very helpful.

“Is there anything else they could help me with?” they ask.

Well, as it happens, yes.

I’ve been trying to renew my Home insurance for a couple of days now, can I do that too.

“Well it’s a different team,” they say, “Can we give you the number?”.

“No. That’s alright,” I reply, “I have the number. It’s just that each time I call there’s a horrendous queue and I get diverted and have to hang up to take care of something else”.

“Oh, ok,” they say, “we’ll email them and get them to call you“.

AND THEY DID!

Only if you have worked with, or worked for, Aviva, will you understand how truly remarkable this is.

I have done both.

Five years ago, this kind of inter-business co-operation – something that seems simple common-sense to customers – could never have happened.

The systems, procedures and protocols simply wouldn’t allow it.

I know lots of the people who have been battling to put customer service at the heart of Aviva’s commercial strategy.

Fighting off the number crunchers who see it as a cost, rather than a driver of commercial value.

And slowly and painfully making the argument that joined-up business is the only way to even have a chance of driving customer loyalty (and value).

And this tiny, apparently insignificant event is, I believe, important evidence that their efforts are beginning to work.

Because not only did they communicate beyond question that they realised I’m the kind of person who disproportionately values their own time.

But they also got across the message that they were each proud, empowered individuals with the capability of making exceptions and working the system for their customer.

I need hardly tell you that I renewed straightaway.

And I’ve spent some of the minutes I would have spent listening to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, writing this blog of praise to my former colleagues and their persistence.

By the way… I still can’t see my Life Policy on the online portal.

But I’m prepared to believe they have the power to fix that too!

 

 

 

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Misc

The eyes have it. A story of guardian angels.

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I started believing in guardian angels aged eighteen.

I was staying with a tea planter and his wife in Western Kenya, near Lake Victoria.

Some American friends of theirs had come to visit, fresh from a trip to the Meru Game Reserve and they began to regale us with their close encounter with some lion cubs.

My host and hostess expressed interest, eyebrows raised, and – as the story unfolded – the couple explained how they had come across 3 cubs playing by a carcass.

Entranced, they and their children had disembarked from their vehicle and approached the cubs.

By this point in the tale, even my naive, teenage eyebrows were now riding high.

They had tickled them and patted them and rubbed their tummies.

My host finally lost his self-control and let out a croak of incredulous horror, which our guests mistook for disbelief.

They reached for her newly developed photographs, freshly arrived from Kisumu.

Sure enough, there they were with their small children, beaming and petting lion cubs in the bush.

But behind them in the photographs, amongst the scrub, were clearly visible the large, watchful eyes of the lioness mother.

When this was pointed out, our visitors did go a little pale and a silence descended for a few moments.

To be clear, the photo attached to this story is internet-sourced, for illustrative purposes only  (the originals all returned with their owners to Milwaukee).

But it gives you a pretty good impression of the impression it left on me.

 

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Advertising, Marketing Strategy, Predatory Thinking

Predatory Thinking, the Harry Houdini way

Harry Houdini was as great a marketer and brand manager as he was a magician and escapologist.

And he was a fabulous Predatory Thinker.

At the turn of the century, when Houdini was making his name, the world was awash with conjurors and illusionists of every different persuasion.

Houdini learned early on that of all his repertoire of tricks, his escapes were the ones that excited his audiences, because of the tension of the challenge and increasingly – as his audacity grew – the danger.

So he concentrated on them, and built himself a distinctive position supported by strongly branded and distinctive imagery.

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Everything he did subsequently challenged his competitors and his public to test his claim to be “The world’s handcuff king and prison breaker”.

When he came to London for the first time, he was unable to convince Dundas Slater, the manager of the Alhambra theatre until he came up with the idea of escaping from police issue standard handcuffs, in Scotland Yard, as a test of his skill. Having secured him to a pillar, the policemen and the theatre manager said they’d leave him to it for a couple of hours, and prepared to leave.

“I’ll come with you,” said Houdini, as the cuffs dropped from his wrists, earning himself a six-month booking.

As he became better known he accepted more and more difficult challenges – and the world’s lock and safe-makers began to build him into their own marketing plans, as in this example from Newport shows.

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And all the time he was simplifying his escape techniques whilst simultaneously making them look more and more difficult.

He would never attempt his famous “milk-can escape” without enlisting two people to stand by with axes to prevent him from drowning, should he fail – even though he wasn’t in the slightest danger at any point.

And when people began to copy his signature straightjacket escape, he started performing it in public spaces, suspended upside from a crane, 30 feet above the audience.

Not only did it create a huge spectacle. It also made it easier for Houdini to muscle his arms up above his head, the essential first move in the escape.

Here’s a clip of him doing it in Boston.

 

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Advertising, Behaviour Change, Marketing Strategy, Predatory Thinking

Predatory Thinking in Five Simple Steps

Every ad agency has a gimmick. At the Gate, ours is “Predatory Thinking”.

Originally the brainchild of the great Murray Chick, it has developed into something of a way of life for our Chairman, Dave Trott, over the last few years.

He’s even written a rather good book about it, a masterclass in out-thinking the competition: http://goo.gl/7PXDVQ.

Unfortunately, like many a good messiah, Dave tends to talk in parables.

It makes him an enormously compelling speaker, and everything makes tremendous sense whilst he’s actually talking.

But afterwards, it can lead to some head-scratching amongst the ordinary mortals, when it comes to applying the teaching to their day-to-day lives.

So we’ve boiled it all down to five key principles, to help our people and our clients ask themselves the right questions and get to quicker answers.

I hope you like them, Dave does.

More importantly, I hope you find them useful in out-thinking your competitors.

And if you ever need a helping hand…

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Predatory Thinking

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Predatory Thinking5

 

 

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Broadcasting, Comedy

Never work with children or animals… or Apps.

Do you listen to Farming Today on Radio 4?

No?

It’s on at 5.45 a.m.

They produced an absolute belter this morning, a moment of unintended comedy gold.

The show is fronted by a female trio, who take it in turns to present, produce and report on the various topics they cover.

Despite their obvious sector expertise, all three have delightfully RP BBC voices, that contrast spectacularly with the accents of their rural interviewees, which span the divide from mildly agricultural to positively wurzel-y.

Today Charlotte (sic) Smith was presenting a feature on a new “App.” designed to teach pig handling to apprentice farmers.

The producers had obviously had a lot of fun in the studio with the app. and played us a clip on the segment intro. in which its electronic voice explains, rather pompously, “You will often see piglets carried by their hind legs… but this is not considered ‘best practice’.

The programme then cuts to Charlotte on a farm, armed with her App. as she clambers gingerly into the farrowing pen to test out its advice.

She picks up one of the piglets in the manner recommended by the App (round the tummy) and is rewarded with only a very mild squeal of outrage from the indignant porker.

“Ooh, I’ve never picked up a piglet before,” she exclaims proudly.

But the unforgiving App. has already moved onto lesson 2.

“Check its anus,” it commands loudly and robotically.

You could feel the producer jumping for the fader, but it was too late.

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