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.

LionessHiding

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…

Predatory Thinking2

Predatory Thinking

Predatory Thinking3

Predatory Thinking4

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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Advertising, Marketing Strategy

Are you being a good parent to your brand?

I’m continually perplexed by some brand owners’ attitudes to their assets.

They starve them of support. They teach them no new tricks. They give them nothing to say. And they still expect them to deliver.

They seem to think they can survive on air.

The same people who will agonise about whether to spend thousands of pounds privately educating their children (or spend even more thousands of pounds moving to a house within the catchment area of a good ‘free’ school) seem to feel clever if they can squeeze performance out of their brands, without preparing them for the competitive environment in which they have to live.

It’s a bit like sending your kids to school with no breakfast and no books, and giving yourself a pat on the back.

Tomorrow you could see if they succeed in getting to school with no shoes?

I’ve noticed that successful people with bright kids don’t say, “Oh well, little Ruby’s so clever, we don’t need to bother educating her”.

“I know! Let’s see if she can still win the junior poetry prize, after not eating for a week?”

Instead they teach her to swim and play chess. They drive her to ballet classes and buy her a pony. All so she can out-compete the other overachieving super-kids she’s up against.

Even the strongest need food to remain strong. Even the most innovative need to move forward to stay relevant. Even the luckiest need an edge to make sure they stay in front.

So if you’re in the brand business, why not ask yourself if you’re doing as much for your brand, as your brand is doing for you?

Are you treating it like your future and giving it every chance to succeed in a world that’s getting more and more competitive? Are you helping it talk about relevant things and dress in a way that doesn’t get it poked and laughed at?

Or are you starving it and beating it and expecting it to work harder and harder, in the same crushed velveteen flares that you bought it in the 1970s?

 

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Advertising, Behaviour Change, Equality, Moral Decision Making, Persuasion, Social Decision Making

Can we all agree to agree? Just sometimes?

I listened to Peter Hitchens’ piece on Stigma yesterday evening on the wireless. You’ll be able to get the full blast on iPlayer for the next few days.

He was arguing that, whilst we often pretend that our society has moved beyond stigma as a controlling force, it is actually alive and well – in a new and disturbing form.

Stimga itself, he suggested, has become stigmatised.

Postulating critical or even questioning views on the situations and lifestyle choices of others is now beyond the pale.

Try and share any kind of non-majority opinion about the way someone else lives, and prepare to be hounded by the Twitterati and Arsebookers with their digital pitchforks and burning e-torches.

It made me wonder about the film we’ve just done for Stonewall, the LGB charity (www.NoBystanders.org.uk).

It launched last Friday at the Stonewall 25th anniversary dinner – and has subsequently been shared (a lot) online.

Übertweeters Caitlin Moran, Stephen Fry, Danii Minogue, Clare Balding, Dame Penelope Keith and countless millions of others have supported, much to our – and Stonewall’s – delight. The elusive Zeitgeist seems to be with us, for a change.

The idea behind it, on the eve of the first actual gay marriages, was to make two points:

Firstly, even in our apparently permissive society, gay people are still routinely teased, bullied and discriminated against in schools, in workplaces and in public areas, up and down the country.

Secondly, the roots of homophobic bullying are similar to bullying levelled against any kind of separately identifiable group (Jews, Blacks, Honkeys, Fatsos, Gingernuts, Spakkas etc.).

We’ve been talking to  Stonewall about beginning to move beyond the core constituency of gay people they represent, and the liberal intellectuals who support their objectives through an innate sense of socially progressive conviction.

With the big legislative battles more or less won, theoretical equality is sorted.

Now they need to find a way to engage with more socially conservative audiences, who probably still represent an overwhelming majority in the UK, even if they have been cowed into the state of seething, non-PC silence that P. Hitchens outlines.

In this case, it seemed we might be able to forge a bond of togetherness by talking about humans in general, rather than humans in particular: How we tend to define ourselves and our groups not by who we are, but by who we’re not.

My enemy’s enemy is my friend – as the old maxim goes.

Our little film begins in the playground, a place where even the most confident have felt the odd-pang of vulnerability as they suddenly find themselves on the outside of the group, rather than the in. For some, it’s the start of a life-time of alienation and abuse.

It attempts to recognise that gay people are not the only individuals who are marginalised because of things about which they can do little or nothing.

So are we just bullying people ourselves?

Foisting our liberal values on the poor traditionalists who cling to their view of the world as it was bequeathed to them by their forefathers?

Certainly one man seems to think so.

A brave lone voice in the relentless digital agreement-fest stands out. Here’s one of his (many) contributions:

RussellTweet

I truly believe no one at Stonewall wants to force their “perverted” way of life onto this dude. Nor do I.

Really.

We were only trying to see if non-gay people were as against bullying as gay people are. And whether we could forge a huge “alliance of the different” to challenge some of the worst excesses of human nature, that we all share.

Surely there are some things on which we can all agree to agree?

It makes me regret we didn’t include “Bigot” as one of the insults.

And to try and get Mr. Russell to realise he’s just like the rest of us – and welcome him to join us.

On the inside of the tent, pissing outwards.

http://youtu.be/agLrVvCUkzI

 

 

 

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Advertising, Marketing Strategy

The Obi-wan that got away…

WA5HHaving worked in marketing and advertising for more that (ahem!) twenty years, it’s rather extraordinary that I only have one real regret.

And it was from the early days, working on Persil at J. Walter Thompson in 1996.

They were after a “new news” vehicle.

This is ad-speak for a campaign structure in which all sorts of splendid new features and formulations can be showcased to increase the perceived dynamism and efficacy of the brand.

Matthew Lloyd and Giles Etherington came up with a really delightful idea in which C3PO, of Star Wars fame, had a new sidekick:

A washing machine.

He was called WA5H (of course).

In the campaign C3PO was his usual panicky, disgruntled self, but constantly beset with washing and laundry problems.

WA5H had a irresponsible, mischievous character – rather like R2D2. But, also – of course – had the appropriate Persil-based solution to all his companion’s detergent dilemmas.

It was a classic “Brand Novice + Brand Expert” construction.

Lever Brothers loved it.

Tom Darby and Lucy Figgis got in touch with LucasFilm, the owners of the rights to all the Star Wars characters.

And Lucas offered us UK advertising rights to C3P0 for £100,000.

(If this seems a lot of money to you, let me put it in context by telling you that shortly afterwards Lever  paid £30K to use “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” tune on another ad, and BT spent ten times as much for the rights to use E.T. in their campaign.)

It was going so well…

Until the consumer research…

Oh dear!

We tested seven or eight animatics (proto-ads)  in focus groups around the country with 35-50 year old Mums (Persil’s so called “heavy users”).

They got all the product messages. They enjoyed the ads and they laughed at the jokes. And they loved the WA5H character.

But then they told us Star Wars seemed a bit old-fashioned and wondered whether we should be using something a bit more up to date.

So Levers shelved the idea. “New News” campaigns have to be “new”, right?

This is despite the fact that “Episode One – The Phantom Menace” the new Star Wars film was already in production and everyone knew that two sequels had already been written.

We were gutted.

And I still am.

So by all means test your campaigns with customers, use research to gauge their reactions to the things you’re proposing.

But for God’s sake don’t ask them for their advice.

Or take it when it’s offered.

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