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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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

Predatory Thinking3

Predatory Thinking4

Predatory Thinking5

 

 

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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, 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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Advertising, Marketing Strategy

The mad-men are gone. But Advertising is still the Daddy.

I’ve been invited to participate in a panel discussion at the Financial Services Forum next week: 5 speakers, each defending a different piece of the “integrated marketing mix”.

The premise is that we’ll all argue about which marketing “discipline” deserves the biggest share of your marketing budget and have a right old ding-dong.

I bet you can hardly wait?

Someone’s doing PR, someone else is doing Digital & Direct, someone’s doing Sponsorship etc.

I’ve got poor old, dusty old Advertising.

Of course, I’ll be arguing that all the disciplines in the marketing mix are important.

Of course, I’ll agree that all disciplines always work better when they work together.

I’ll be conceding that using new techniques to create deeper engagement and interaction can hugely increase effectiveness

(always assuming, of course, you have high quality people with enough bandwidth prepared to hold up your side of the debate)

But I’ll also argue that a strong central idea, compellingly expressed to enough people for an apparent consensus to form is still THE prerequisite of any successful integrated marketing communications intervention.

And for this, Advertising remains the Daddy.

It’s still the best place to set out your stall because the content remains under your control, unlike many of the other elements of the marketing mix.

And rumours of its demise have been greatly exaggerated, with a compound annual growth rate in global spending on advertising of almost 5% predicted between 2011-2016.

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The European picture over the next three years shows all advertising media growing except Newspapers and Magazines (down 7% and 8% respectively). TV advertising remains the largest single medium and is predicted to grow at just under 2%. And, of course, spend on digital advertising, fuelled by mobile, is racing away, with almost 30% growth. It’ll be almost as big as TV by 2015.

EuropeanSpendingForecasts

Tracking advertising revenue vs. the time people spend watching/using, gives a useful way of predicting where the growth/decline in ad spend is likely to be. The figures below are from the US, but the European picture is extremely similar.

adspendingvsmediaconsumptionIt shows a rapid decline in the amount of print media being consumed and a corresponding rise in Internet and Mobile usage.

But, if you look at the data, this merely reflects a switch in the way print media is ‘consumed’ as people begin to read publications through tablets and mobile apps. It’s very far from a death knell on print advertising.

TV viewing and ad revenue remain firm (and huge).

And Tablet and Mobile usage within the home appears to be more additive than substitutive, with 85% of users claiming to use their device whilst watching TV:

simultaneous-mobile-tv-usage

The figures also disguises, in my view, a significant increase in the influence of Advertising, because of the rise in video sharing on the internet and, increasingly, through mobile.

The convergence of technology now allows static ads to move, broadcast techniques to be targeted and two-way communication to become a part of previously one-way channels.  An increase in effectiveness Vs. other disciplines is surely not TOO much to expect?

Internet soothsayers predict that audio will be the next sharing revolution.

So, if you have any sense, now’s a good time to get your creatives to remind themselves how effective radio advertising is constructed.

(I’m particularly delighted about this, since I’ve been predicting the comeback of the “jingle” since the turn of the millennium.)

Before we leave this, there’s one other area of significant advertising growth that usually gets left out of most pieces of analysis.

Gaming completely dominates tablet and smartphone usage once time spent is taken into account as well as reach:

(Ask anyone with a young child in the house, how much they get to use their own device)

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Ad spend within the gaming market will have grown by a factor of 10x between 2010-2015 ($87M to $894M).

Looked at within the US numbers, ad-supported gaming revenue is showing a CAGR of almost 40%:

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And again, this media usage and consumption of advertising appears for the moment to be largely additive, not substitutive.

I hope that this barrage of data from different respected sources has done something to persuade you that advertising has a brighter future than many would have you believe.

But I’m not expecting my City-based audience to equate commercial success and growth potential with effectiveness – despite them using this very same argument when hawking their own wares.

My reasons for believing that advertising still remains the primus inter pares amongst marketing disciplines is based on something a bit different:

Its proven effectiveness in generating consideration and trust through sheer familiarity.

This is not a speculative hypothesis. It is a fact.

Our brains are hard-wired to prefer familiar things and to suspect unfamiliar things

(See previous posts or just Google ‘Availability Heuristic’)

A brand that is well-known, that is apparently dynamic and that seems to be ‘up to stuff’ is always a comforting choice.

That’s why even bad ads work quite well.

Consider the completely nauseating Patek Philippe campaign running at the moment:

Pic of coiffed, preppy millionaire with equally repellant mini-me son-and-heir, with the line, “You never really own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation”.

Even whilst making you want to spew, it has worked its magic on you.

You don’t see the ad and think, “ooh, that’s an excellent reason to buy an obscenely expensive watch. Watches of Switzerland, here I come”.

But you have clocked (sorry!) that PP makes gorgeous, crafted timepieces (they do, in fact!) that appear to be desired by super rich over-achievers, world-wide.

And your brain has probably subconsciously salted away the “I’m not buying it for me” excuse that said over-achiever can use for treating him or herself.

Most importantly, because you’ve probably seen the ads quite a bit – as I have, you have had the idea of PP as a desirable status symbol ‘normalised’ because you recognise that others will have seen the same thing and reacted in more or less the same way. If Patek weren’t successful at selling beautiful watches to rich people they wouldn’t be able to afford their premium position advertising, after all.

Only a fool would invest in advertising that didn’t work, right?

And that’s the way lots of ads work… Car ads, ads for investment funds, and ads for hundreds of other things that are essentially just the same as each other.

(Try and explain to me, if you can, the real qualitative difference between a Patek Philippe, an IWC and an Omega).

Advertising sells branded analgesics like Nurofen, that are (by law) chemically identical in formulation to own brand versions but retail for three times the price. Customers prefer the branded versions and will swear they are more effective. Even though they can’t possibly be.

And all through familiarity.

Of course you can create familiarity and get well known without using advertising. Here’s 3 ways for starters:

1) Be so distinctive, appealing and successful that journalists will write constantly about you

2) Hone your customer proposition and service delivery to the point where your customers will always publicly evangelise about you in the digital ether, and never complain.

3) Develop a CRM programme so sophisticated that you hit the precisely the right people at precisely the right time with precisely the offers they want.

Let me know how you get on.

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