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, 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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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, Behaviour Change, Behavioural Economics, Equality, Moral Decision Making

Fighting for equality is a job for the many, not the few.

StonewallBuilder

Our new campaign for Stonewall launches this week.

Stonewall are an amazing organisation, sensational campaigners and very nice folk to boot.

They’ve been fighting tirelessly for The rights of gay, lesbian and bisexual people since their foundation in 1989.

And they’ve been extremely successful: helping achieve equalisation of the age of consent, lifting the ban on lesbians and gay men serving in the military, securing legislation allowing same sex couples to adopt and the repeal of Section 28, the clause in the Local Government Act designed to prevent the so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools. More recently they’ve championed equal partnership rights for gay people under law, recognised first with the civil partnerships bill and then, last year, with the same sex marriage legislation.

All of these hard-won battles are vitally important milestones.

But as any campaigner for racial or gender equality can confirm, there’s a big difference between securing equal rights under law and actually putting an end to prejudice and discrimination.

Sad to say, prejudice seems to be hard wired into all of us and discrimination is very hard to prevent as a consequence, even when we’re trying super hard. (If you think you have your prejudices in check and under control, go to the YourMorals.org website. Trying a few of their online tests for yourself will swiftly relieve you of your illusions.)

Unfortunately we are still very much in the foothills when it come to getting the UK to accept gay people for who they are.

Nearly a million Brits have witnessed physical homophobic bullying at work in the last five years and two and a half times that number have witnessed verbal bullying over the same period.

No wonder a quarter of all gay people still keep completely schtum about their private lives at work.

In sport it’s still practically taboo to be openly gay. That’s why people like Thomas Hitzlsperger (football) Tom Daley (diving) and Gareth Thomas (rugby) should be so roundly applauded when they have the courage to buck the trend.

And you have to ask yourself whether we have the right to be proud of the progress we’re making when we all hear children all over the country (and many others too) using the word “gay” as a pejorative catch-all term for anything a bit rubbish and we nevertheless shrug it off because we know they don’t mean any harm.

Our campaign simply pictures two individuals in the same profession next to a headline that says, “One is gay. if that bothers people, our work continues”.

It draws attention to Stonewall’s continuing mission, in the aftermath of the equal marriage landmark, to help build a society in which we can all be open and confident about who we are, and who we love.

It’s running in the press and on buses and in the tube in London.

Our campaign is an uncontroversial statement of fact, underpinned by the presumption of equality under UK law of all gay and straight people. The literal and legal equivalent of a gender rights action group picturing a male and a female executive under a headline that read, “we’ll carry on campaigning until he no longer earns 20% more than her for doing exactly the same job.”

And yet it still wasn’t easy to get our message heard.

Transport for London are currently having to defend a legal case against a Christian organisation called the Core Issues Trust. This body has been suing TfL for rejecting one of their campaigns, offering religious support to “cure” anyone who has experienced homosexual feelings but feels they may want to reduce, subdue or extinguish them. TfL had judged the campaign offensive (I know!) and successfully defended the case without difficulty, but their very well funded opponents have taken it to the Court of Appeal and that judgement is still “in the oven” at the time of writing.

So TfL were initially rather nervous about accepting a campaign from Stonewall in case anyone deemed it antagonistic. Luckily common sense prevailed.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I think that standing up for the right of people, supposedly equal in law, to be equal in actual life, is actually the responsibility of the many, rather than the few.

Through their pugnacious determination to be accepted for who they are, brave members of the gay community have campaigned and secured their legal right to be treated equally.

It’s now up to us all, gay and straight, to turn legal law into living law.

And to oppose the efforts of other groups wishing to deny gay people legitimacy.

If you agree and you feel you can help, please spread the word and add your voice.

And if you see or hear homophobic bullying, teasing or joshing in your workplace, or in the playground for that matter, try turning that blind eye into a properly civilised glare of disapproval and a few harsh words.

Thank you to Richard Hayter for creating the campaign and to Si Micheli, Rob DeCleyn, Mike Dobrin, Mark Lloyd, Mark Goodwin, Ruth Chapman and Graham Baker for making it all happen.

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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.

mediaadvertisinggrowth

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)

gamingmobilechart

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%:

em-rapid-growth-2

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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Advertising, Behavioural Economics, Marketing Strategy

Seek familiarity, not fame

Everyone who comes in through our door wants a “viral” these days.

I explain as patiently as I can that “full-service” doesn’t include that sort of thing anymore and we’ve all had our jabs in any case.

They then look a bit confused until I put them out of their misery.

“Oh!” I say, “you mean a punchy little film created for next-to-no-money that suddenly hits the webby-big-time and gets shared by countless millions of chortling geeks, all for free?”

“That’s it!” they say, brightening visibly.

I guess it’s just a function of our preoccupation with celebrity and the parallel attraction of something for nothing.

But there’s usually a problem.

Scan the list of most shared videos online and count how many have commercial/branded origins?

Now take that list and count how many have succeeded in a way that is consistent with their brand idea and character and doesn’t contain a moonwalking Shetland pony.

(Although that was quite a good one.)

There are some, but we’re entering Lotto-style percentage territory.

What you can’t check is the same picture looked at the other way round.

How many truly appalling, cringe-worthy attempts have been made to leap this particular existential chasm, and how many mangled examples of ill-conceived, out of character nonsense now languish at the bottom of the trench, their abject failure indelibly tattooed on them for all to see: “143 views”.

More extraordinary still are those organisations that seem to think that they can swap their successful strategy of carefully deploying professionally crafted integrated marketing communications assets for an approach where you essentially stick everything on red and hope you hit the jackpot.

My point goes further, though, than showing how slim your chances of digital glory are.

Because even when it works, it doesn’t do you as much good as you might imagine. Successful brand marketing is about achieving everyday familiarity not about getting famous.

If the difference between these two things seems mostly semantic to you, consider the following:

Branded products are trusted over non-branded products. This is a fact. Branded products are more considered by potential customers than non-branded products. They also command higher price points and (usually) margins too. These things are also facts.

But why is this?

Marketing people, who seek constantly to impose rational order on the behavioural chaos that surrounds them, will usually argue that it’s because they have come to stand for something on which the customer can rely.

This is true. But it’s not as true as they imagine.

Research we conducted into a very undifferentiated, apparently price-driven market threw up some rather astonishing results.

Before I explain these results I need to emphasise a crucial difference between two commonly used marketing research measures: spontaneous brand awareness and prompted brand awareness.

Spontaneous brand awareness is measured by asking a question like:

“You’re thirsty and fancy a (non-alcoholic) drink. Which brands come to mind most easily?”

Prompted brand awareness is measured by asking a question like:

“Have you heard of Coca-cola?”

(Sorry if you already know this.)

We discovered that brand consideration was almost perfectly correlated with spontaneous brand awareness.

The correlation between brand trust and spontaneous brand awareness was also extremely high, in excess of 0.8.

Familiarity

We were a bit shocked. But we shouldn’t have been.

Actually the recent research into behavioural science confirms the power of familiarity. It seems our brains are hard wired to prefer the things they recognise and to fear unfamiliar things, people and concepts.

If you want a really shocking demonstration of how these effects influence all our judgements and prejudices, visit yourmorals.org and take a few of their online tests.

When you get into the science itself, it’s all part of the way in which our brain conserves energy, using data from previous experiences rather than recalculating anew each time.

We make choices that have worked for us in the past. When we have no experience, we search for instances of other people (as like us as possible) having positive experiences and we use that as a proxy.

“500 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong”, we say to ourselves and the job is done.

Another effect (called the “availability heuristic” in Behavioural Economic Science) means that we also tend to overestimate the prevalence of things we are familiar with and/or have experienced recently.

“Is this phenomenon widespread?” we ask ourselves. Off scurries the brain, searching for examples. If it can find two or three examples easily, it concludes the phenomenon is indeed widespread. If no examples come to mind, it concludes the opposite.

Here’s the next thing.

There is practically no correlation between prompted brand awareness and either brand consideration or brand trust.

So being famous (‘have you heard of) doesn’t get you trusted or considered. But being familiar (‘which brands can you think of now’) does.

I’ve used data from an undifferentiated market (where products are considered quite similar to each other) because that’s where this effect is most marked.

The more differentiated your product is within your particular category, the less important everyday familiarity will be, relative to other brand dimensions. But don’t underestimate its power, even in these instances.

Until you are talking about real fashion brands and high-end luxury purchases, familiarity remains the single strongest driver of both consideration and trust.

Despite this, an amazing number of marketing people insist on using prompted brand awareness as their key measure of success even though they can link it to no commercial effect.

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Advertising, Behavioural Economics, Persuasion

I’d rather have the courage of your convictions

Years ago I ran the global advertising account for a huge multinational company.

It was my first experience of ‘stakeholder engagement’ on a global and massive scale.

The company prided itself on being a ‘consensus culture’.

So two dozen plus people had to sign-off on the global corporate ad campaign.

Since these were senior executives who thought their daily dollar unearned unless they had ‘added value’ to the things on which they were consulted, this was something of a challenge.

But I found a neat way round the problem.

It turned out that these senior people had one concern greater than the need to add their own twopenny-worth to the process.

They were extremely concerned to know how their peers were voting.

Having read “The Righteous Mind” by the wonderful Jonathan Haidt, I know why this is.

Actually we rely more than we would care to admit on the opinions of others, rather than our own judgement.

We use our peer group – the people whose approval enhances our status and self-image and whose censure has the opposite effect – as a sounding board for our own sentiments. More often than not we’ll change our mind to ensure our views fit the consensus, whilst all the time persuading ourselves that we are masters of our own mind and others merely agree with our common-sense view of our surroundings.

Which made my task considerably easier.

“Nigel, I’d love your view on these new commercials we’re proposing”, I’d begin, “I showed them to Colin in Kuala Lumpur last week and he said they were a breakthrough for a company like ours”.

“Yes, It’s about time we stood up for what we believe”, Nigel would agree.

The following week I would talk to Simon,

“Nigel says it’s time we stood up for what we believe”, I said.

“Quite right,” says Simon, “And the way you’ve used our people in the commercial lends it great credibility”

“Simon says using your people in the commercial lends it great credibility”, I’d tell the next guy.

Eventually, I would actually go and see Colin in Kuala Lumpur, with everyone’s feedback in my bag (and with a bit of a lump in my throat).

Every time, after hearing the opinions of his peers, Colin would say – entirely of his own volition,

“This kind of thing is a breakthrough for a company like ours”.

I know you’ll think me underhand and deceptive. But these individuals – 90% of whom knew next to nothing about creating commercials – were genuinely delighted with the decisions they had taken.

And because skilful and talented creative people had crafted the ads in good faith to a brief written by a planner who cared about the company’s commercial success, everything ended extremely happily ever after.

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