Monday 9 December 2013

Buyhaviour 4: Conjunction Fallacy

You're working on a beer brand. Consider the following description and then decide who's more likely to be your market.

The beer is a larger. At a whopping 5.4% it's heavy. It's dark and hoppy and has a very strong taste. It's good to drink after a hard day's yakka and it's the perfect beer to drink with mates. Plus, it washes down a pie and chips at the footy beautifully. 

Who's more likely to be your market?

1. People who drink larger.
2. People who drink larger and are tradeys. 

The answer's obvious, right? It's 1. 

Why? Because the probability of two events occurring in conjunction (In this case people that drink larger AND are tradesmen) can never be greater than one occurring alone. 

90% of people who were asked a similar question in Kahneman and Tversky's original study (1983), about a female activist with a rebellious background named Linda, and her propensity to be a bank teller or a bank teller AND active in the feminist movement, chose option 2.

This is the conjunction fallacy. 
Stephen J. Gould, a prominent Harvard science professor, when asked about the original study said this: 

"I am particularly fond of this example because I know that the [conjoint] statement is least probable, yet a little homunculus in my head continues to jump up and down, shouting at me—“but she can’t just be a bank teller; read the description.” 

The same as your market can't just be larger drinkers, read the description!

To quote Admiral Ackbar "It's a trap!". It feels so right, our whole body screams it's right, but the reality is: it's irrational. Every conjunction means that you're putting conditions on people to be a customer of your brand. 

Essentially saying you have to be a category buyer AND something else - with each AND reducing the number of potential customers. (Think of how many ANDS are in those Bullseye targets you see in some briefs)

To grow your brand you want to reach as many people as possible, get them to notice you and then have them remember you in a buying situation. 

If you sell a larger beer, then everybody who drinks larger beer has the potential to be your customer. So you should be trying to reach as many of them as possible, not just the tradesman. 

Adding conjunctions lessens your reach. And, therefore, is not recommended if you want to grow your brand. 

The force of the conjunction fallacy is strong. Every day, creatives, suits and planners irrationally take this cognitive shortcut and continue to praise the notion of positioning. 

Being aware that you're falling for it is the first step in stopping doing so. And stop it you must if you want to grow a brand. 

Plus, it's only putting unnecessary constraints on creatives and hamstringing us from thinking up truly game-changing ideas. And for what? To lessen reach? It's counter-intuitive, and it's high time you spring the conjunction fallacy trap. 

Discover more Buyhaviour:

Buyhaviour Series: An Introduction 
Buyhaviour 1: Availability Bias 
Buyhaviour 2: Status Quo Bias 
Buyhaviour 3: Confirmation Bias 
Buyhaviour 4: Conjunction Fallacy 
Buyhaviour 5: The Spotlight Effect
Buyhaviour 6: The Matthew Effect  
Buyhaviour 7: Fight or Flight Heuristic
Buyhaviour 8: Imposter Phenomenon 
Buyhaviour 9: Red Queen Hypothesis 

Tversky, A. and Kahneman, D. (October 1983). "Extension versus intuitive reasoning: The conjunction fallacy in probability judgment". Psychological Review 90 (4): 293–315.

Christopher Ott

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Why creatives make lousy strategists

Creatives make lousy strategists. Thank God! Just imagine what it'd be like if the creative process was used to develop strategy. All guesswork and chaos. Sadly, you don’t have to strain your brain too hard to picture this scene; it’s happening everyday in every agency.

Not by creatives posing as strategists (Although that does happen, think Kevin Roberts). Rather, with strategists using a creative technique and peddling it as strategy.  

I'm talking about differentiation. 

A creative's job is simple. We think up big ideas to get a brand noticed and remembered. We do this by differentiating the creative from what’s been done before.

We differentiate the creative so it stands out in the noisy, cluttered marketplace and makes it easy for the brand to be noticed, and then remembered in a buying situation. 

Plus, it's what creatives like to do - create different, original stuff. 

In the 1940's a copy writer named Rosser Reeves (Of who Don Draper is modelled) came along and repackaged this creative technique, coined the term 'unique selling proposition', and sold it to clients as strategy. 

But what’s good for the goose, in this case, is not good for the gander.

Because, when you differentiate an entire brand -  when you give creatives USPs and asinine bulls-eye target demographics named Dave – all you are essentially doing is limiting how many people you reach.

You are selecting to ostracise category buyers who purchase the brand you are trying to be different from, which myopically limits the amount of your potential buyers. (Because people only buy brands they know and remember exist.) 

Even a creative gets that unnecessarily limiting your amount of buyers is counterproductive to success. And choosing to do so is simply sheer lunacy. 

Differentiation has had its day. Reach now reigns. Creatives have been making advertising that’s different, to get noticed, since time immemorial, and will continue to do so. But that’s where differentiation must end. 

Why? Because there’s only one sure-fire strategy to grow a brand, and that’s to increase market share. And to increase market share you need to increase buyers. And to increase buyers you need to reach more people, not less.  

By Christopher Ott

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Amateur hour with Pepsi (Again)

Take a look at this advert. Can you spot what's wrong with it?

Nothing if it was a Coke ad, but unfortunately Pepsi has spent its advertising dollars to increase the exposure of its fiercest rival, again. 

Things have to be seen to be remembered. So, if advertising is about memory building, then using your marketing budget to put your competition's brand in front of your category's eye-balls is simply ridiculous. 

If anything, this advert only serves to prove the strength of Coke's branding, because, if you notice, it doesn't even spell Coca-Cola correctly. It doesn't need to. 

Pepsi has perennially ignored the development of their distinctive assets, proving they have a destructive disregard for memory building. Coke, as you can see, has done the opposite. 

This Pepsi vs. Coke battle is a clash of advertising philosophies. Differentiation vs distinction. Persuasion vs. memory building. Philip Kotler vs. Byron Sharp. 

If you aren't sold on which direction you should take your brand's communications, simply look at the Coke Pepsi battleground. 

Pepsi has demonstrated its ignorance before. Look at their Christmas advert from a few years ago. 

What are they hoping to achieve by making ads that showcase their competition?

Pepsi are second for a reason (Actually, they aren't even second anymore - Diet Coke has overtaken them). 

They have basically provided you with a 'how-not-to guide'. By ignoring its own distinctiveness and spending its own money to increase the reach of their competition's brand, they see themselves losing market share year after year after year. 

Coke has won the battle of the soft drink category. This is in part thanks to Pepsi making the same foolish mistakes over and over. Albert Einstein is quoted as saying "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." 

Windows made the same mistake in their latest Windows Nokia Lumia ad, discussed here:
Rookie mistake Windows, rookieAs did Sodastream in its Superbowl commercial, discussed here: Bogus Bogusky and the Sodastream scheme.

These aren't corner chip shops we're talking about. This frivolous mistake is being made by the biggest brands in the world. So, tell me, when is this insanity going to stop?

By Christopher Ott

Tuesday 22 October 2013

An orgy of advertising shitness

It's bad enough we already tolerate the Coles adverts on television. Now, it's much worse. Now, these awful ads have manifested as expandable banners. Expandable ef-fing banners.

The only reason the Coles ads have appeared to be so effective is not because the ads are any good, but because Coles enjoys tremendous physical availability.

In other words; There's a Coles around every corner. And because you're time-poor, or maybe just lazy, you simply go to your closest supermarket - independent of (bad) advertising.

As for expandable banners, they are the most diabolical form of advertising ever to be thrust in front of your audience's unsuspecting eyeballs.

They are the equivalent of turning billboards into roadblocks. 

Plus, I can find Wally faster than the close button on these things. They treacherously disguise the button to make you dwell on the ad.

It's like forcing you to go to a bad party, locking you in and hiding the keys. 

So, when you combine a bad advertisement with a bad channel you get very unlikeable  and consequently ineffective advertising (See exhibit A above).

It's as though Coles uses an algorithm to create their advertising. Their ads are soullessly textbook. They do everything right, except being human: 

Memorable - tick. Ownable - tick. Likeable - fail.

So it should come as no surprise Coles would elect to use the most annoying medium ever conceived - the expandable banner (Because I'm sure statistically they're great).

This isn't sustainable. Sure, audiences will remember their ads, and sure they'll remember that it's Coles doing the advertising. But when they get fed up with being forced to watch unlikeable content, it will impact their buying decision and eventually they will go to Woolworths.

If an ad is not likeable; you have nothing, so never, never, never use expandable banners.

Rant over.

For the non-Australian readers, here's the said TV adverts:

By Christopher Ott

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Make the logo BOOBER

Here's another illustration of how valuable (and powerful) developing and owning market- based assets is. Branding yo!

The Bonds font and broken underline are distinctly Bonds. They own them. So developed are they in our minds that we immediately know this is a bonds ad.

We need to aim for this with every brand we touch.

I don't think it even matters what the campaign is. If it turns out these ads are 'just' ads - that's perfectly okay.

They're memorable - Boobs all over the city! They're likeable - They make you smile when you see them. And they're ownable - Bonds make bras and the ads use the typeface and Bonds underline.

The Bonds brand is refreshed in your mind in a relevant way. Job done.

For another example of the power of branding go here: Make the logo bigger

By Christopher Ott

Tuesday 8 October 2013

Same bat time same bat place

What do the following movies have in common: Harry Potter, Iron Man, Transformers, Lord of the Rings, James Bond, Pirates of the Caribbean, Avatar, The Avengers and Batman The Dark Knight? There's two things actually. Did you pick them?

1. They're nine of the top ten highest grossing films of all time;

2. They all have (or will have) sequels. 

Next question: over the last couple of years what has been the most memorable Australian TV commercial? 
I'll give you a hint...

When you're conceiving your next campaign, make it a sequel. You already know that advertising is chiefly concerned with memory, and that's why consistency is key. A consistent tone, message and design are all done to quickly refresh your audience's memory of your brand.

The more established all these elements are the faster your audience will process that it's you, and the longer they'll have to absorb the advertisement (and message) as yours.

So why don't we see more sequels in advertising? It makes sense, doesn't it? If you're trying to stay consistent then you can't get any more consistent than a sequel.

It's a lot easier to refresh memory than to build it. 

But it's not simply for branding that makes sequels superior to tactical stand-alone ads. It's that humans are hardwired for story. Good storytelling will always have people coming back for more (to see how their favourite characters deal with the next drama). 

Sequels give the writer freedom, and the audience excitement. Sequels build momentum. They create talkability. And done right, you have your audience anticipating the next episode. 

Nine out of the top ten highest grossing movies of all time are sequels. Hollywood can't be wrong. 

(The missing movie is Titanic. But, who knows, now that Clive Palmer is re-building it, maybe we'll get a sequel in the coming years -  John Goodman playing Clive and all.)

But if it's so obvious that sequels are effective then why do, we, creatives have this irrational compulsion to constantly change the creative on every brief we get?

It probably has a lot to do with our egos. We naturally think our ideas are better than other people's. We just can't escape this natural narcissism. And we simply don't want to work with another creative's ideas. It's like Dan Ariely's toothbrush theory: 

Creative ideas are like a toothbrush, everyone wants a toothbrush, everyone needs one, everyone has one, but no one wants to use anyone else’s.

Plus, we kind of feel like phoneys (or lazy) if we do 'more of the same' of our own work, or 'recycle' other people's work. So we stupidly throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

If you had half the success of the Rhonda series you could retire happy. We need to follow Hollywood's lead and start making more sequels. 
Do you think anyone considers Christopher Nolan a hack because Batman had already been done? Holy horseshoe no Batman! 

Sequels let you harness the power of familiarity, and they give you the freedom to tell a more complex story (not just the buzz word). So, when you get your next brief see if you can make it into a sequel, and if not then start one.

Christopher Ott

Tuesday 1 October 2013

Buyhaviour 3: Confirmation Bias

If you've seen Ancient Aliens then you've seen the confirmation bias in full effect. 

In it, anything unexplained (or explained) that's ever happened in the history of the world - the answer's aliens. From earthquakes to Bigfoot - aliens. 

Or, do you remember the last time you were book shopping on Amazon, how you were really only interested in the reviews that told you what you wanted?

This inclination to have blinkers on in favour of information that fits with your own ideas...

This is the confirmation bias.

Definition: Confirmation bias is a tendency for people to favour information that confirms their beliefs or hypotheses. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. (Wikipedia, 2013)

So, suppose you tried to convince the host (crazy-hair above) that aliens don't exist. That he's wrong. I can guarantee no matter how rational your argument is, he simply won't switch to your way of thinking.

Yet, brands try and do this all the time. 

To grow your brand is pretty simple. All you need to do is get more customers. And unless you expand your category (think sports brands like Nike becoming street wear), the only way to get more customers is to steal them from your competition. 

No problem, you'll just differentiate, right? 


Textbooks, greying planners and pimply graduates alike will cocksurely tell you to differentiate your brand. Differentiate or die, they'll say. The model goes something like this: Differentiate your brand, position your brand and then target that niche. 

But if your audience is only receptive to information and ideas that they already hold (Confirmation bias), and you know what that is because you're trying to steal these people from your competition, then isn't it counter intuitive to differentiate?

Of course it is, and marketing science corroborates this point.

Marketing science tells us that consumers shop from a repertoire. The implication of this being that category buyers share brands and don't really differ in any meaningful way. So, by differentiating, positioning and targeting, you're mindlessly ostracising potential buyers unnecessarily. 

(Because they're affected by the confirmation bias they won't listen to your messaging. Just like the aliens guy above being told aliens don't exist.) 

This means, with your advertising, you should be confirming your audience's existing beliefs, not differing from them, and not ostracising them.

Here's an example.

Samsung didn't try to differentiate from Apple. They simply tapped into how Apple users saw the world and aligned with their confirmation bias. They weren't trying to be 'different' they were trying to be better.

They out-Appled Apple. And look at them now!

So what does this mean for creatives? Well, it turns out you don't have to worry about unique selling propositions (USP) anymore. They're a product of differentiation and that means they're redundant. Awesome, because an inane USP only inhibits you from coming up with a truly great idea. 

Trying to get people to switch by telling them they're wrong and your (different) way is right, because of the confirmation bias, won't work. If you're married you can testify to this. So, the next time the strategist, suit, or client says you need to differentiate, you politely remind them about the Confirmation Bias and say you'd rather be better and confirm what your audience already believes than be different. 

Discover more of the Buyhaviour series:

Buyhaviour Series: An Introduction 
Buyhaviour 1: Availability Bias 
Buyhaviour 2: Status Quo Bias 
Buyhaviour 3: Confirmation Bias 
Buyhaviour 4: Conjunction Fallacy 
Buyhaviour 5: The Spotlight Effect
Buyhaviour 6: The Matthew Effect  
Buyhaviour 7: Fight or Flight Heuristic
Buyhaviour 8: Imposter Phenomenon 
Buyhaviour 9: Red Queen Hypothesis 

Christopher Ott