Monday 23 July 2018

Buyhaviour 9: Red Queen Hypothesis

The most curious part of the thing was [as they ran] that the trees and the other things around them never changed their places at all: however fast they went, they never seemed to pass anything. And the Queen cried, 'Faster! Don't try to talk!'...

... And they went so fast that at last they seemed to skim through the air, hardly touching the ground with their feet, till suddenly, just as Alice was getting quite exhausted, they stopped, and she found herself sitting on the ground, breathless and giddy. The Queen propped her up against a tree, and said kindly, 'You may rest a little now'.

Alice looked round her in great surprise. 'Why, I do believe we've been under this tree the whole time! Everything's just as it was!' 'Of course it is,' said the Queen, 'what would you have it?' 'Well, in our country,' said Alice, still panting a little, 'you'd generally get to somewhere else—if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing. 

''A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. 'Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

From Lewis Carroll's “Through the Looking-Glass; known as The Red Queen's Race. And a metaphor for marketing. 

At The Ehrenberg Bass Institute we called it 'The Leaky Bucket Effect': Your brand inexorably leaks customers (as it shares them with other brands according to the duplication of purchase law), so you have to continuously acquire new ones, just to keep the bucket at the same level

In other words, like the Red Queen, you have to run very fast just to stay in the exact same spot - hold your market share. Yet, because of the current fascination with loyalty, this presents an opportunity for your brand:

While others are obsessed with trying to plug the leak - over-investing in digital, which generally limits reach to existing customers - you have a chance to follow the queen's advice and 'run twice as fast' by focussing on reach and acquisition.

More from 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

Thursday 14 June 2018

Thinking outside the Lego box

Originally published in Adnews 14 October 2015: What Lego can teach us about creative briefs.

A planner is only as good as the ideas of their creatives. Which means, next to representing the consumer, a planner's role should be to champion ideas and be the guardian of creative culture.

Page Moreau, marketing professor at the University of Wisconsin, and Marit Gundersen Engeset of Norway's Buskerud and Vestfold University, conducted an experiment on creativity, which produced results that can arguably be applied to advertising.

Their experiment got one group of children to build Lego using kits with instructions (i.e. Star Wars Lego), and the other group to free-build using Lego arbitrarily poured on the ground (i.e. childhood).

And the results: "The kids who tackled the well-defined problem of building the kits performed worse on subsequent creative tasks than a control group and those who built whatever they felt like."

Moreau's main take-out: "The search for the single right answer was largely responsible for the decline in creative performance." In other words: Instructions undermine creativity.

John Lennon - one of the most creative men in history - sums it up nicely: "You can't paint a picture on dirty paper, you need a clean sheet".

Which begs the question: By dictating what's to be communicated, in the form of a 'strategic' advertising brief, have we been unwittingly fostering an uncreative environment?

Because if a brief is not essentially a set of instructions, what is it? And, equally, what's a proposition - single minded, unique or otherwise - if it's not aiming for a 'single right answer'?

Effective advertising, according to Binet and Field's IPA research, is work that achieves salient fame (not the transmission of a persuasive message, or proposition). There's certainly no 'single right' message to achieve fame, so why have we been writing briefs like there is?

All we've been achieving by doing so, if the results of the Lego study are correct, is putting the creatives in a mindset that inhibits creative thinking - and subsequently, results.

So, instead of writing as if briefs are a set of instructions (dirtying John Lennon's paper), all we need to include are the building blocks - insights, associations, category conventions, brand's market-based assets etc.

Then get out of the way and let creatives play.

Christopher Ott

Tuesday 10 April 2018

Totally brandom ideas

Why would I listen to a shrimp sandwich, or buy insurance from a talking bear, or deodorant from a guy on a horse? Rubbish. Amirite? 

If you're nodding your head in agreement right now, you clearly don't get it. Sorry, but these  commercials with random ideas are exactly what advertising should be. 

I can picture the advertising purists, of the Rosser Reeves ilk, watching them in contempt. Wondering, how is this going to sell products? 

Where's the unique selling proposition? Where's the persuasion?

I can also picture potential customers watching it on TV, with their perfectly rational mind ticking over, shaking their heads at the absurdity... and smiling. 

Lucky for us, advertising is not a sales pitch. Sales pitches are for salesman not advertisers. 

Advertising is about memory. Its role is to make a brand mentally available to potential buyers, so next buying occasion they remember them. 

For this to happen, commercials need to firstly get noticed, and secondly refresh and build its distinct branding assets in the audience's minds and achieve salience. 

This is precisely what these types of spots achieve. The randomness achieves cut-through (noticeability) and, at the same time, they are well branded (memorability).

What they are not doing is bludgeoning the audience with a blunt unique selling proposition in a vain attempt to differentiate its brand - crisper taste, softest tissue etc. 

It's a case of irrational distinction trouncing rational differentiation. Or as Eaon Pritchard put it, meaningless distinctiveness over meaningful differentiation. 

MailChimp, Geico, Old Spice and, getting closer to home, Aldi, need to be commended for trusting their agency to go in the direction of this brave new world. 

A world that puts cut-through ahead of a rational message. And even puts like-ability before a message, which is the final ingredient along with noticeability and memorability to create great advertising. 

I call the phenomena 'brandom ideas', and we should be excited, because more executions like these are coming and they're brilliant, creatively and strategically. 

Christopher Ott