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Why do customers sometimes seem blind to your new messaging?

Ever wondered why customers haven’t noticed new information about your brand? Why it’s so difficult to change an established position in their minds?

Maybe it’s not because they won’t, it’s more that they can’t.

Our evolutionary history has always been about us as a species, learning and trying new things. But if that had been done without limits, the sheer number of failed experiments would have killed us all off long ago. That’s why there are guard rails built in to prevent this.

Once we’ve found something that works for us in a particular scenario, we tend to use that as our default position. This reduces the need for repeated risk taking, which could be prejudicial to our surviving long enough to reproduce.

Enter the uncertainty principle and negative transfer.

The uncertainty principle (not the Heisenberg one) states that people will pay more attention to stimulus that’s unfamiliar to them. They don’t recognise it and can’t predict what it means. So they will continue to pay attention until they feel that they know what it means.

At this point they not only stop learning about this particular stimulus, they are actively inhibited from doing so through negative transfer.

A common example of this is drivers who learned to drive in an automatic car. They often struggle more with a manual car than those drivers learning to drive for the very first time.

This concept is incredibly useful from a marketing perspective. If you are a major market leader, having your customers in a state of negative transfer is perfect as they aren’t looking to learn anything new about the problem you are solving for them.

So, if you want to communicate something new about your brand, you’ll have to do it in a way that your customers notice in order to push them back into uncertainty. Beware though, introducing the uncertainty principle at this point could destabilise your whole position, allowing your competitors to gain attention.

Find out how wethepeople can help you to use these principles and improve your communications whilst avoiding some of the pitfalls.

Implementing the reward mechanism to encourage behaviour change

As grown-ups in the 21st century, we are all patently aware of what we should do to live a healthier life. So why is there still a large proportion of the population that seems unable to do the right thing and make the correct decisions for their health?

A couple of things in this statement bear further scrutiny.

First is the vaguely judgemental tone employed by those of us involved in the healthcare industry to express our frustration. We tend to do this when large swathes of the population don’t take their medication, won’t increase activity, won’t eat the right food and won’t quit smoking. However, our judgment is often based on what we would do. This assumption makes us victims of what’s known as the false consensus effect. This is an attributional cognitive bias where we believe that our own personal beliefs, opinions, behaviours, likes and dislikes are also normal for most other people. Unfortunately, that bias is often reinforced by reflection from our friends and colleagues in our industry. The reality is very different.

The truth is that only a small proportion of the population actually spends its waking and working hours thinking about its health. Now let’s look at it from another, incredibly obvious, point of view. A lot of positive health behaviours, especially those that many people REALLY need to adopt, aren’t particularly attractive. Why? Simply because they often involve doing less of stuff that people like and more of stuff that they really don’t want to do.

Which brings us to the second thing.

Rewards are only rewards if they feel good to people. Again, from a healthcare industry perspective, what could feel better than a new personal best on a Strava segment, or smashing my 25,000-step record on Fitbit? Quite a lot, as it turns out. Non-health obsessed people (i.e. most of the population) are constantly expected and encouraged to replace things that have a built-in reward with something for which the reward is completely and utterly intangible. Reducing the odds of something bad happening at some unspecified time in the future does not get those dopamine juices flowing in quite the same way as a nice carb and fat laden meal, a drink, a cigarette or a Victory Royale in Fortnite. Tragically however, none of these aforementioned delights will do much to improve anyone’s type 2 diabetes, for example…

The key to making differences here is to make rewards for healthy behaviour relevant to the audience in whom we are interested, rather than to us. Harnessing the reward mechanisms in our brains is very helpful here. The interesting thing is that the way we process reward doesn’t appear to differ for real or virtual rewards. Creating surrogate, virtual rewards that are immediate for healthy behaviours is a powerful way to reward behaviour change. The most important thing to do here is to define rewards that our audiences find attractive and to keep changing and adding to those rewards over time to maintain interest.

So you’ve set yourself a New Year’s resolution…

So, you’ve set yourself a New Year’s resolution… That’s great, but how do you turn this expressed desire into a real, lasting improvement? The evidence for successful adoption of New Year’s resolutions isn’t encouraging. According to Forbes overall success is about 8%. However, before we abandon any hope of self-improvement let’s look at ways we can change our habits. Erasmus wisely said that “A nail is driven out by another nail; habit is overcome by habit.” This view is supported by our increasing knowledge in neuroscience.

Why we form habits

We form habits, essentially, to save precious energy. The brain consumes energy at 10 times the rate of the rest of the body per gram of tissue. Even at rest it uses around 20% of the total consumed energy of the human body. So, anything that automates processes and reduces that demand is of great evolutionary benefit. Habits are about short cuts. The more often we repeat them the more likely it is that we will do it the next time without even thinking about it. They are automated processes that, with each repetition, are wired further into our neurones. So how do we form good habits?

  • Step 1:  Understand what triggers your current habits. To change a habit, you first need to recognise what triggers that response? Does receiving a deadline for a major project trigger immediate procrastination?
  • Step 2:  Decide which behaviours you would like to become your new habit. For example, would you like to replace the procrastination with an immediate period of outline planning? Be very specific.
  • Step 3:  Decide how you are going to reward yourself for each successful deployment of your new behaviour. Rewards are important. The establishment of habit is closely linked to dopamine reward, which is often how we get into bad habits. Problem gambling is strongly linked to this mechanism. Augmenting the brain’s reward system helps establish the new habit.

So, try this. Imagine you’ve received a deadline. You’ve immediately done some rough planning and role allocation. Try going out and getting a coffee or having a 5-minute walk… or something else simple that you enjoy doing. Repeated often enough, your brain will rewire your neurones to create a new habit to replace the old one, giving you the best chance to be one of the 8% who succeed over time. Good luck!

Book review by Gabriella Rose – “When breath becomes air”

Paul Kalanithi sought to understand one thing, the meaning of life. He wanted to grasp what it is that defines our existence and endeavoured to explore the boundary between life and death. This book is a beautiful memoir in which Kalanithi shares with the reader his own personal journey into discovering such meaning. You experience his shift in perspective of the world in which he lives and the decisions he faces once being diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 36. Kalanithi was an impressively intelligent and high striving individual who, as a chief resident of neurosurgery at Stanford, was just months away from completing 10 years of hardest and most gruelling training of any clinical fields.

His journey there was not a straight road. From an early stage Kalanithi’s fascination with the inevitable interaction of science and mortality, he strived to learn about “what makes a virtuous and meaningful life”.

He began this mental exploration with two B.A.s and an M.A. in literature combined with human biology at Stanford, but gave up the pursuit of a full-time career in writing by doing a Masters in the history and philosophy of science at Cambridge. Unsatisfied with philosophical reasoning, Kalanithi looked to the most critical place for human identity; the brain – he pursued a career in Medicine at Yale before returning to Stanford for a residency in neurological surgery and a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience.

Having led a fascinating life, Kalanithi did not want to leave it unrecorded, in his inspirational memoir he expresses his insights and emotions, without a hint of self-pity, of being a doctor, a patient, a husband, a father and the strains and gratifications that came with them. He invites you to become entirely emotionally invested in his journey, and the issues that he faces during his shift from the all-powerful doctor to the helpless patient, you share his pain and anguish. He soldiers on writing the book through his weakest times, a real representation to his commitment and dedication to the cause.

Kalanithi’s wife writes the afterword posthumously about his last few days and his inspirational outlook on his short but successful life. He was a man that had so much to contribute to the world.

A beautifully powerful book. Truly thought provoking and eye opening, it will most likely leave you sobbing at such a tragic loss of an unbelievably talented man whose words will change your perspective on the world we live and die in.

Why apps that fail to reward ultimately end up failing

I was in a client meeting the other day when I was asked a very blunt question. We were talking about behaviour change, gamification and apps. His question was simple. “Why do many apps, gamified or not, suck and fail?”

From a fail point of view, probably the main cause of failure is that no one ever sees them. All the money went on dev with nothing left for promotion, the cause of death for many an app.

The second reason is that the usage opportunities are so narrow there’s little point in having an app. Staying at a hotel chain the other day I was invited to download their app “to chat live with a host”. Really? I can’t just ring room service or talk to the concierge? I’m sure that it does other stuff but if this is their lead functionality, unless I am mainlining this chain’s loyalty programme, that download is never going to happen.

These two are pretty obvious, as are their solution. Don’t spend all the cash on dev, have a plan to promote your app. Don’t develop an app that only you need…

Another fail is the experience itself. This is more subtle…

The experience, particularly in health, may well not be all fun but could be challenging, interesting or even plain hard work at times. The key is that it must be rewarding. This too is a concept clearly understood by the mobile gaming industry. Many games contain an element of the “grind”. This is when, at points during the game, you have to carry out repetitive tasks in order to achieve a better level/equipment/skills which allows more interesting stuff to happen.

The way that this is handled should be of enormous interest to anyone wanting to harness gamification techniques to drive behaviour change. It is well documented that our brains release dopamine – a key reward neurotransmitter – both when we get a reward and/or achieve an objective and in anticipation of that reward or achievement.

It’s easy to see how this could work from a health behaviour change perspective. Starting with simple day-to-day objectives and tiny changes which are rewarded, then building harder to complete multiple missions around diet, smoking, activity, health education etc. with each carrying increasing perceived rewards. The piece about perceived rewards is key. The rewards experienced via dopamine can be triggered virtually as effectively as in reality.  This explains why so many millions of hours have been eaten by Candy Crush Saga™…

So the three main answers to my client’s question are as follows:

  1. they’re invisible
  2. they’re not useful
  3. they’re not rewarding

You might just survive getting one wrong (as long as it’s not the first one) but good luck surviving two!

 

The Fall and Rise of Useful Advertising

Remember when programmatic was going to effortlessly turn DDA (digital display advertising) into a push-button instant revenue generator for clients, agencies and media owners alike? As we all know, this prophecy hasn’t quite turned out as many would have hoped. But fear not. As Joe Hoyle explains, the digital world is well-served by opportunities to fulfil everyone’s and every brand’s qualities and ambitions.

Programmatic tools were widely deemed to be the promised land for digital display advertising (at least that’s what the media industry wanted us to believe).

However, it didn’t count on the power of consumers to deploy their own new set of powerful tools, effectively enabling them to ’cock a snook’ at the advertisers and their agencies who were producing a glut of ubiquitous, lazy creative that followed them around the web like a bad smell.

And it’s a real shame, because brands can most certainly advertise, entertain and sell products and services, whilst still delivering useful customer experience as added value that will engage the audience.

Back in 2008, online display advertising was starting to get really interesting – both technologically and creatively. There was an opportunity to start delivering real, tangible super-rich customer experiences inside new, larger-format display units that could be targeted to specific users and even personalised in terms of their content. In parallel, programmatic media buying was gathering pace.

Things were looking up for advertisers. They were about to be armed with tools that would allow them to buy media on the fly at much better value, target more accurately and progressively re-message to encourage consumers further into the purchase funnel. We were even starting to look at producing commerce-enabled campaigns.

A step back

However, things didn’t go exactly to plan. It quickly became obvious that the new media technologies couldn’t serve or interrogate the more advanced and intelligent creative that was being produced. As a result, the industry ditched creative innovation in favour of simply following the media money until advertisers became disgruntled with the return to basic creative messaging and a meaningless 0.01% CTR.

The stark legacy of this practise is an industry that has clearly become more and more inward-looking over the last few years. Also, it has completely disregarded the audience and, in turn, its clients’ needs. What it also precipitated was a general widening in the gap between the creative and planning departments.

An integrated approach

So what’s the answer to this? First and foremost, we need to adopt a completely new creative approach to digital advertising… one that intelligently combines all tools at the disposal of creatives and planners and encourages them to work more closely to realise digital’s true potential. Hopefully, campaigns will then become much more integrated, using a combination of channels and mobile devices as a enablers rather than standalone channels.

Putting users first for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

In our experience, the best results come when campaigns put users’ needs at the forefront of the strategic planning phase.

When the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 team approached us a few years ago, they initially wanted us to stream a selection of HD videos inside our proprietary display unit. They wanted to create a distributable channel inside a media unit that could be seeded in paid media and blogs then shared across fledgling social media and earned, free media.

This was all well and good (not to mention also being a media first) but something was missing. We felt that the audience we were targeting would be more engaged with another data set that was available. So, we set about taking the difficult steps to persuade the racing team to provide is with the live telemetry from the two McLaren cars of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. And it worked.

Over an extended campaign of four years using essentially the same unit with updated functionality and content – much like an app these days – we delivered 10% interaction rates and astounding 32-minute interaction time during practice, qualifying and race sessions.

Lessons we’d all do well to learn

There are several key take-outs from our work for Vodafone Maclaren Mercedes, and subsequent campaigns that still ring true.

First, campaigns don’t just have to advertise, they have to engage and fulfil.

In the campaign for Vodafone Maclaren Mercedes,  the content channel was as critical as the content itself. As someone once said, “if no-one can hear you scream, you may as well whisper for help!”.

Secondly, programmatic and fast-pace retargeting deliver highly-sought efficiencies for clients and their brands – the real challenge is to reignite a passion for innovative and successful advertising that engages within this landscape.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, people – be they customers or marketers – will always find a way around limitations. The best way to make this work is to collaborate, co-create and re-imagine together.

Read the full Vodafone McLaren Mercedes case study

Are you making the classic multichannel marketing mistake?

When we consider MCM it is vital that we remember what the last ‘M’ stands for – Philip Kotler defines marketing as “the science and art of exploring, creating, and delivering value to satisfy the needs of a target market at a profit”. Fundamentally, this still defines how we approach marketing strategy and MCM as an integral part of that.

From an MCM point of view, one common definition brings together most of the required elements:

“Multichannel marketing refers to the practice of interacting with customers using a combination of indirect and direct communication channels – websites, retail stores, mail order catalogs, direct mail, email, mobile, etc. – and enabling customers to take action in response – preferably to buy your product or service – using the channel of their choice. In the most simplistic terms, multichannel marketing is all about choice.”

For me, the key take-out is that it’s all about customer need and choice, ie the customer chooses the channel so they are in control. Therefore, the multichannel approach is built firmly around customers to meet their needs.

None of the definitions that I could find says that MCM is a way of using different media, built around the sales force, to deliver a sales story.

“So what?”, you might ask. Well, the reason I am writing this is that I have just read a recent piece (2016) by IMS titled ’The Essential European Revolution: Why Multichannel is Vital to Europe’.

The key success factors that they identified in their lead case study make interesting reading:

  • Content is king: Doctors seek content that is interesting and useful to them – rep personalisation of content and feedback on what doctors use enables reps to further establish
  • Empowering the reps in the move to multichannel is vital: Regional multichannel rep “ambassadors” understand the need for change and can effectively communicate the benefits of a multichannel approach
  • Digital enhancement of each rep’s effectiveness and reach

As an observation, “content is king” has been true since we learned how to smudge pictures onto cave walls, but do doctors really want representatives to filter it for them? The last two points really frame why this thinking is problematic.

For me, the big questions are “where is the customer?” and “where is the mobile revolution?”. IMS are talking multichannel selling here, not multichannel marketing.

This is the crux of the problem. And it’s not simply semantics; there is a key difference here. Yes, in multichannel sales we use limited channels, controlled by us, to tell the customer what we want to say. But that’s very different to multichannel marketing. And, if companies like IMS make this basic error, it isn’t surprising that it is still a common misapprehension in the industry.

Google talk about “winning the moments that matter” when building multichannel strategies. This entails creating approaches around our customers, their needs and behaviours to ensure that we are there with the right mix of push and pull interactions whenever key information is being sought or key decisions are being reached. Or, as Byron Sharp terms it, “building memory structures that trigger recollection of our brands at those points”. So we still get to say what we need to say, but at points where it is much more relevant to the customer.

If we wish to be successful we need to build our strategy and infrastructure around those objectives. Delivering the selling story is part of that, but can’t define its totality.

Maintaining focus on our customers’ needs and how we meet them, as part of the overall marketing strategy, in an integrated way, is much more likely to lead to success than sawing off a part of that, labelling it MCM and somehow treating it as a separate activity.

Helping the right brain lead the way in research

For a creative person, research can be equally invigorating and frustrating.

Once, we would sit (relatively) powerless behind the glass as our target market merrily ripped our ideas to shreds. Or, rightly, praised them to the heavens. Or, worst of all, didn’t care either way.

Now we can watch from the comfort of home or office as the trial-by-focus-group unfolds.

And a trial it frequently is.

 

A clear winner? Or something everyone dislikes the least?

I’ve long-disliked traditional research for the same reasons that I’ve long-discouraged creative teams from relying solely on brainstorming to generate concepts.

Personalities, time constraints, lack of ownership and unnatural surroundings can encourage people to agree on something everyone just dislikes the least. Then they trot back to what they were doing before, pleased with a part well played and a deadline met.

 

Research needn’t be the preserve of the left brain

I understand why interviewees react the way they do in group research. Few people want to be the voice of dissent or look foolish for thinking differently.

Also, research tends to give the left brain, with all its conventions and rational expectations, a clear run-in on goal. This is odd, as it isn’t even this part of the brain that initially reacts to the finished product. But it helps explain why some good ideas bite the dust early.

The left brain, as we know, will over-rationalise information by deploying preconceptions and experiences which are familiar to it. So anything new risks being rejected.

However, there’s a lot that we (creative agencies, researchers and clients) can do to overcome this, and also to make research much more valuable.

 

Three steps to better research pay-back

 

Step 1: Give the right brain a voice in the room

The right side of the brain notices new stuff – such as fresh ideas and communications – then directs the narrow focus of the left brain toward it. So we must promote its involvement in research.

However, research environments tend to discourage ‘newness’. Their taupe walls and pastel prints create a palpable sense of sterility and falseness.

So why not research in different places? Perhaps somewhere that’s relevant to the topic being researched. Or at least create a more motivating and visual environment.

Get people out of their seats. Ask them to physically move between ideas they, personally, align to – not which ones they’re guessing they ought to like – discussing them as they go.

Finally, maximise this valuable time. Pick interviewees’ brains. Explore their hopes, fears and proclivities. Ask their thoughts. Suggest propositions. Talk to them about conceptual territories.

All of this will bring the empathetic, more understanding, right brain into play.

 

Step 2: Don’t expect people to be superheroes

I once attended research for a healthcare campaign where doctors were asked a Columbo-esque one last question: “if you could change the headline, what would you have it say?”. My mouthful of Earl Grey nearly shot out of my ears.

It’s like asking me how I would remove an appendix. Sure, I could have a look on YouTube before sharpening the scalpel but I’m certain it wouldn’t end well. The same applies to doctors and headlines.

It’s one thing to take people out of their comfort zones; it’s quite another to waste clients’ budget by asking them to perform a task they’re ill-equipped for.

 

Step 3: Bring research up in the mix

Let’s stop conducting creative research after the world and its dog has input their inputs and moved the logo a millimetre.

Get people in early. Mine their minds for thoughts. Suggest routes. People are happy to share insights if they believe we’re interested in what they think. As humans we’re all programmed to respond in kind to perceived empathy and understanding.

You’ll find it pays dividends in terms of the ideas we eventually create and the tactics which spin out of them. These can then go back into research for the right reasons – validation.

Oh, and make sure there are plenty biscuits for the creative teams. And a darkened room to lie down in afterwards just in case.

 


Patrick Norrie heads up Creative Direction at wethepeople. He started out as a copywriter, and has lead the creative line at leading agencies on a host of well-known brands.

Applying neuroscience to improve your marketing effectiveness – No.1 Gamification v Gaming

Gamification: are you making this fundamental error?

Confusing gamification with gaming is a classic marketing error. But recognising the differences between the two, and the neuroscience that underpins them, could be your first step to using gamification to your advantage.

It’s funny how often gamification and games are still mixed up. It happened in one of our client meetings recently. It’s particularly interesting as the definition of gamification is “the application of game principles in a non-game environment”.

It comes from the gaming industry’s expertise in the harnessing of principles that use the reward centres in the brain to make what is, in many cases, an extremely repetitive activity interesting enough that people will actually pay to continue doing it. By any measure, this is a high level of engagement.

This has been necessitated by the move away from highly immersive, high development cost games played by expert gamers on dedicated platforms to more or less repetitive games with limited immersive content played by non experts on mobile devices. Tellingly, many of the masters of the former are not the major players in the latter.
It should already be pretty clear why this should be an exciting area for the healthcare industry. What could be better than substituting immediate rewards for, what are often, repetitive activities whose actual rewards lie in some far off future? The principles are applicable in many situations from rewarding positive adherence behaviour to more interesting medical education approaches.

We’ve seen how these principles have already become well harnessed in many fitness apps. They’re starting to emerge in smoking cessation apps too. However, the truth remains that their adoption has been limited in mainstream pharma as they are often seen not to be serious enough. But that’s a classic example of people confusing games with gamification, which is where we started.

Digital disruption or a clever tweak?

I’ve been seeing this slide a lot recently. Each time it gets posted the list has got a bit longer. It rarely seems to get posted with any real message other than “oooh, digital disruption”. But what is its actual point? The ever growing list of facts, on the face of it, looks interesting. The facts appear paradoxical, but aren’t really. They are, in fact, statements of the obvious, but dressed in intrigue. Let’s take a closer look.

Taxis: Many of the world’s smaller taxi companies don’t own many taxis either. The drivers are self employed, owner drivers – same as Uber. The taxi company owns the booking infrastructure and controls how the customer books a ride. Same as Uber. It’s an intermediary model. The web is fantastic as an intermediary, it allows efficiency and vastly increased scale. It means that Uber can offer the same cheap fares as (or even cheaper than) your local taxi company on a massive scale. Ignore that fact and your intermediary business is dead.

Accommodation: The world’s largest providers of business accommodation and travel own no hotels or airplanes. Amex Corporate travel has been doing it for years. It’s an intermediary model. AirBnB have brought new providers onto the market place who can offer accommodation way below the price of the existing providers.

Inventory: Alibaba don’t have inventory. Neither does ebay. For that matter the largest “retailer” of fine art doesn’t own the paintings it sells. Sotheby’s have been at it for a long time. It’s an intermediary model. They connect buyers and sellers.

Telco infra structure. Why would a company based on web comms own telco infrastructure? The web is great at transmitting data, although an awful lot of it gets transmitted on other “Telcos” infrastructure. If it weren’t for them, Skype wouldn’t have a business. The lesson here is that if your business is about transporting large quantities of data in any form for your customers, and you are too wedded to the way you’ve always done it, someone will use technology to walk around you.

Content: Most popular bookshops didn’t write any books. Most record shops didn’t make music. People have been providing content produced by other people forever. Sheet music sellers were doing it in the 19th century. The way it is done has changed beyond recognition. One of the big differences is that much of the ‘content’ provided by Facebook used to be provided directly from one person to another for free, when they met. Or talked. It was free then and it still is. The means of delivery means that we can give away our free ‘content’ on a colossal scale. The internet is good at that.

Money. Most banks don’t have much money either. It’s their customers’ money. People deposit cash which the bank then lends to others. SocietyOne is interesting. It finds people who want to lend money and puts them in touch with people who want to borrow it. They call themselves a peer-to-peer lending company, not a bank. People have been lending people money for as long as there has been money. Digital makes it easier to do on a massive scale.

Movies: Blockbuster Video were the largest supplier of movies back in the day. They didn’t own cinemas either, because they provided movies for people to watch at home. Just like Netflix do now.

Software: The biggest sellers of software don’t write the apps. Supermarkets are the biggest suppliers of milk but they don’t dairy farm. Of course they don’t, they’re a store. They sell stuff made by other people. So do Google and Apple. Maybe that’s why they call their points of sale “Stores”.

There is, of course, a lesson here. All the businesses above existed in another form previously. They carried on happily doing what they’d always done until either (a): new competitors used the incredible ability of the web to facilitate their intermediary business and bypassed more traditional models of customer acquisition or (b): in a data provision business, books, films, conversations, xrays etc., they used the web’s incredible capacity for data transport to deliver that differently. I want it now. On demand. The web allows Uber, Netflix and the rest to deliver like that. On demand. Usually cheaper than the existing providers. Not surprisingly, customers like it.

The really interesting part is that the businesses who were in the game before aren’t the ones who made the leap. All of which tells us that we need to keep our eyes open, to look at our businesses dispassionately and think about the leap that would kill them (if there is one), then to make that leap before someone else does.