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How much can digital & social alone really grow your business?

This is a brilliantly well written article in the FT by freelance strategist Ian Leslie about the increasingly common heresy questioning the actual effectiveness of digital and social media as total replacements for conventional approaches.

As with many uprisings this one was triggered by a book: How Brands Grow (OUP, 2010) by Professor Byron Sharp, of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute at the University of South Australia. It asks penetrating questions on how effective digital and social media are in actually growing a brand. The basic tenets are:

1 these media are great at reaching loyal customers

2 you will get little growth out of these customers as most of your business comes from customers of other brands who occasionally buy your brand

As a case in point he uses Pepsi’s ill fated cessation of TV advertising in order to focus entirely on digital and social efforts in 2010. They lost 5% market share –  a colossal amount. They rapidly came back to TV.

The book is devoid of “airy assertations” but is packed with examples and evidence. I’m definitely buying it.

The fundamental mantra is get noticed, be memorable. The key is to understand what it is that triggers us to notice particular things around us, and how that is recalled at particular points.

 

Escaping the Prison of the Over-Rational

The latest findings in neuro-science have profound implications for business as, in many cases, they overturn long-accepted truths… Truths which can hamper us by limiting our creativity and innovation.

One of the key findings shows how focusing on over rationalised thinking and taking an over processed approach to strategy can trap us in a ‘hall of mirrors’ where we see only the familiar, leading us to explore more about what we know about what we know…

The solution lies in utilising this developing knowledge and its attendant deeper human understanding. We need to understand the place of intuition, particularly in creativity and innovation, and its role in breaking us out of the hall of mirrors. We also need to recognise where a highly rationalised approach is indeed correct, depending on how we want to engage with our audiences, or on what we want or need to create. This approach can provide exciting new answers to business challenges.

Here are a few examples of the practical applications of this approach:

  1. Why this matters to market leaders, and how it can be totally  different for challengers
  2. Why is it vital to have time away from a problem or task if we wish to intuit a solution – get the “aha!” effect
  3. What are the implications for testing and researching experience and how to do that without destroying them
  4. Why communications ‘burn out’ and when can that be a positive advantage
  5. Why audiences notice information, how they process it and what persuades them to act on and communicate new information

Clearly from a business perspective, we are often more comfortable with approaches that appear more neatly stepwise and extremely rationale. Indeed, it is common that we discount intuition as “guessing” or “gut feel”, but in many cases it can be the only way to break out of the cliched and over familiar and end up somewhere really different.

 

Great Lewis Carroll Quote for the Day…

“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said. ‘One can’t believe impossible things’. ‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast”.

Many of the huge advances in human knowledge or abilities came from people who believed in something that their peers considered impossible or even absurd.

The Brand Frying Pan and the Motorbike Helmet

Imagine a land where marketers wandered around town centres armed with frying pans, embossed with their brand names, with which they smashed in the face anyone they met going about their business. Not surprisingly, the denizens of this land went and bought motorcycle helmets.

Immediately the marketers launched a campaign to have the helmet shop closed down.

Welcome to the “through the looking glass” world of ad blocking. As consumers (..people?) we are exposed to a lot of truly awful mobile ads. Ah, the cry goes up but it is advertising that pays for much of the lovely content that you ingrates consume. And this is true. 

But, it is not the great content or even good ads that has got us here. If they were all we were exposed to, no one would ever need or want  an ad blocker. 

One of the biggest drivers of this behaviour is our obsession with quantity and measurability and our neglect of what quality of experience do we wish our audience to have. There are few things in the world that you can annoy people into buying – except maybe an ad blocker.

Using hyper-rationalised approaches to marketing is very enticing. We have what we feel is predictability and control, which becomes self-reinforcing and comforting. We can base our actions on what the numbers say and, when things don’t go as expected why, we can explain that too with the numbers  – there is a self-referential certainty to it all.  It’s all under our control and we get real time feedback so that each little achievement releases a bit of dopamine in our left brain. Which makes us feel very good. For a short time. So we go back for more. Sound familiar? It should, it’s the basis for addiction.

This is not to say that measurability and scale aren’t good things, they are. In the right proportion and as part of a holistic view of what is going on they are incredibly powerful. One of the simplest things we can try is the use of empathy (not sympathy – although that may well be appropriate in some cases) – how do we really think they are feeling about their overall experience of us and our brand.

If they are over-relied upon or used alone however, well… Welcome to brand frying pan land where the helmet shop is the most successful business.

RSA Animates: Iain McGilchrist – The Divided Brain

Brilliantly put together by the RSA from a talk given by Dr Iain McGilchrist, this excellent animation shows why everyone who’s business involves communicating with other human beings should have a little knowledge about how we notice, process, decide on and act on new, or familiar,  information that we come across in our lives.

RSA animates: The Divided Brain

For those of you who want more, Iain’s book “The Master and his Emissary” is a masterpiece, although probably not a beach read. It’s available here:

Amazon: The Master and his Emissary

More information on Iain and his work is available here:

Iain McGilchrist

Einstein on Intellectual Humility

“As a human being one has been endowed with just enough intelligence to be able to see clearly how utterly inadequate that intelligence is when confronted with what exists. If such humility could be conveyed to everybody, the world of human activities would be more appealing”.

Unlike many Einstein quotes, this one is attributable, he wrote it in correspondence to Queen Elizabeth of Belgium in 1932. It gently warns of the dangers of intellectual arrogance and the desperate drive of mankind to be able to explain everything. If such an intellectual colossus felt such humility in the face of what is, there is surely an example for the rest of us.