Even complex customers need simple stories

When you have a fantastic brand with lots of powerful messaging and supportive data, it can be tempting to create a story that encompasses it all. But is that really the right thing to do?

Today, I’m sharing a link to a really interesting white paper by ZoomRx. It confirms what many of us already instinctively feel, underpinned by evidence from 30,000 personal sales interactions.

The key points are:

  • Focus on 3-5 key messages and keep them short (10-14 words maximum)
    • Customers who recall more than 5 or fewer than 3 messages about the brand are less likely to prescribe
  • Use data to support your messages, but don’t overdo it
    • Keep it to around 3 data points per message: more than this confuses customers while fewer can lack credibility
  • Make sure your story actually connects the messages to build a compelling proposition

Unsurprisingly, doctors care most about efficacy and safety.

Slightly more surprisingly, these findings are from oncology – an area that is traditionally seen to rely on stories built around colossal amounts of data.

To find out more about building concise, compelling brand stories get in touch with us – we do this for our clients every day.

Interrupting people is way harder than it sounds.
Just ask a Boston cop.

Here’s a little story about how hard it is to get the attention of people who are thinking about something else.

In 1995, 29 year old Kenneth M. Conley, a cop in Boston, was in hot foot pursuit of a suspect. As he chased the man, he ran past a group of his colleagues who were savagely beating another suspect. It turned out that the suspect taking a beating was an undercover cop, Michael Cox – who was so displeased with his colleagues that he pressed criminal charges against them.

Conley was called as a witness at their trial. Under oath, he stated that he hadn’t seen anything. Given that Michael Cox is black, there was a suspicion that racism was involved and the jury didn’t believe Conley. He was later convicted of perjury and obstruction of justice, sentenced to nearly 3 years in jail and fined $6000.

But is it possible that Kenneth Conley was telling the truth? There is strong evidence that he may well have been.

Human beings (and other animals) seem to bring two types of attention to the world:

  • The first is a narrow-focused attention to things that we already know to be important. When in this mode we can abstract the object of our attention and ignore everything else.
  • The second is a much broader focus which is alert to the unexpected, the new or the incongruous.

The real kicker though, is that we appear to only be able to bring one type of attention to anything at once.

Why? It may be an energy-saving mechanism. Brains are expensive to run in terms of energy. They may only represent 2% of our body weight, but they take up around 20% of the energy we consume. Saving energy here would be an evolutionary advantage!

This effect has been demonstrated numerous times by authors like Chris Chabris (the invisible gorilla guy) who carried out an experiment based on Kenneth’s experience and discovered that around half of people didn’t see the fight.

Happily for Kenneth, he was exonerated in 2005 and awarded $647,000 in back pay – without ever going to prison. Michael Cox also remained a police officer and in 2022 was appointed as Commissioner of the Boston Police Department.

So, if we are trying to interrupt people who are doing other things, we need to try pretty hard. Predictable, familiar approaches are simply not going to cut it if we want people to see something new.

Is your brand a few bars short of a symphony?

How music and sound can help to capture the hearts of more customers

Is your brand fit for the fight? Of course it is.

I bet your mission, vision and values are all nailed, glued and velcroed down and that your brand promise will never ever be broken. I’m equally sure that key tints of the colour palette are in place, there’s a crystal-clear tone of voice and an x-height demilitarised zone around the logo. (I’m guessing it sits in a corner and is never reversed out of a full-colour image. Right?)

All good so far. But can you describe to yourself, your colleagues, and your customers what your brand actually sounds like?

If not, why?

Visual consistency and tonally-compliant writing are your table stakes – critical yet necessary.

However, marketers looking to make meaningful connections know that well-developed sonic attributes can help their brand perform at its brilliant best.

Beethoven’s Dopamine Symphony

The last two decades have given us endless sonic brand triggers and a plethora of brand sound designs wide enough to make Phil Spector’s wig spin.

But research has proven that hearing songs that we like triggers a dopamine release. And, as we all know, dopamine = pleasure. But, interestingly, even the anticipation of hearing likeable songs, or upcoming parts of songs, is enough to release dopamine in some people.

Beethoven, it’s reckoned, used anticipation expertly in many of his scores. He would define the tonic chord, then never actually play complete versions of the tonic until the very end…finally fulfilling audiences’ expectations and letting loose a commensurate deluge of dopamine in the run-up.

Clever huh?

Now, imagine a pleasurable song happened to be your brand’s sound. Suddenly, you’re engaging with customers on a very different, multi-sensory level. You’re making them happy. They want to hear from you. They feel positive about your brand. So they’re more likely to tell others. What’s not to like?

But wait. It gets even better.

There is solid evidence that music can actually change the type of attention we are paying to the world around us. Iain McGilchrist (author of The Master and his Emissary) proposes that listening to music in a major key, or with a simple rhythm, tends to attract the narrow-focused attention that we use our left brain to generate. Conversely, McGilchrist argues that minor key songs, or those with a more complex time signature, tend to attract the more open attention of the right brain.

Could bespoke deliver an even better ROI?

Music is beautifully abstract, yet very powerful. It’s pure escapism, guiding emotions effortlessly through major and minor tones. And it’s memorable. Why else would we claim to suffer from ‘earworms’ or use phrases like “the soundtrack of my life/year/day”?

In practical terms, music and sound can make a congress experience more memorable; they can help an e-detail or other face-to-face sales piece create a more vivid experience by supporting the tone of the piece as the story develops.

Four watchouts when creating sonic branding

Creating the right sonic landscape for your brand could be the best commercial commitment you make this year. But it’s wise to beware the pitfalls. Wary treading is essential, as is the need to follow these recommendations:

  1. Commit to making sound an integral part of your brand’s architecture and devote concerted energy to getting it absolutely right.
  2. Determine the role(s) that sound will play in your brand’s presence – do you need it to support content, help lead the conversation, introduce innovations?
  3. Think carefully about the character of your brand and decide how best to reflect this in a brief.
  4. Diversify the talent you involve in your brand’s sound creation. Don’t be afraid to mix creatives, planners, colleagues, and music professionals.

If you need any further help, my Bontempi organ is plugged in and ready to go! You hum it, I’ll play it.

Got a technology question? Steve Jobs still has the answer.

A client recently asked us for our opinion on which technology software solutions could best support the creation of customer journey mapping within their company.

It reminded me of a famous Steve Jobs YouTube clip from the 1997 Apple worldwide developer conference. There he was, in his trademark black polo neck, perched casually on a bar stool, taking questions from the floor. There’s a good chance you might have seen it too as it’s been watched by millions of people.

One man in the audience stood up and says: “Mr. Jobs; you are a bright and influential man” (so far so good) but then he added, “…it’s sad and clear that, on several counts, you don’t know what you are talking about. I would like you, to express in clear terms, how say, Java addresses the ideas embodied in OpenDoc…”

Essentially, what this man was saying to Steve Jobs was: “you don’t understand the technology”. His answer to the challenge was: “You’ve got to start with customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology.” And everyone knows how well Apple grew under Steve Jobs.

And this is perhaps the best answer to any question that starts with “Which technology can help us with…?” We are often involved in meetings where it becomes clear that there’s a belief, a hope, that technology might answer a bigger strategic need. But that’s a dangerous place to be. The only way to effectively answer the “which technology…” questions is to first ask “what are the needs we are trying to meet – and what is the customer / user experience that we are trying to create?”.

At wethepeople, we believe that understanding people, and how they behave, must always come first. We build marketing strategies and campaigns using techniques based on how our minds have evolved to function. If you are interested in how wethepeople can accelerate the effectiveness of your marketing activity, and indeed help you to answer the big technology questions, then get in touch.

We just need to know one more thing…

Ever seen a boss, a colleague or (heaven forbid) yourself behave in a way that, however seemingly rational, is incredibly obstructive? Before they’ll approve or support a project, there is always one more fact they need.

Chances are that they are in the grip of a cognitive bias called the “information bias”. This is what drives us to look for information about a situation long past the point that this information has any bearing on the decision being made. Worse still, if you play along hoping that you’ll eventually get what you need, you could be stuck there until you get to a point where the question can’t be answered and they’ll never approve it.

This was illustrated best by Baron, Beattie and Hershey (organizational behaviour and human decision processes 42,88-110 (1988)) in their fictitious diseases diagnostic problem. In essence, a patient presents with symptoms suggestive of one of three conditions, one of which, globoma, at a probability of 80%. There is a test, the ET scan, which would certainly rule in or out the other two diagnoses but would give a 50/50 for globoma.

In spite of the fact that the probability of the patient having globoma (80%) was unchanged before and after the ET scan, and the patient should be treated for globoma irrespective of the result, a small but significant number of subjects insisted on the test before treatment.

For these subjects it took a significant amount of questioning about the usefulness of the test before they realised their mistake.

When faced with this situation, it’s probably best to approach the person after the meeting (it’s always in a meeting, right?) and ask specific questions about what and how the extra information will change the decision. Otherwise, when you spend precious time and resources getting the answer to this question, the chances are there will be another.

Trying to influence someone?
Offer them lunch or ask for a favour?

If you are stuck with an approach strategy to a particular person or group of people, it may be worth stopping thinking about what you can do for them, and think of what they can do for you.

When creating customer strategy, we often focus on changing attitudes or beliefs. Even though it’s often more effective to ask them do something for us, even in groups who may be less than receptive to our approaches.

The question in the headline may seem like a stupid one with a pretty obvious answer. But, as with many things involving human beings, the most likely answer is pretty surprising. There is a behavioural bias at work here which makes asking a favour more likely to be successful.

Asking someone, who you’d like to create a positive impression with, to do you a favour probably seems a bit strange, even counter-intuitive. But there is a good psychological basis for doing just that. There is a great deal of evidence that supports the idea that doing favours for people disposes us more positively to them and makes us more likely to do them another favour.

A simple example from a B2B perspective would be sending your “targets” an article you wrote and ask their opinion prior to your first meeting. Or you could ask them to contribute to your thinking by sharing what they believe to be important new products, trends etc. arising in the market. The important thing is that you are asking personally. Asking favours like these have a very low barrier to fulfilment (people love sharing what they think) and are likely to be more successful than asking if you can borrow their Aston Martin for the weekend.

The “Ben Franklin effect” posits that a person who has already done you a favour is more likely to do you another than someone for whom you have done a favour. He described it as an old maxim in his autobiography: “He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.” He then also described how he had practically used this maxim on a hostile rival in the 18th century Pennsylvania Legislature.

“Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death”.

This effect is connected to cognitive dissonance. We try to avoid conflicts between what we do and what we believe. In this instance, the behaviour drives the belief: “I did that person a favour, so obviously I must like them”.

It’s useful to know in many situations. Who wouldn’t want a new customer, your boss, or a key opinion former feeling positive about you? As a strategy for dealing with people who may be less well disposed to you, asking them to do something for you that may help you solve their issue is particularly powerful.

Beliefs and burgers

It’s easier to get people to eat a burger than it is to convince them that eating burgers is a good idea.

Almost everyone, no matter how health conscious, will do or eat something that they know probably isn’t good for them. When we do this, we get a little uncomfortable. We have just done something that conflicts with how we view ourselves and, like Jiminy Cricket, up pops cognitive dissonance to make us feel bad.

In order to help us feel better we need to bring our action in line with our internal values, we can’t undo what’s done so we rationalise it to ourselves. “It was a one off, I hardly ever do it”, “I was hungry and didn’t have much time”. Suddenly we feel OK about it again. The interesting thing though is that, the next time we sin, the rationalisation is already available to us, so we don’t feel so bad. Now we can sin, whilst still holding on to our internal beliefs.

This effect doesn’t just apply to dietary transgressions. It’s an inbuilt mechanism to cope with situations in which we act out of step with our beliefs.

Many times in marketing we set off trying to change people’s attitudes and/or beliefs, which is a big ask. Maybe we should encourage our potential customers to try doing what we need them to, and our good friend cognitive dissonance will take care of the rest.

What can Chairman Mao teach us about optimising customer journeys?

In 1949 Chairman Mao faced a major behavioural problem in China. Around 4.4% of the population or 20 million people were addicted to opium. His solution was brutal, those who sold opium were executed. Addicts were offered a choice: abstain or be sent to labour camps. Millions were sent to camps from which many did not return. By 1951 opium addiction had been eradicated from China. But why were so many people, under the threat of death, unable to change their behaviour?

Behaviour change is hard at the best of times. We are programmed by evolution to keep doing what we’re doing once we find something that works for us. When addiction is involved that change becomes far more challenging. This is why addiction therapy is a great place to look when considering behaviour change models.

Models in addiction have evolved from simply locking addicts away, through the religion-based 12 step programmes from the early / mid 20th century, into powerful behaviour change tools like the Stages of Change model first described by Prochaska and Diclementi in 1983.

This model has been enhanced and further developed over the decades, taking in work from other sources. Because of that it is also known as the Trans-theoretical Model (TTM). It is now being effectively deployed across many types of behaviour change, often in health-related interventions.

TTM looks not only at the stage at which the subject is currently, it also considers the barriers to progress and what needs to be done to address them. This is vital to the creation of well-designed customer journeys that reflect the behaviour change that we are trying to effect.

Why wouldn’t we use a rigorous model that has stood the test of decades of use in the most challenging types of behaviour change?

This powerful tool can be harnessed to really enhance the power of your customer journey planning.

Contact us to arrange a discussion on how using the TTM model of behaviour change could really help your business.

 

What can this joke tell us about developing communication ideas?

A duck walks into a bar and asks the barman for a portion of fish and chips.

The barman responds that they don’t serve fish and chips and the duck leaves.

The following day the duck returns and makes the same request, again the barman states that they don’t serve fish and chips.

Each day after, the duck returns and the same scenario plays out.

Finally, in exasperation the barman tells the duck that if he asks for fish and chips one more time he’ll nail his beak to the bar.

The next day the duck walks into the bar and the barman says “what do you want?”.

The duck responds “have you got any nails?” to which the barman replies “no”.

“A portion of fish and chips please” says the duck.

Why is it funny?

I was at an event the other day watching Iain McGilchrist, (psychiatrist, philosopher and one of the world’s foremost authors on neuroscience and what makes us human) talking about his new book “The Matter with Things”. At one point John Cleese, another speaker, tells the above joke and gets a huge laugh, but why?

No part of the joke makes any sense alone, it blends the absurd and the surreal into the traditional “X walks into a pub” trope. And yet, holistically, it works. It’s also very memorable. Most of the audience would have been able to repeat that joke with all its main elements remembered. There’s the familiar “x walks into a bar… and the barman…” framework, and the absurd elements, the duck, the fish and chips and the nails.

This joke almost certainly existed this way since its creation.

At no point did anyone check if it would be funnier with a swan or a grebe, what if we switched screws for nails, should we modernise the setting – maybe a coffee shop, could it be a barista instead of a barman. What if some people don’t get it, how do we make it accessible for them?

The joke was conceived and told to an audience. Most of them laughed and this was the acid test – did the audience respond in the desired way?

Thanks to digital advertising options we are perfectly placed to do the same thing. We can conceive communication ideas (check them for gross errors/regulatory compliance) and expose audiences to them. We can then effectively gauge their reaction – did they do what we expected as a result?

If the answer is yes, then we have an effective idea. If we wish, we can optimise from there. If the answer is no then no amount of optimisation will make it effective. This is even more the case when we try to optimise an idea, often using iterative approaches, before audiences have even been exposed to the idea in a natural environment. How do we know if our starting point is any good?

Want to find out more?

If you are interested in rapid development and live testing of ideas, from overall brand concepts to interesting tactical executions, get in touch.

 


 

How being distinctive helped a new chocolate company enjoy run-away success

You just might have heard of Tony’s Chocolonely – a relatively new chocolate company. And you might be wondering how its success relates to healthcare.

Tony’s was set up in 2005 by a Dutch journalist who was determined to make chocolate 100% free from the use of child labour. To raise attention to the issue, he even took himself to court for knowingly buying chocolate made with slave labour.

Now, with a turnover of €70 million, Tony’s Chocolonely is the biggest chocolate brand in the Netherlands. It has a market share of around 19% and growth of 27% compared to last year.

Clearly, the purpose of the company has been key to its success. For consumers, an association with a worthy cause means a great deal. But we all know that purpose alone is not enough for an unknown brand to make this scale of impact.

What else drove the success?

Well, Tony’s Chocolonely blatantly ignored the rules of what chocolate bars should be like. Their first bar was red – a colour that few other manufacturers have ever chosen for plain milk chocolate.

Furthermore, the chocolate itself is divided into a random pattern. So it looks unlike any no other chocolate bar. This unequal pattern is deliberate – it represents the inequality at play in the global cocoa production industry. The flavours are unique too – including Milk Caramel Sea Salt, Dark Milk Pretzel Toffee and White Raspberry Popping Candy.

So what can healthcare learn from this?

There are several key take-outs for brands looking to get noticed by healthcare professionals.

As with all brands and sectors, your story really needs to mean something to your audience. Tony’s did this by being authentic. Remember the old adage: No sound bites without substance.

Most importantly, however, is the need to be distinctive. Being distinctive allowed Tony’s to penetrate a mature market packed with numerous “stronger” competitors.

By being distinctive, brands in any industry can draw the attention of customers and influencers and open their eyes to the reasons to choose us over the competition.