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.

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.

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.