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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

This Month

June 2016 :  Culture Retardant

It is getting harder to influence people. Communicating new ideas has never been easy because you tend to privilege messages you find familiar and with whose values you agree. The arrival of social media has only made this much worse. Since the way the networks monetise, is to give you topics which you have already expressed an interest in and to prioritise friends and contacts with whom you have the closest connection.

It is dangerous because you may imagine that there is a consensus when you are inhabiting a micro-culture which has been designed to reinforce what you already think and feel. There has never been a greater need for research which doesn’t come from a presumed consensus. You may respond Well he would say that wouldn’t he? But too often marketers are forming opinions from their own experience of media reporting and social media which is hopelessly biassed. LinkedIn circulates a limited set of very predictable ideas deemed suitable for driving new business and it is almost impossible to challenge or debate these before the next crop floods through. Almost all reports about digital customer behaviour are designed to sell digital services as if this is the only sensible way to market to customers. The more digital the brand Yes you Google! the less they can be trusted to be dispassionate.  Research is only part of the answer. You owe it to yourself to actively seek out contacts and ideas which don’t come on your radar. And please don’t do it through the marketing press or the newspapers – despite political variances it is remarkably vanilla.  In the last 2 months I have intentionally searched out meetings on the margins with people whose experience is completely different from the norm. For which I am grateful. Give me a call if you want more on this. 


Is marketing in real time a good idea? Steve Hilton thinks not

Last week I attended the Account Planning Group annual conference. Apart from meeting really interesting people like Baroness Susan Greenfield, perhaps the most interesting contrast revealed by the conference was the sharp difference between the way advertising is going: Automated, programmatic, reacting in real time to customer behaviour. And the way decision making happens elsewhere. Steve Hilton former director of strategy for David Cameron in the last government was interviewed by Tracey Follows (my fellow author). He observed that governments really don’t want to try to govern using constant referenda and real time snap polls because it makes governing impossible. Policy is formed by watching how public opinion forms evolves and changes.  It is difficult enough to follow the electorate without trying to do it in real time.

Pause for thought anybody?  The push for automating advertising is driven by cost – because its cheaper and quicker to get machines to make the choices. What is less clear is whether that leads to better as opposed to cheaper outcomes. What are marketers losing by trying to catch customers in the moment? Doesn’t persuasion actually take time? There is still a powerful case for having away days in which the leadership team chooses the most important things for the coming trading period – and the metrics they have to watch. And not leaving it up to the daily dashboard. If you want to know more about business planning workshops well you know who to call!!

Doing what everyone else is doing 

With a book of my own on the starting blocks within days its nice to be able to plug a book by a mate. Mark Earls has trod a lonely path writing first Herd then I’m having what She’s Having and most recently Copy Copy Copy.  James Surowiecki’s book the Wisdom of Crowds was one of a stream of books which suggested that being influenced by other people is one of the ways policy makers can affect behaviour. So we’ve had word of mouth, behavioural economics, and nudge marketing.  Mark has stuck to his guns with the concept that in many markets we either look for experts who we will literally imitate if we can. Or find what is working for others and do that. Even if we won’t admit that to ourselves much less anybody else.  This third book is a real how to – it uses a simple schematic to segment the different ways markets work. And then gives you a whole list of possible strategies for each quadrant.  Very structured – this is a great way to apply the herd theory. And Mark even has a pack of cards to help you to brain storm herd strategies developed with collaborator John Wilsher who runs Artefact Cards (also worth a look). You can find Copy Copy Copy here. The book has been out a year now but I don’t plug anything I haven’t read – so consider it read and plugged! 

Up and coming
In headline news I am afraid that the eagerly anticipated launch of our new book 98% Pure Potato next Tuesday has had to be postponed because well the printer can’t print it in time.  Very frustrating. But the new date is July 7th. By which time the book should be available to buy in the shops. A big thank you if you have already ordered it.  I have resolved never to write an unkind book review again – I had no idea how much work it takes to get a book into print.. Oh and the Marketing Society has published a blog post of mine on their website. It follows the line I took at the MRS conference earlier this year about clients doing their own research.  

My congratulations to this year’s winners of the Ginny Valentine Badge of Courage award for bravery in research who will be announced at Iiex in Atlanta in a fortnight’s time. The judges made their decisions on a conference call last week and once again we have some inspirational winners who have stuck their necks out.  Lots to be getting on with but always good to hear from you if you have an intractable communications, brand or research problem.   


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