The Choice Factory

As Rory Sutherland says, The Choice Factory is a Haynes manual for behavioural science. Richard Shotton’s book is simply structured with 25 short chapters, each explaining a behavioural bias, the academic research behind it and its application to advertising. Shotton, as always, manages to be endlessly interesting and endlessly practical.

Recommended reading for anyone who finds themselves drawn to behaviour science.

The three ages of human trust

Ian Leslie writing in The New Statesman:

In Who Can You Trust? the writer Rachel Botsman argues that we are at the start of an exciting third age in human trust. The first age was local, when we lived in small groups and everyone knew everyone else. The second, which arrived with the industrial age, was institutional, in which we were able to confidently do business with strangers thanks to a nexus of laws and contracts. The third chapter is distributed, in which trust, instead of flowing vertically via institutions, flows horizontally through a vast, algorithmically organised network. The neighbourly interactions central to pre-industrial society have been recreated, except now a neighbour is anyone with whom we share an app.

The opposites test

Roger L. Martin writing in Harvard Business Review:

“The senior team of a large player in the global wealth management business recently asked me for my opinion on their strategy. They had worked long and hard at coming up with it. Their “Where to Play” choice was to target wealthy individuals who wanted and were willing to pay for comprehensive wealth management services. Their “How to Win” choice was to provide great customer service across the breadth of their wealth management needs. I pushed and probed, but that was it.

Sadly, like the majority of strategies that I read, this firm’s strategy failed my sniff test and for that reason I would bet overwhelmingly that it will fail in the market as well. The test I apply is quite simple. I look at the core strategy choices and ask myself if I could make the opposite choice without looking stupid. For my wealth managers, the opposite of their “where” choice was to target poor individuals who don’t want and aren’t willing to pay for comprehensive wealth management services. The opposite of their “how” is to provide crappy customer service.”

Put simply, if the opposite of your strategic decisions look stupid, you have not really made a strategic decision. You will not be differentiated. And every competitor will have the exact same direction.

Repositioning the competition

Jim Carroll, writing on his blog:

“You may be going merrily about your business, doing a decent job, progressing steadily along the tracks. Your brand may be well regarded by consumers. Everything may be OK.

But then out of left field the competition does something radical that rewrites the rules; that reframes the market; that changes the way you’re viewed. Suddenly you no longer seem quite so relevant. You appear a little off the pace, a little out of sorts. Suddenly you look like yesterday’s brand.

BA was solidly respectable, thoroughly dependable. And then irreverent Virgin arrived on the scene and made it somewhat stuffy and old-fashioned. Levi’s was cool and contemporary. And then dissident Diesel appeared and made it safe and conventional. Orange made Vodafone feel corporate. Apple made Microsoft appear square. Sipsmith made Gordon’s look dreary. Fever-Tree made Schweppes taste sweet. Eat made Pret seem over-sauced. And so on and so forth.”

Positioning a brand can feel like an isolated exercise in an otherwise stable category.

But you are always doing more than positioning just one brand.

You are also repositioning a category.

This holds true if you use an ‘about’ approach or a ‘versus’ approach.

There’s a parallel to draw with politics here. The Overton Window describes the acceptable range of political views within a culture. When a new party finds traction at the fringe, they expand the window, and in the process shift the public’s perceptions of where the middle ground lies.

A new position changes all other positions.

Or as Dave Trott wrote in Campaign:

“When you position yourself, you also reposition the competition.”

Marketing’s attitude problem

Byron Sharp writing for The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute:

“There are a number of common misconceptions and they are often surprisingly damaging to marketing effectiveness – sometimes catastrophically so. Too many marketers, and market researchers, fall for what I call ‘marketing’s attitude problem’. This is where problems about buying behaviour – that is, not enough sales – are recast as brand image problems. So if the problem is ‘how do we encourage more recycling of rubbish?’ it’s recast as ‘how do we get people to care about the environment?’ Many brand plans argue that the reason sales growth hasn’t been as robust as desired is that the brand image is ‘not strong’ – whatever that means – or needs to be ‘updated’, ‘modernised’. The idea is that if we can just get people to see us differently, then sales will go through the roof. In reality, what’s holding back sales is that people hardly think of the brand; it’s seldom noticed, and not fast enough, and it’s difficult to buy. The need for differentiation is a related myth, as is the idea that brands sell to distinctive groups of people, or that it’s beneficial or necessary to target a particular group – and therefore not speak to other buyers.”

Market orientation

Mark Ritson, writing for Marketing Week, describes a fundamental problem in how marketing people think about the brands they work on:

“It turns out that, as marketers, we quickly start to lose the perspective of the market as we spend hundreds of days a year inside a company that is launching or managing a product.

We start to think the product is the centre of the world, not the customer that we are designing it for. We begin to assume the claims we make in the advertising are what the customer should care about. We start using dumb verbs like ‘convert’ and ‘educate’ to describe what we will do with our marketing rather than smarter ones like ‘listen’ and ‘serve’.

We go native, and the product cart starts to pull the customer horse. Even though there is a mountain of evidence and precedent that shows that the best way to make money is to find out what the customer is doing and wanting and then design products for them, we start making ‘innovative’ products in a vain attempt to change what they want and how they currently do things.”

This reminds me of Dave Trott’s telescope analogy:

“It’s like looking down different ends of a telescope. Clients, naturally, look down the end that magnifies the brand or the product. Until it takes up their whole world. But the consumer is looking down through the other end. Where the brand/product may be a tiny part, if it exists at all.”

Beach use of this misalignment, Ritson describes the first lesson a marketer should learn:

“A good marketer who is well trained will have been schooled in the discipline and will have started their training with extensive exposure to the concept of market orientation. It’s the bedrock theory of marketing and, paraphrasing somewhat, essentially points out that the first rule of marketing is that you are not the market. All your thoughts, feelings and immediate responses to things like advertising, price and packaging are not just incorrect – they are dangerous.

You help produce the product, ergo you are not the consumer of it. Learning to separate your own instinctive thoughts and feelings from the actual insights from real consumers is, literally, the first thing a trained marketer learns to do well.”

Later, Ritson shows how being more market-orientated leads to being more successful:

“We know from groundbreaking work by a host of American academics in the 1980s and 90s that the more market-oriented a manager and the company she works for is, the faster it will grow, the more profit it will make and the more successful its new innovations will be. It turns out knowing you’re not the customer bestows massive marketing advantages.”

COG Model of human motivation

Matt Willifer writing for APG:

COG has used neuroscience to identify the six – and only six – fundamental human motivations. That is the real emotional truths that get people to actually do something. If your brand can powerfully play to one of these then you’re in a good place.

  • Security: care, trust, closeness, security, warmth
  • Enjoyment: relaxation, fun, openness, pleasur
  • Excitement: vitality, fun, curiosity, creativity, change
  • Adventure: freedom, courage, rebellion, discovery, risk
  • Autonomy: pride, success, power, superiority, recognition
  • Discipline: precision, order, logic, reason

AIDA and the hierarchy of effects

From an article posted by APG Sweden:

The 1880s was the beginning of systematic sales processes. A company that sold calculating machines, The National Cash Register Co., invented a four-step formula for selling – get attention, provoke interest, create desire, and then get action by closing the sale (“AIDA”). The need to make face-to-face selling more efficient resulted in “salesmanship in print”, a term that would make Lord & Thomas the biggest agency in the world. Advertising was seen as a substitute for face-to-face selling, and as a rational, information-based process, with no room for humour or eccentricity. What is noteworthy was that all this happened before the concept of “marketing” was seen as an activity distinct from sales (the first university marketing course was taught in 1902).

AIDA was the first of many “hierarchy of effects” models. Other models are Daniel Starch’s (1920) read, understood, remembered, and acted upon and Russell Colley’s (1961) awareness, comprehension, conviction, desire and action.