Thursday, January 31, 2013

say what? say what?

I'm filing this note under 'context is king' and possible 'the medium is the message'.

Scientists at universities in the UK and Spain have conducted experiments that appear to prove that the context in which certain foods are presented has a significant effect on how they 'taste'.

In the reported example tests showed that hot chocolate served in an orange coloured cup is percieved to 'taste' better.

This reminded me of the other example from a couple of years back when Coca-Cola drinkers complained that regular Coke presented in seasonal 'silver snowflake' cans for Christmas tasted worse, despite the actual content being no different to the normal red cans.

While this should not be surprising or news to anyone - for example we'll routinely (and happily) pay more for a nice ambience in restaurants, it undoubtably makes the entire dining experience more pleasurable as it occurs, making the food 'taste' better.

And perhaps the tasting experience of coca-cola is connected to a memory component, the colour of can is remembered to be consistently red. So when that 'memory' is disrupted and replaced with a new more recent one the situation has changed and is therefore perceived differently.

I'm guessing the 'neuro' explanation is around sensory perception being multi-sensory. A mutual possession, if you like, but with one dominant agent.

For a laugh and another context on 'context' allow me to recount this tale from my dj days.

This is back in the early 90's, at a club I ran we booked top dj's and producers Rocky and Diesel to do a turn.

Unfortunately the airline had managed to mis-place their record boxes on the flight up from London to Aberdeen and so the guys arrived at the club for their spot sans music.

Fortunately the record boxes of myself and my dj partner were balearic-ly eclectic and cock-full of similar tunes that Rocky and Diesel would have been likely to spin anyway, and If we kept schtum about the lost boxes all would be fine.

Like true pro's the two Darrens played a typically blinding set. Even without their own tunes.

In fact we noted to our delight (and self-validation) that they employed many sequences of tunage that were the same as we did.

I even received envious comments concerning some Johnny Vicious bootleg or other in the box that was highly sought after and hitherto unavailable even to the capital's top spinners.

The surprising thing though was the commentary post-gig from the assembled trainspotters and club boffins.

These experts declared the gig to be the best that the town had witnessed for some considerable time, and noted that the resident dj's (us) should do well to take note from our guests and endeavour to find and play more of that rare deep underground tech-house blah blah tunage, the likes of which had never been heard in provincial Aberdeen before. Ever.


An early lesson that content is important but the context in which the content is delivered is everything for perception.

Say what?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

plastic bags and customer journey models

Many years ago I was involved in an indie record shop.

For the benefit of younger readers we were purveyors of 12inch diameter round pieces of plastic on which a groove was etched. When activated these grooves produced music.

If you've seen or read High Fidelity then this will give you something of a flavour.

It was a bit of a shambolic operation at the best of times but I only got an actual bollocking once from the owner.

Post-bollocking I never made the same mistake again.

It wasn't for ordering too much stock of some obscure Italian jazz-house oddity.

It wasn't for not opening up until mid-day because of some hangover or other.

Nor was it for keeping the best promo's for myself (I was also a club dj of some repute).

The only thing I ever got it in the neck for was allowing us to run out of the 12" plastic bags wuith the shop logo emblazoned on them.

Because one Saturday morning when the cool kids were coming in to snap up the latest imports, white labels and other hard-to-find underground tunes and bootlegs I had to put them in 'blank' bags instead.

And as they wandered round town or went to the pub in the afternoon to show their mates what they had procured it was vital to us that they pulled their purchases out of one of our branded bags.

We never advertised, and this was pre-internet days people. We had no website. Our only drivers of custom were our knowledge, service, our ability to get the shit the kids wanted first.

And the subsequent word of mouth/general coolness factor.

Social proof, if you prefer.

So when I see an article like this one in Adage - 'Follow Customers as They Actually Behave' - I get interested.

While this is a nice try - and at least a significant improvement on any traditional funnel metaphor - there is one tiny flaw which renders it only half useful.

'Most customers tell us that when they're open to discovering new products and services, they rely on mass-reach channels such as TV ads, search engines and word of mouth. When they want to explore products in more detail, they use depth channels like marketers' websites and retail stores. (They turn to these same channels when completing purchases.) When they want to engage with their favorite brands, they use relationship channels -- signing up for email lists or loyalty programs, or liking a brand on Facebook.'

The author illustrates with a neat diagram outlining many customer 'touchpoints' categorised as those pertaining to 'Reach' 'Depth' and 'Relationship'.

The basic flaw of the theory is simple.

Despite it's thoroughness the map is still based on the notion of the (singular) 'consumer' on an independent journey making independent choices as to when and where to 'engage' (sic) with the 'brand'.

So it's still marketing as something 'we' do TO customers.

But the author said 'Follow Customers as the Actually Behave'?

The truth is that in just about any given market people who are in any way unsure what the appropriate behavior for the situation is, they will look around at other people for cues.

These cues are in the spaces between the touchpoints on a channel plan. But they are in there none the less.

I'm not trashing the RDaR model, it's a useful component but not a whole picture by any stretch.

Ignore what happens in the spaces in between at your peril.

For the most part our job in the 21st century is not about building the 'better mousetrap' and IS much more about helping people (customers) to do stuff to and with each other.

That's what my plastic bags were for, likewise the first time you noticed white earbuds. Or even the first time you saw people doing a silly dance like riding a horse...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

big data miracle drug

We've pondered the implications of 'big data' in these pages on several occasions and come to at least one simple conclusion, namely that more (ie big) data does not necessarily mean 'better' and that the more data one has will often actually make it harder to find the required information to distill into insight.

With that in mind, find of the week is this article by Scott Brinkner entitled 'The Big Data Bubble'.

Scott says 'Now, I love data as much as the next techy-geeky-marketing-wonk-with-a-blog. But what strikes me about all this explosive data chatter — in no small part, driven by the peaking hype cycle of big data as a miracle drug — is how little recognition is being given to the operational implications of actually using data.'

And from an agency person perspective I almost feel that Scott has observed some of the big agency CEO 'predictions' for 2013 that have been appearing.

Whereas two years ago the key buzzwords* would have included 'social', then 'possibly 'mobile' the new phrase to drop in assessment of challenges or opportunities is clearly 'big data'.

Quite why this is an opportunity though is sadly absent from this commentary.

Scott has neatly encapsulated the chunking of this percieved 'opportunity' thus...

1. Analyze data — preferably big data.
2. ???
3. Profit.

The pesky bit in the middle is the bit that, for the most part, few have yet to approach a grasping distance.

Fortunately Brinkler outlines a potential 1-2-3 approach neatly.

1. Big Data. Collect and organize data to extract information and insight. This is the part that big data has to offer. But some of the most valuable output from such data analytics will be mere hypotheses — interesting correlations of factors and behaviors

2. Big Testing. Take those hypotheses and be able to quickly and effectively test them to prove cause-and-effect: that those factors can indeed be leveraged to influence customer behavior.

3. Big Experience. Apply your targeted data and proven tests towards delivering better customer experiences, to many different customer segments.

Read the full article here.

*note: the hapless CEO's are clearly subject to intuitizzle heuristics at this stage and as we all know, all heuristics are equal, but 'availablity' is more equal than others.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

intuitizzle heuristics

Now here's yesterday's Daniel Kahneman quote again - the one about pulling insights from one's own behaviour rather than looking for said insight in facts about things in general.

This time, however, I've copied the text from my original post after it had been through the gizoogle filter.

Somehow i prefer the new interpretation.

"Muthafuckas whoz ass is taught surprisin statistical facts bout human behavior may be impressed ta tha point of spittin some lyrics ta they playaz bout what tha fuck they have heard yo, but dis do not mean dat they understandin of tha ghetto has straight-up chizzled...

Da whether yo' understandin of situations you encounter has chizzled, not whether you have hustled a freshly smoked up fact...

There be a thugged-out deep gap between our thankin bout statistics n' our thankin bout individual cases. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass. Statistical thangs up in dis biatch wit a cold-ass lil causal interpretation gots a stronger effect on our thankin than noncausal deetz...

But even compellin causal statistics aint gonna chizzle long-held beliefs and beliefs rooted up in underground experience...

Yo ass is mo' likely ta learn somethang by findin surprises up in yo' own behavior than by hearin surprisin facts bout gangstas up in general".

Your turn.

Monday, January 21, 2013

if facebook was a country blah blah blah

Once upon a time I was that douchebag.

The one who trotted out 'facts' and stats about social media or whatever was the thing at the time. To be fair I never used the 'if facebook was a country' one but it's one of the most 'available' examples that most of us recognise.

Until an old boss of mine forced me to reconsider this behaviour.

Every time I quoted some number or other he challenged me with the same question.

'So what?'

To illustrate, the following is an excerpt from TFAS that I've pulled from my Kindle highlights and one which has been rattling round my head this weekend.

The core of DK's schtick is, of course, intuitive heuristics - meaning that when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an another, easier, question instead, usually without even noticing what we did.

"People who are taught surprising statistical facts about human behavior may be impressed to the point of telling their friends about what they have heard, but this does not mean that their understanding of the world has really changed...

The whether your understanding of situations you encounter has changed, not whether you have learned a new fact...

There is a deep gap between our thinking about statistics and our thinking about individual cases. Statistical results with a causal interpretation have a stronger effect on our thinking than noncausal information...

But even compelling causal statistics will not change long-held beliefs or beliefs rooted in personal experience...

You are more likely to learn something by finding surprises in your own behavior than by hearing surprising facts about people in general".

Friday, January 18, 2013

three guys walk into a bar...

By way off offsetting the last post here's a point of view from the great Mr William Bernbach that it's worth considering more frequently than we probably do.

Bonus content.

Three guys walk into a bar...

What if it was Bill Bernbach, Steve Jobs and Marshall McLuhan...


'Chindogu' is the japanese word coined for the art of the un-useless idea.

Something that sort-of works but possibly only solves a problem that it has created itself.

I used some examples recently to describe some of the digital 'marketing' activities that keep agencies busy these days...

As if by magic a couple of other examples have popped into my stream in the last couple of days.


Apparently “The TrackMyMacca’s app is a world first for McDonald’s and we’re really happy to...deliver this our customers around the country.Using GPS technology partnered with augmented reality, any Australian with an iPhone, iPad or iTouch can now use the app and track where different ingredients of the specific meal they are having has come from.”

One question. Why?

Next up...

Moisturizing Jeans.

From Wrangler (yep) 'diffusion' brand DenimSpa "The pioneering skinny-fit style, incorporates high-performance skincare ingredients to protect your legs from the dehydrating effects of denim."

As The Atlantic correctly points out:

'The dehydrating effects of denim! Which is a problem I had no idea existed, but one that must exist given that it now has a high-tech solution!'

Stand by in 2013 for more un-useless gubbins.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

in the ghetto - part 17

So, according to this statement by Forrester, 2013 is the year when we will finally see 'digital' is set to lose its prefix and just be referred to as 'marketing' as 'all marketers’ output will become 'inherently digital' over the coming months.

I've complained about the existence of the digital ghetto, and the subservient self-commodification by the digerati, often enough in the past so would, of course, welcome this trend.

In a twitter discussion Jason Moriber informed me that companies and agencies he is dealing with (presumably in his 'hood, NY/USA) are indeed dropping the 'digital' from departments and job titles.

As an analogy/example of why this is important consider please the beginning of this interview that one Steven Morrisey conducted with the great Joni Mitchell back in 1996 (courtesy of Dangerous Minds).

Morrissey: Do they still refer to you as a female songwriter?'s become such a ludicrous title because to be called a female songwriter....

Joni: ...It implies limitations.

Morrissey: Well, it implies that it's not a 'real' songwriter.

Joni: Yeah.

Morrissey: I mean, you couldn't imagine, for instance, saying Paul McCartney's a great 'male' songwriter.'


I wrote the following in July 2011 but had been wrestling with the conundrum for some considerable time until that point.

When is a producer not a producer?
When is a planner not a planner?
When is an art director not an art director?

When they are a digital producer/planner/art director, of course.

My irk is that 'the digital' is invariably 'other'.
By labelling it digital it's somehow SEPARATE from 'proper' planning or 'proper' creative.
It becomes secondary by it's otherness.
It's down the totem pole.
It's the little brother or sister.
The add-on after the real stuff.
The nice-to-have.
'...Lets get the basics right first then do some digital...'
This is not a pop at the traditionalists per se.
It's the digitalists that are as much the problem, by revelling in their otherness.
My fellow digerati, honestly, until we figure this out we'll always be in the ghetto.

And don't even get me started on this subsequent question that his Mozz-ness poses further into the interview...

Morrissey: Don't you find that if your music...aims towards being intellectual, that you have to explain yourself repeatedly and in much more depth than anybody who makes nonsensical, throw-away, useless music?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

train in vain

The Bigjigs wooden toy company's pitch to take over the UK's West Coast mainline rail franchise is an early contender for pr/marketing genius stroke of the year.

The franchise was up for proposals, contenders included Firstgroup and eventual winners Virgin.

In a letter written by Bigjigs to the Department for Transport, the company proposed a 'free' rail service run on 'enjoyment'. Also included was one of Bigjigs toy trains.

To the credit of Dft they responded to the proposal formally, albiet with a decline.

Transport Minister Patrick McLoughlin's private secretary - Mark Reach - responded with this assessment.

'While perfect for the in-home market, wooden carriages are unlikely to meet modern crashworthiness standards for operation on the heavy rail network.'

For the price of a letter and stamp, and one wooden train Bigjigs managed to scoop front page on the BBC News website - and 3rd most shared item of the day - plus articles on just about every British newspaper site, and many more news sites and blogs.

Aside from the PR value from the jape, on a more serious side they were able to do a significant bit of branding alongsde it.

The 'free rail service built on enjoyment' piece was well reported, as was this values statement by Bigjigs MD George Poole.

"The message I have for the DfT is this: We need to put some love back into the train journey. At the minute the commuters get a pretty rough deal: increasing fares, delayed services, overcrowded carriages etc. The train used to be a great mode of transport for all to enjoy, we want/need to get back to when we used to see the train as a fun way to travel."


BBC report here.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

messi behaviour

Here's an interesting observation from Gavin Levey, Head of the Aberdeen FC Youth Academy following a visit to FC Barcelona see how youth coaching done in Spain.

It turns out that the Spanish kids train roughly the same amount of hours as the Scottish ones and the actual training facilities at Barcelona are broadly similar.

Yet, somehow Barca produce a conveyor belt of young superstars who can compete on any stage.

Gavin notes:

'The main thing that is different is a joined up philosophy from the U8s right through to the first team. The drills seven, eight, nine year olds are doing are the same as the ones the first team would be doing.'

"They are also taught good habits. The young kids at eight years are treated like the first team.

[In youth matches] both teams walk out onto the pitch as if it was a Champions League game together.

Before the game they then walk up and down shaking hands with each other like the first team do.

They come over to the side of the pitch and clap the parents after the game like the first team do.

Just little things, but it was very impressive.

"You look at their first team and see how many players have come through, that is because they know what they are looking for in their youth players.

That is not something that costs money, it is just people having the same belief in what they are looking for when they are producing players.

Tru dat. Shaping behaviour first is the best way to shape minds.

Emotional stimulation with direct behavioral reactions - these youngsters do the same behaviours as the top players so they feel like first-teamers - meaning over time they start to have the attitudes of top players.

Apart from the obvious connection to what we do in advertising - shaping behaviour - this also highlights the constant challenge for the small agency among the big agencies.

Maybe just acting big is at the start of being big?

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

B is for Buddha and Baudrillard

Dealing with obstacles...
In this instance a giant potato.

1. Complain about the obstacle, and canvas others to confirm it is indeed an obstacle.

2. Try and get the obstacle to submit to your will.

Give up. Submit to the obstacle.

Remove the obstacle's power. By not recognising the giant potato as an obstacle it's no longer an obstacle.

Once we lose the fear of systems, conventions, giant potatoes or obstacles, they lose the hold they have over us.

HT BuddhismNow

don't take five (take what you want)

If we're waiting until things or circumstances are perfect before doing something that matters then we'll have a long wait because, unfortunately, that day never comes.

Most of the time we must just use what we have.

Be inspired by these kids.

Happy new year to all, let's go.

HT and finders fee to @johnniemoore