Tuesday, September 24, 2013

midnight to stevens

To coincide with the release of the box set Sound System, Google Play has produced a 5 part documentary, Audio Ammunition, with the surviving members The Clash, each part focussing on one of the five most important albums.

The Guy Stevens produced London Calling is still up there with the greatest ever rock'n'roll sets and in part three of the doco Paul Simonen reminds us of this classic Stevens-ism.

The ability to seamlessly mix rampant ego-mania with humble deference being genius of sorts.

'There are only two Phil Spectors in the world... and I'm one of them!'

See the Open Culture blog post with all five films.

Monday, September 23, 2013

it was going to be pie in the sky

There's a old adage that goes something like 'good scientists are as happy to be proven wrong as right. What makes them happy is the proof itself'.

The same can be said for planning.

Contrary to the beliefs of some of my colleagues (ha) I'm just as happy when the application of certain principles may not work the way we intended. Whichever way it goes we've learned something.

One persuasion principle that works more often than not in advertising is the 'liking' principle.

People are generally more open to suggestion when the message comes from someone, or some brand they like, or indeed if the message is presented in a way that is likable.

We are more likely to say yes to someone who pay us compliments, or whom we feel like will co-operate with us.

One way of leveraging the principle of liking is to share something in common before we start negotiating.

Because we generally tend to like people who are similar to us.

This principle has a high strike rate but doesn't always work.

I enjoyed this example from Laurie Taylor's 'Thinking Allowed' Radio 4 sociology program.

A Labour politician had developed a winning formula when canvassing in a downtrodden area of London where many of his constituents lived in tower blocks.

The candidate would ring all the bells on a particular floor in order to get 4 or 5 voters on the landing at once, therefore giving himself more of an audience for his pitch.

This saved time and also he understood that his constituents had more propensity to be influenced by each other than in one on one situations so there was a fair chance that he could take advantage of another principle (social influence/herding). So far so good.

Our politician's opening gambit would include sharing something in common with his targets.

He would use the 'liking' principle, usually along the lines of explaining that they could trust him because he came from the same area as them.

Until one day when he rang four bells but only one old woman answered her door.

Deprived of a group audience our politician still pitched with his 'You can trust me, I'm from this area, too' opener.

To which the old woman replied from behind the slightly ajar door, with security chain still in place...

'I wouldn't trust anybody who comes from round here'.

Friday, September 20, 2013

always think you are going to win

Sir Alex: 'I am a gambler—a risk taker—and you can see that in how we played in the late stages of matches. If we were down at halftime, the message was simple: Don’t panic. Just concentrate on getting the task done.

If we were still down—say, 1–2—with 15 minutes to go, I was ready to take more risks. I was perfectly happy to lose 1–3 if it meant we’d given ourselves a good chance to draw or to win.

So in those last 15 minutes, we’d go for it. We’d put in an extra attacking player and worry less about defense. We knew that if we ended up winning 3–2, it would be a fantastic feeling. And if we lost 1–3, we’d been losing anyway.'

changing a habit with one interaction

While mindful of not confusing repeat purchase, or habit, with loyalty, a lesson for us could be; that when we are designing experiences that require customers to complete any set of tasks over time - be that filling out forms or collecting points with purchases or even simply purchasing a number of items over time - framing that task as one that is already underway – for example using some kind of indicator that progress has been even made before the customer has to start - improves the chances of a customer completing the thing we want them to do.

As an example, earlier this week I visited a new coffee shop, not my usual one, and along with my coffee I received a card that gives me a free coffee once I fill the card with stamps.

So what? Pretty standard coffee shop practice, I hear you say.

But, my card requires 10 stamps for a free coffee, and the cheeky barista gave me a jump start with two free stamps.

Now transpose this onto an imaginary situation.

Suppose for a second that I had visited said coffee shop with a friend and that friend had also received a 'loyalty' card. Except my friend doesn’t get any free stamps, but their card only requires 8 stamps instead of 10.

So both of us are looking at the same number of future transactions (8) to get a free coffee.

But, assuming we don't go for coffee together every time, who do you think is more likely to come back enough times to fill up their card?

As it goes, it’s 'me'.

I have the card that needs 10 stamps in total, but now I've already received enough stamps to get 20% of the way towards the free coffee.

And, as it also goes I have returned to the unfamiliar coffee shop this week for more stamps, and broken my usual habit without thinking about it.

In the case of data analysis it's never a good idea to infer the general from the particular.

However in human behaviour, particularly around common mundane activities, observing ones own behaviour can often be a good indicator of what others are likely to do.

So armed with that observation I subsequently found out that this situation is called ‘the endowed progress effect.’

I also uncovered that in experiments conducted around similar habitual behaviours 34% of people who got a 10-stamp card with 2 free stamps in advance went back enough times to complete the cards, compared to 19% of customers who started with the empty card requiring only 8 stamps. This is despite the fact that both sets of customers only needed 8 stamps for a free thing.

And what’s more, those given the two free stamps also tried to fill up their card faster.

By giving people just a feeling of instant progress towards a reward, they’re more likely to take the required steps to reach that reward.

By giving the two free stamps the barista has framed the activity (i.e., buying enough coffee to get a free one) as one that is already in progress.

With any new behaviour, the hardest part it getting started in the first place. so by fuzzying up the commencement takes advantage of our naturally inclination to complete tasks that we feel we are already into.

this was pop

It wasn't that long ago when the subject matter and context in pop songs had somewhat more substance and sense of enquiry.

Yes kids, this was pop, believe it or not.

'If you ever get close to a human and human behaviour be ready to get confused...

..there's definitely no logic to human behaviour but yet so irresistible...

...but, oh, to get involved in the exchange of human emotions is ever so satisfying'

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

making it easy to donate #asku

What if you could help charities raise funds without having to put your hand in your pocket for cash?

What if it was enough for you to just put your hand in your pocket for your phone?

A new app called AskU allows this very thing to happen.

The idea being that whilst hanging about waiting for trains or any other inbetween times you can fire up AskU, answer some market research type questions, and the organisation posing said questions pays AskU, and the participating charities, for your answers.

This potentially solves a big behavioural problem for the charities involved.

Many people like the idea of supporting charity but when it comes to the crunch, handing over the dosh is a huge barrier.

There are many theories around things like reward substitution that have been proven be effective.

However, AskU simply removes the barrier completely and outsources your donation using someone else's (or some company's) dollar instead.

AskU - Harness your idle time to change the world! from AskU on Vimeo.

AskU, was developed by PwC in collaboration with The Australian Charities Fund (ACF).

ACF has nominated four charities to benefit from AskU in the first phase of its growth;
Opportunity International Australia, The Smith Family, Mission Australia and Redkite.

Free on iTunes and Google Play, the app is available for all iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

Some friends of this blog are involved so we'd appreciate it if you would give it a whirl.

Check it out asku.com.au

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

the dreams we have as children, fade away

Childhood, as a frame, will inspire and motivate because it allows us to reflect back to a time before things became so complicated.

As we get older we get conflicted. Life gets messier and nothing is as simple any more.

Like Noel Gallagher occasionally nailed it...

'When I was young, I thought I had my own key,
I knew exactly what I wanted to be,
Now I'm sure,
You've boarded up every door.'

So it may be the case that when 'memories' of childhood are evoked then our own moral standards can be temporarily rebooted, and therefore we might just act in a more prosocial manner with some of our choices.

Memory, of course, is not the correct description.
While we have a handle on the general gist of what happened the actual details are long gone and so therefore any memory of childhood is largely an idealised fiction.
This is as true when we try and recount what happened yesterday as much is something from many years ago.

You may be surprised, as I was, to know that our memories are actually reconstructed afresh every time we bring them to mind. It's nerve pathways that firing anew each time, and your mind will also fill in any gaps with made up stuff that seems plausible, but these will seem as real the original event.

It's basic human need to make sense out of events, so we create these memory illusions to give a sense of coherence or narrative. But they are illusions none the less.

Anyway, back to the topic, the latest Chipotle trailer seems to be a classic example of pulling those childhood moral compass strings, and to good effect.

Monday, September 09, 2013

uncertain smile

Mirror neurons – the things that trigger responses in our brains whether we are doing an activity ourselves or whether we simply see someone else doing the same thing. They are a fundamental mechanism for learning (socially), and leveraging these triggers is the oldest trick in the advertising book.

So, when Australian ad watchdog the Outdoor Media Association, ruled that the ad on the left featuring expressionless models was inappropriate; and therefore told skincare brand Ella Bache to relace the offending pic with smiling models instead, they have actually done Ella Bache an unlikely favour.

OMA decreed that the 'serious facial expressions increased the sexual overtones of the image', and therefore the image should change.

According to Mumbrella this morning, Ella Bache's creative director Faie Davis was not happy:

'This bizarre decision is the epitome of political correctness, indicating that as a society we are becoming very fearful of putting a foot wrong, with the result that stymies creative thinking. In the past we have produced ads approved with nude men and women hugging and kissing, yet now we have an industry self-regulator now making judgments on the different sexual mores of a smile or serious expression of models.'

Davis should be advised that the OMA ruling will probably make the ad more effective.

Replacing the neutral faces with smiling faces is a smarter strategy.

Now women looking at the ad will know how they are supposed to feel when using the product.

Not neutral. Happy.

It's no accident that every coca-cola ad in history has featured happy people consuming the product.

This is how you are supposed to feel.

Monkey see, monkey do.

Although full marks to Davis for the cute (or perhaps unintended) use of the old subjective validation trick (aka the Forer Effect) on the line 'as individual as you are'.

twymyn llinell wen

This is a terrific example of a likely system one decision, endorsed by system two without checking, and then compounded by a further ignorance-of-crowds endorsement.

(Recap: System one being the set of cognitive processes that operate automatically without the need for 'thinking' and by which the majority of our behaviours are driven, while system two drives the slower more effortful critical thinking process)

To explain this process, I've often used the bat and ball example that came to fame as part of Daniel Kahneman's Nobel prize acceptance speech.

It's probably too well known now to be of further use, but just in case...

Consider a bat and a ball for sale in your big box retail store of choice.

The bat and ball together costs one dollar and ten cents.
If the bat costs a dollar more than the ball, then how much would the ball cost?

I once used this when giving a talk to 150 analytics professionals and around 80% of the audience raised their hand for ten cents.

Of course, they were wrong.

Ten cents sounds pretty plausible, this is system one throwing up an answer, then the answer is endorsed by system two and on you go with your day.

If you still haven't worked it out yet the correct answer is five cents.

Similarly, someone in the Swansea City council roads department let their system two endorse a system one decision routinely without checking.

All official road signs in Wales are displayed in English and Welsh language, so the roads department e-mailed its in-house translation service for the Welsh version of:

'No entry for heavy goods vehicles. Residential site only'.

All simple enough so far, except the sign was manufactured and placed with the translation below that reads:

'I am not in the office at the moment. Send any work to be translated'

While this is funny enough, and can be attributed to a simple individual mistake in the first instance, one has to wonder how many sets of Swansea council eyeballs this passed by and no-one saw or questioned the error.

Most of the time the common tendency to adopt the opinions and follow the behaviors of the majority around us is perfectly sensible, it feels safer and helps to avoid conflict.

Except when it doesn't.

And most of the time, the automatic decision making of the highly skilled system one, endorsed by system two, serves us pretty well.

Except when it doesn't.

Filed also under change blindness, authority bias and 'no nurse, I said remove his spectacles!'