Tuesday, February 25, 2014

a note on brand frames and anchoring

In the clip above, Aussie discount retailer Best&Less hosted a pop up store in a Sydney shopping mall.

However, ‘The L&B Experiment’, was designed to look like more a boutique fashion store (with the, naturally, hefty boutique-y price tags). The twist being that the clothes for sale were all regular cheapo Best&Less products.

The 'real' price was revealed at the point of payment, around a third of the actual ticket price.

The happy shoppers were, of course, delighted to discover this.

But it's worth remembering what we know about brands as frames.

The amount that we are prepared to pay over and above the objective value of any product is usually equal to the value of the frame that the brand provides at the moment of purchase.

This why we have brands. It makes buying easier.

Framing operates implicitly, hence the shoppers in the clip are not aware of its influence.

Therefore, while the percieved value of the product is greater in the context of this 'designer' store, what happens when the products return to their natural habitat? The Best&Less store.

When returned to their original 'frame' does their percieved value change back to what it was in its original context?

Nice bit of anchoring (with a priming effect) on the price tags, though.

But it remains to be seen what this will deliver from a brand standpoint.

it's got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good

Fly6 is an interesting idea that's come from a couple of cycling enthusiasts and inventors out of Perth, here in Australia.

Their product is a rear bike light with an embedded HD camera that 'aims to discourage bad behavior on the part of motorists by warning them that they’re being filmed'.

Essentially a nudge-like move that (in theory) works in much the same way as speed cameras do in managing the speed limit.

Although on consulting Mark, our resident cycling expert in this office, we were reminded that innovations such as this will only be effective as a deterrent if widely adopted by cyclists and 'mentally available' to the mass of car drivers.

Until that point there's still value for the cyclist should they be the victim of dodgy driving, they will have the evidence on film.

But at a $169 price point and limited distribution mass adoption is probably a way-off yet.

Until the $25 knock-offs arrive.

Friday, February 21, 2014

the seven thousand names of wah

We've talked about nominative determinism in this journal a number of times.

As a recap this is mainly a pseudo-scientific bit of psychologist humour, the origin is often attributed to Carl Jung who said to have noted the 'quite gross coincidence between a man's name and his peculiarities or profession.'

Jung kept the gag going by noting the phenomenon among psychologists, including himself:

"Herr Freud (Joy) champions the pleasure principle, Herr Adler (Eagle) the will to power, Herr Jung (Young) the idea of rebirth…"

The label itself is reported to have been coined in 1994 by science mag New Scientist, and explained thus:

'We recently came across a new book, Pole Positions - The Polar Regions and the Future of the Planet, by Daniel Snowman. Then, a couple of weeks later, we received a copy of London Under London - A Subterranean Guide, one of the authors of which is Richard Trench. So it was interesting to see Jen Hunt of the University of Manchester stating in the October issue of The Psychologist: "Authors gravitate to the area of research which fits their surname." Hunt's example is an article on incontinence in the British Journal of Urology by A. J. Splatt and D. Weedon.'

Fast forward to this week and a new University of British Columbia study featured in Science Daily finds that 'we prefer voices that are similar to our own because they convey a soothing sense of community and social belongingness'.

This comes as no surprise, given that we know about the 'liking' principle in the psychology of persuasion.

People prefer to say yes to someone they like, and we like people who are similar to us.

Sharing something in common before you start negotiating is the classic tactic.

And as Kahneman noted 'good mood and cognitive ease are the human equivalents of assessments of safety and familiarity'.

And familiarity breeds liking.

Anyway, after perusing the report, which also concludes 'the findings indicate that our preference for voices...are about fitting in to our social groups' we were unsurprised to note that the authors name was Molly Babel.

Monday, February 17, 2014

'like' if you love cheese is not dead

Thanks to those cheeky Facebook data scientists for our Monday morning chuckle of the day.

AllFacebook reports on the introduction of the 'Pages to Watch' feature available to page admins.

Essentially the feature will alert managers when a post on another page they are watching (ie competitors and suchlike) is getting large amounts of attention and engagement (sic).

This little tactic is designed to activate home bias (aka the keeping up with the joneses effect) in hapless page admins, now futher driven to distraction.

In their paper 'Keeping Up With The Joneses and the Home Bias', Lauterbach and Riesmen (2003) describe this effect as follows:

'We argue that when individuals care about their consumption relative to that of their neighbors, a home bias emerges, that is investors overweight domestic stocks in their portfolios. Domestic stocks are preferred because they also serve the objective of mimicking the economic fortunes and welfare of the investor's neighbors, countrymen, and social reference group'.

The authors conclude 'The basic idea is that if investors care about their consumption relative to that of their neighbors, they would bias their portfolios in the direction of securities correlated with their neighbors' wealth.'

Perhaps 'like if you love cheese' is not dead after all.

Friday, February 14, 2014

smart ways to do occasion based marketing

The more effectively you can associate a brand (or in this case a brand and a behaviour) to more consumption or behavioural 'occasions', the more you win.

Never mind the demographics/psychographics etc etc, here's the occasions.

'Dumb Ways To .......' ain't going away any time soon. And correctly so, the occasions potential is pretty infinite.

commitment devices

Some readers will no doubt be familiar with The Rule of Reciprocity, often cited as a way to improve conversions and suchlike.

The formula is usually described as follows:

Give something away — a gift, a service, valuable information, assistance — to create in the other person a feeling of indebtedness.

In theory the recipient of the favour will then be more inclined to comply with a subsequent request from the initial giver.

In most circumstances it's the person or company that gives first that is then in control.

The next task is to maintain that control and then use it to your benefit.

Like most of these kind of rules it's never 100%, but seems to play out a decent amount of times.

When it doesn't work, one typical predictor of failure is when the initial 'gift' on offer is something that has no real value to the recipient or is difficult to redeem in some way.

As in behaviour change 101, the two key factors in moving behaviour are:

1. Understanding the motivating factors in the situation of the subject.
2. Make the new behaviour easy to adopt.

To address the motivator point, it's been shown that often the most effective incentives are the ones that show that the company offering the incentive has gone through some sort of extra effort in order to provide this incentive.

For instance, a software company rewarding survey responses with a supermarket gift card may seem like a decent incentive.

But rewarding the behaviour by offering to send a cleaner round to the prospects office once a month has required significantly more percieved effort on the side of the giver.

I've often used Rory Sutherland's 'flowers and jewellery as commitment device' example in describing this to clients.

In the clip below Rory himself gives an extended riff on the point, just in time for Valentines day.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

intuitive heuristics, pepsi-max and medical mishaps

There's an upside and downside with heuristics.

What we call distinctive brand assets (colours, shapes, logos, taglines etc) are essentially heuristics, mental shortcuts, that help brands get remembered and noticed.

Despite the prevalence of the idea that people pay close attention to brands and seek things like relevance and connection, the truth is we don't think about, or care about most brands that much. A good set of brand 'heuristics' makes a brand easy to notice, remember (albeit implicitly) and buy.

Good heuristics are those that can wrap up useful information in a way that is intuitive to remember and act upon and are specific to their context.

Heuristics that are not so useful are the ones that lead us to less optimal decisions.

For instance, medical professionals are often tripped up by certain heuristics.

Representativeness being one.

In a piece on this topic in the New Yorker the renowned Harvard Medical School Biologist Jerome Groopman writes:

"Doctors make [representative] errors when their thinking is overly influenced by what is typically true; they fail to consider possibilities that contradict their mental templates of a disease, and thus attribute symptoms to the wrong cause.'

He goes on to explain how a patient that had reported chest pains the previous day but had been examined, displayed no other symptoms or appearance of health difficulties, given a clean bill and sent home, had arrived the next day in emergency with acute myocardial infarction. Doctor speak for having a heart attack.

The patient survived but the doctor who gave the initial examination was distraught.

“Clearly, I missed it. And why did I miss it? I didn’t miss it because of any egregious behavior, or negligence. I missed it because my thinking was overly influenced by how healthy this man looked, and the absence of risk factors.”

To tie these two thoughts together, onto this nearly splendid film from Pepsi-Max.

The representativeness heuristic is one of the great tricks in the advertising book.

Great for evoking a bit of surprise from the viewer or participant, this one works by taking advantage of how we tend to judge the likelihood of an event by how well it matches our existing belief or stereotype.

When something seems more representative, we'll judge it as more likely or probable.

In the film NBA wonderkid and rookie of the year, Kyrie Irving is disguised as old 'Uncle Drew'.

Pepsi MAX went to a pick-up game in New Jersey under the pretence of shooting a documentary on a young basketball player.

When the player gets injured his hobbling old Uncle Drew comes on as a sub into the game, and after some initial foul-ups to keep it believable eventually turns on the style, to the surprise and astonishment of the crowd.

So while Pepsi-Max used the representativeness heuristic nicely to comedic effect, it's a shame they never took a leaf out of great rival, Coca-Cola's book and applied the daddy of all heuristics, availability.

Advertising need to do two simple things.

1. Get noticed (tick)

2. Be well branded (no tick)

While Coke will always pepper their ads liberally with little brand heuristics (distinctive assets) they are few and far between in the Pepsi spot.

And while Uncle Drew's achievements have been seen by circa 43 million views we have to ask 'where was the branding?'.

By branding we mean the little imlpicit brand cues (bottles, colours, logos etc) that could so easily have been all the way through, in peripheral exposure, without being detrimental to the entertainment.

I'll see you in the sewer

A couple of news items this week reminded us of a story concerning a rat infestation in Hanoi during the 19thC time of French colonial rule.

To combat the rat problem the French authorities swiftly acted with an incentive for Hanoi citizens.

For every dead rat delivered to the appointed rat repository, the good citizen would receive a reward.

Of course it was not long until the residents began specifically breeding their own rat colonies for the exact purpose of cashing in.

Now, against my advice, a former client was determined to launch a Facebook page - the nature of their business meant that other tactics were likely to bear much more fruit - however they were adamant so we decided to do our best for them.

Initially the page gained a small group of fans, mostly friends and family of employees and some partners etc.

Upon running a recruitment ad campaign we gained several thousand new fans over a period of a week or so.

What seemed astonishing was the the apparent popularity of this Australian industrial manufacturing firm in places like Indonesia and the Phillipines.

Particularly because their products and services were not even distributed in those regions.

Clearly something was not quite right.

On realising what was going on, I next suggested to the client that if we adjust our strategy and make our objective to simply appear to be popular then perhaps it would be cheaper and less effort to simply buy a ton of fake likes from some dodgy vendor or other and leave it at that.

In this way we use the page as a simple peripheral 'popularity' point, invest no further effort other than the odd post now and the,n and focus our limited marketing dollars on the tactics that might actually deliver leads and sales.

This idea was met with horror.

How inauthentic.

In this clip by Veritasium the science video blog, who went slightly off topic temporarily, but give a nice simple explanation of the mechanics of this Facebook 'likes' click-farm phenomenon, and implicating Facebook themselevs somewhat.

While, of course, we have probably all known this to be true for some time its interesting to see specific data.

On a similar note, Warc reports that Vivek Shah, the in-coming chair of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, told delegates at the organisation's annual conference, being held in Palm Springs, California that 'online traffic fraud has reached crisis proportions'.

He quoted figures from comScore research that suggest something in the region of 36% of online traffic is now generated by machines ie bots, not by humans. Ouch.

People say you shouldn't stay down here too long,
Lose your sense of light and dark,
Lose your sense of smell,
I'll see you in the sewer, the sewer, the sewer...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

a note on noticing what others don't notice themselves not noticing

Some time ago I caught up with a young planner who had interned with us for a while.

She had subsequently sidestepped advertising and moved into a different area.

I asked what she had been up to and did she miss the advertising business?

'Not really. I've been living in the real world for a bit' she replied.

'Watching TV, reading the newspapers, going shopping. Just doing stuff that normal people do'.

This was a timely nudge.

While we commonly claim that 'getting out of the building' is key to the planning discipline, if we are honest, it's something we don't do as often as we should.

Any insights about shopper behaviour in supermarkets, for instance, are unlikely to revealed by asking questions in the street or in focus groups.

To understand why people are behaving in a particular way, it is important to be able to observe them in their natural habitat.

Data about people's shopping habits is very useful.

But equally; situational factors such as lighting, ambient noise, smells, colours, music, other products on display and the behaviours of others present all also influence how someone feels and what they do.

As the saying goes; not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted.

Because we tend not to discuss what’s not in the data.

We are naturally biased towards the information that we have, or is perhaps 'easiest' to get.

Then, naturally we make decisions based on this information rather than giving full consideration to factors that are possibly more relevant but harder to obtain.

For example, there is often as much insight to be gleaned from looking for things that didn't happen as things that did happen.

I recently had a terrible service experience in a favourite restaurant.

There was a new manager who was either having a very bad day or was completely clueless about how to be a host.

Afterwards we joked 'If she was the 'best' candidate for the job I wonder how bad the other candidates were who were rejected?'

We ignore, at our peril, one of the most pivotal parts of a buyer's purchasing process.

Before anyone buys a product they effectively 'decide' (albeit unconsciously) to not consider the bulk of other brands in that category.

In the same way that we ad people are biased towards make decisions based on the information we have rather than the information we don't have, shoppers don't notice themselves not noticing things therefore can only report on what they have noticed.

So there's a solid argument for getting out of the building more, observing what people actually do, what the real influencing factors are and, most importantly, observing what they don't notice themselves not doing.

And it doesn't do any harm to spend more time with people who think differently than the way we think.

In the real world.

Friday, February 07, 2014

behavioural science at the movies

This probably tells it's own tale of extreme nerdiness but we particularly enjoyed a couple of movies recently in which the plots leaned heavily on some choice behavioural nuggets.

First up is the latest Richard Curtis rom-com, About Time.

The main protagonist Tim, as played by Domhnall Gleeson, learns a secret about the men in their family from his father.

They all have the ability to time travel.

Upon learning the trick, Tim is then able to transport himself back in time to pivotal moments in his life and remake certain decisions, for the most part around relationships with women, that resulted in sub-optimal outcomes.

But the real stars of the film, are of course, our old friends system one and system two. Most of Tim's bad decisions that he goes to fix are of the automatic and emotionally driven.

With the benefit of his time machine superpower Tim is able to revisit the system one emotional errors and put them right with a bit of system two logic.

Hindsight bias a-go-go.

Now you have a scientific excuse to enjoy some rom-com fluff.

Using the splendid Random Cognitive Neuroscience Paper Title Generator we've retitled the film as 'Neural systems for romantic love: A new hypothesis'. Or perhaps even 'Quantification of episodic retrieval and semantic processing'.

Next one, and probably no surprise is American Hustle.

It was down ther on our to watch-list but rapidly moved up to the top following a tweet by radio presenter, ad chap and behavioural/psychology author of Born Liars, Ian Leslie.

Leslie commented 'Unacknowledged scriptwriters on American Hustle: Daniel Kahneman and Robert Cialdini' which is a pretty spot-on assessment.

Loosely based on a real-life 70's political and mob corruption scandal, two con artists, Irving Rosenfeld Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser are coerced by an FBI agent, Richie DiMaso into devising - perhaps the original - classic fake sheikh sting operation, by which the bureau hope to nab some 'bent' politicians and the New Jersey mobsters.

The phoney sheikh is introduced to supposedly fund the building of some super casinos thus boosting both the local economy, which pleases the basically good but somewhat flakey mayor, and the mafia (aka the local business community) lot that he has to keep in with.

As one would expect with a narrative about con-artists the recurring theme is 'people believe what they want to believe', aka confirmation bias.

As it is set in the 70's there are no social media experts present, however.

With liberal doses of justification bias and cognitive dissonance - good people rationalising why they are doing bad things - it's also a psychology-of-persuasion-fest.

Essentially every trick in the Cialdini book (count 'em) comes into play between all the characters as they each try and out-manipulate each other.

So it goes, and may the best persuader win, but although there are a good few laughs don't expect a Richard Curtis-esque feel-good fuzzy ending.

We retitled this one as 'A double dissociation of narrative comprehension from spoken cued recall in motor cortex'.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

distinctive brand assets again #BobDylan

By the mid-80's Bob Dylan's singing voice had somewhat evolved from his 'classic' 60's period ouvre.

Softer and a touch more melodic.

While not troubling the pop charts as often as in the previous two decades he was still pretty huge.

Therefore Bob was an obvious shoe-in for Lionel Ritchies 'We Are The World' project.

For younger readers, this was a US version of Bob Geldof and Midge Ure's Band Aid, a multi-artist charity song to raise funds for the Ethiopian Famine crisis.

The story goes that as Bob was rehearsing his lines in the song, Ritchie - the musical director - was having trouble getting to grips with Dylan's softer vocal approach and phrasing.

Ritchie was mindful of the fact that each individual voice needed to be instantly recognisable and distinguishable for a mass global public.

In the end, the only way Ritchie could ar the performance he wanted from Bob was to articulate it thus..

'That's great Bob, but could you do it again. This time make it a bit more....Dylan-ish'.

The clip below doesn't feature this fabled exchange however you can see Dylan making a solid effort to sing more like 'himself'.

As a footnote, his Bob-ness popped up in an epic, de rigueur, Chrysler Super-Bowl spot.

To the cries of sell-out from the outraged faux-hipster commentators, obviously.

But the furore reminded us of this nugget from Heath and Potter's Rebel Sell.

'Whenever you look at the list of consumer goods that [according to critics of capitalism] people don't really need, what you invariably see is a list of consumer goods that middle-aged intellectuals don't need ... Hollywood movies bad, performance art good; Chryslers bad, Volvos good; hamburgers bad, risotto good.'

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

i'm not like everybody else

In 1976 the USA College Board attached a survey to the Scholastic Assessment Test exams.

These tests are taken by over one million students per year.

The students were asked to rate themselves relative to the average of the sample on a number of criteria.

On leadership ability, 70% of the students rated themselves above average.

In ability to get on well with others, 85% rated themselves above average.

And, indeed, 25% rated themselves in the top 1% overall.

This was one of the first proper studies that uncovered the effect of illusory superiority.

Also known as the better-than-average-effect.

In his book Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert encapsulates this nicely.

'Because if you are like most people, then like most people, you don’t know you’re like most people.

Science has given us a lot of facts about the average person, and one of the most reliable of these facts is that the average person doesn’t see herself as average.

Most students see themselves as more intelligent than the average student.

Most business managers see themselves as more competent than the average business manager.

And most football players see themselves as having better football sense than their teammates.

Ninety percent of motorists consider themselves to be safer than average drivers,
94 percent of college professors consider themselves to be better than average teachers.

Ironically, the bias toward seeing ourselves as better than average causes us to see ourselves as less biased than average too.'

[Likewise, 97% of advertising planners believe they can unearth better behavioural insights than the average planner. I am among that number but obviously I'm not like everybody else in that 97% because I actually can.][joke]

Most people will agree with statements (that appear to be deeply personal but are, of course, deeply general) such as this.

'You are a hardworking person. Others don't always appreciate that about you because you're not able to meet everyone's expectations.

But when something really matters to you, you put forth your best effort.

No, you're not always successful by conventional measures, but that's okay because you're not someone who sets too much store by what the average person thinks'.

One of the ways sophisticated mass marketing works by addressing people as though they are different by finding those things that make us the same.

And of course, the vast majority of consumers don’t perceive brands in a category as particularly unique or different, despite the fact that the idea of differentiation still prevails.

Neither do brands in a category have exclusive customers, people are quite happy to buy from a number of brands. A brief look into your bathroom cabinet will reveal this.

Perhaps the lobby for a future 'humanisation of brands' need to take a step back.

Brands have also been victims of the same delusions and biases as us, their human buyers, for a long time.

Monday, February 03, 2014

distinctive brand assets

Apparently while A/B testing, Facebook engineers uncovered this little nugget.

When their app was shown to be slow to load on iPhones, users were more inclined to apportion blame to Apple when the recognisable round spinny Apple thing appeared.

Whereas the appearance of the blocky thing indicator meant that their ire was more likely to be directed at Facebook.

I wonder which one they decided to go with?

This reminds me of a meeting I once sat in with the head of a big entertainment 'portal', in the UK.

The discussion was around the challenges faced when integrating third-party content into their platform.

The head of the platform said: 'Let's remember that it's not always about solving the problem, it's about making the other guy look bad'.

It's the sharing economy, baby.

(hat-tip for the pic to somebody on Twitter, can't remember who.)


Original Twitter source was probably James Kimmel - sorry mate.