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.

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