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.

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