In 1964, Festinger and Nathan Maccoby, academics at Stanford University, recruited members of college fraternities. They played those students an audio argument about why fraternities were morally wrong. The recording was played in two different scenarios; students either heard it on its own or they watched a silent film at the same time.
After the students had heard the recording, the Stanford psychologists questioned them as to how far their views had shifted. Those who had heard the argument at the same time as the silent film were more likely to have changed their opinion.
The psychologists’ hypothesis was that the brain is adept at generating counter-arguments that maintain its existing opinions, but when the brain is distracted that ability is hampered. We’re more easily persuaded when focusing on more than one thing at a time.
The lesson is clear: target rejecters when they’re partially distracted.
1981… McRib launches. But then sales numbers came in. Unfortunately, they were lower than expected at launch. McDonald’s tried promotions and features, but not much worked. So after a few years it dropped the McRib, citing Americans’ lack of interest in pork.
A decade later, however, McDonald’s figured out a clever way to increase demand for the McRib. It didn’t spend more money on advertising. It didn’t change the price. It didn’t even change the ingredients.
It just made the product more scarce.
Sometimes it would bring the product back nationally for a limited time; in other cases it would offer it at certain locations but not others. One month it would be offered only at franchises in Kansas City, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. Two months later it would be offered only in Chicago, Dallas, and Tampa.
And its strategy worked. Consumers got excited about the sandwich. Facebook groups stated popping up asking the company to “bring back the McRib!”
Excerpt from: Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
Beyond War would arrange “house parties,” in which a host family invited a group of friends and neighbors over, along with a Beyond War representative to speak to them. Ainscow recounts a simple demonstration that the group used in its presentations. He always carried a metal bucket to the gatherings. At the appropriate point in the presentation, he’d take a BB out of his pocked and drip it into the empty bucket. The BB made a loud clatter as it ricocheted and settled. Ainscow would say, “This is the Hiroshima bomb.” He then spent a few minutes describing the devastation of the Hiroshima bomb — the miles of flattened buildings, the tens of thousands killed immediately, the larger number of people with burns or other long-term health problems.
There is either too much to worry about or not enough to worry about. They are equally bad.
It is a fair accompli.
There is nothing for him to do. It’s not his work, it’s your work. He doesn’t feel involved.
If he doesn’t like the face of the girl in your rendering, or the style of the trousers worn by the man on the right, or your choice of the car he’s driving, he will reject it.
He won’t see the big idea. He will look at the girl’s face and thing, ‘I don’t like her, this doesn’t feel right.’
It is very difficult for him to imagine anything else if what you show him has such detail.
Show the client a scribble.
Explain it to him, talk him through it, let him use his imagination.
Get him involved.
Because you haven’t shown the exact way it’s going to be, there’s scope to intercept it and develop and change as you progress.
Work with him rather than confronting him with your idea.
It’s good discipline for a writer to work at a place that doesn’t believe in writing. I spent three years at BBH, where less was most definitely more. “The best copy” John Hegarty would say, “is no copy.” And: “If the French could inspire a revolution with just three words: “Liberte, Egalite, Fratenite”, why should you need any more than that to sell soap powder?”
Excerpt from: D&Ad Copy Book by D&AD
Instead of a gradual, evolving progression, Kuhn describes a bumpy, messy process in which initial problems with a scientific theory are either ignored or rationalized away. Eventually so many issues pile up that the scientific discipline in question is thrown into a crisis mode, and the paradigm shifts to a new explanation, entering a new stable era.
Essentially, the old guard holds on to the old theories way too long, even in the face of an obvious-in-hindsight alternative. Nobel Prize-winning physicist Max Planck explained it like this in his Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers: “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing it opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it,” or, more succinctly, “Science progresses one funeral at a time”.
Next, it’s argued that Millennials represent the future. What they do now, everyone will be doing one day. This is probably the weakest argument of all. Our job is to sell to society as it is now. Not as it will be in 10 years’ time. Young people change behaviour as they grow older, so they’re not always a reliable guide to the future. We need to distinguish ‘life-status effect’ from ‘cohort effect’. Just because young people watch less TV than average, TV viewing is not necessarily bound to decline in the future. Young people have always watched less TV than older viewers because they go out more.
We suspect that advertising’s obsession with youth is partly due to lack of perspective. We all tend to assume the average person is someone like us. And people who work in advertising are mostly young. Now there’s less TGI analysis and fewer focus groups going on, young planners are often disbelieving of how old the people buying their brands actually are (TGI reveals, for example, that the average new car buyer in the UK is 56).
In one study I told participants that a 250g box of PG Tips cost £2.29, while the same weight of Tesco own label tea cost £1. When questioned about the price, 31% of the respondents rated PG Tips as good value.
I then asked another group the same question but with one tweak. Rather than compare PG Tips to own label it was contrasted with Twining’s, priced at £3.49. In this scenario, the number who thought PG Tips represented good value jumped to 65%.
Brands can apply price relativity in two broad ways. First, don’t accept your comparison set as fixed. Do everything you can to change the field of reference shoppers have to one that is even more profitable to you.
I’ve just got one of those Nespresso machines, it’s fantastic. The really interesting thing about this Nespresso machine is that if I asked you to go out and buy those Twining’s super premium teabags which are £6.50 for 25 teabags you’d look at me as if I’m bonkers. For £6.50 you should get 100 teabags, 1,000 tea bags, you know? But actually it’s 25p for a cup of tea, it’s not bonkers, you pay a quid or two at Starbucks, but paying that for a teabag seems impossible. Wha’t clever about the espresso machine is that because it comes in individual pods, if you had to buy a jar of espresso coffee it would cost about 150 quid. You say to yourself: “I can’t, I simply cannot buy this thing, I cannot bring myself to pay 100 quid for a jar of Nescafe, it’s impossible”, but because the things come in individual pods, our frame of reference isn’t Nescafe, it’s Starbucks, where we actually pay a quid or two for a shot of coffee at Starbucks, so at 26p, well the machine’s paying for itself, right?
Excerpt from: Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland
Black Friday (and now Cyber Monday) are marked clearly in shopping calendars around the world. The event started as an invention of an American organisation, the National Association of Retailers. Their aim; increase retail sales. An aim that has now well surpassed initial expectations.
For those unfamiliar, Black Friday and Cyber Monday events offer a limited number of discounted products to customers. Some retailers see customers queuing for days in advance to grab the best bargains. In many cases a retail frenzy ensues when the doors finally open.
Scarcity is one of the key factors behind the success of these shopping days. Retailers promote to customers that a limited number of items will be available at discount. Customers who might not have needed a new TV suddenly attribute additional value to it because of scarcity, turning them into must have items in conjunction with the discount
Remember, price does not equal value. This is important. Even though these shopping days provide discounts to customers, that is a reduction in price, the value of the product to a customer does not necessarily change. If they don’t need a new TV before the event, a discount is not going to change their need for it.
Limited or rare supplies are perceived by people as a threat to their freedom of choice, triggering a reaction to fight the threat and maintain their access to the resource.
In the UK, there was a popular game show called The Weakest Link broadcast on television that aired between 2000 and 2012. The show was presented by Anne Robinson who was known for her sharp and forthright style, to put it mildly.
If you’re not familiar with the game, each contestant answered a question in sequence determined by their position in a line up. Each correct answer earned an ever-increasing sum of money until the pot was “banked” or kept, at which point the value of the pot was reset, but the round continued. At the end of each round, the contestants voted who they’d like to eliminate until one person, the winner, remained.
If players were acting rationally, they would vote out the “weakest link”, the worst player, at the end of each round in order to “bank” the most money in preceding rounds. However, the number of incorrect answers given was not the only determining factor used by the players when deciding who to vote off.
In many cases, players overlooked errors that those in the centre of the line-up made to a greater extent than errors made by those in extreme positions. This gave centre position holders more favourable assessments and, as such, they were often ignored when it came to voting. During the twelve years that the show aired, significantly more winners came from the centre of the stage.
This phenomenon is known as the centre-stage effect, and we are influenced by it every single day. Positioning is vitally important and has drastic implications on consumer behaviour, and your own success.
A promotion was launched that gave Xbox users 20 Microsoft points, a digital currency issued by Microsoft that could be used purchase a range of digital goods. There were a number of criticisms of this since discontinued digital currency, not least because points were deceptive in terms of actual real-world cost. 79 Microsoft Points was, at one point, worth about $0.99 USD.
Some back-of-the-napkin math shows Microsoft’s birthday present of 20 Microsoft points was worth just $0.25! “Don’t spend it all at once”, “100 more years and I can buy a game” and “thanks Microsoft!” are just a few of the sarcastic comments posted in the very public Xbox forums.
Microsoft got it wrong. In this instance no reward, the status quo, or simply saying “thank you” would have been better than all the negative press garnered from offering such a relatively small sum to reward users.
We reject “petty” financial rewards that do not meet our expectations. When we do accept them, it can have a negative impact on our satisfaction.
So the local community has formed a group called EXIT, to help educate and de-radicalise young people, to encourage them to leave the group and help them find better lives.
But EXIT needs funding.
So the townspeople have decided, since they can’t stop the neo-Nazis marching, to use the march for their own ends.
Instead of resisting the march they are now encouraging the march.
Because they are using the march to raise money.
For every metre the neo-Nazis march, local businesses are donating ten euros to EXIT.
So the neo-Nazis will now be marching to fund EXIT.
The further they march, the more money EXIT gets.
If the neo-Nazis don’t like it they can stop marching.
Whichever way they decide, it’s a result for the local community.
Whether the neo-Nazis march or not, the little village wins.
The inhabitants now treat the march as something to enjoy and have fun with.
Every 100 metres there are signs stencilled on the ground, thanking the marchers for the money they’re raising:
YOU HAVE RAISED 1,000 EUROS FOR EXIT.
YOU HAVE RAISED 2,000 EUROS FOR EXIT.
YOU HAVE RAISED 3,000 EUROS FOR EXIT.
And so on.
By the time the neo-Nazis reach the cemetery they’ve marched a kilometre, which means they’ve raised 10,000 euros for EXIT.
So there is a huge rainbow sign thanking them, and the locals throw rainbow confetti over them.
However, smart-thinking cops have found other innovative ways to tackle the problem. In 2012, Met Police officers used a borrowed No. 2 London bus to sneak up on a gang of street gamblers on Westminster Bridge. Normally, the lookouts alert the street gamblers well in advance but, on this occasion, they hadn’t anticipated the 30-plus officers who jumped out on them as the bus came alongside. More than 25 gamblers were detained and 12 were charged with gaming offences.
Loewenstein writes of a test in which participants were confronted by a grid of squares on a computer screen. They were asked to click on five of them. Some participants found that with each click, another picture of an animal appeared. But a second group saw small component parts of a single animal. With each square they clicked, another part of a greater picture was revealed. This second group were much more likely to keep on clicking squares after the required five, and then keep going until enough of them had been turned that the mystery of the animal’s identity had been solved. Brains, concluded the researchers, seem to become spontaneously curious when presented with an ‘informations set’ they realise is incomplete. ‘There is a natural inclination to resolve information gaps,’ wrote Lowenstein, ‘even for questions of no importance.’
Excerpt from: The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr
In advertising, we assume the only way to get an emotional response is with an emotional appeal.
But Bill Bernbach knew that isn’t true.
Look at the history of Volkswagen advertising.
For fifty years they did product demonstrations.
And they build a brand that has massive emotional appeal.
Ask anyone about VW and they’ll say “reliable”.
That’s an emotional response based on rational advertising.
Because a rational demonstration can have a more powerful emotional affect than something vacuous designed purely to appeal to the feelings.
Done properly, reason is emotion.
Excerpt from: Creative Mischief by Dave Trott
In 1900 the Michelin brothers owned a tyre company in France.
They wanted to sell more tyres.
And, in order to do that, they needed to get drivers to wear down the ones they had.
So in 1900 they issued the first Michelin Guide.
It showed all the great things to see and do around France.
It encouraged people to get out in their cars and drive to all these places.
It featured a list of sights to see, places to buy petrol, places to stay.
The locations of garages, mechanics.
And, being French, good places to eat.
A book may take months to write.
Thats okay because people can take weeks to read it, savouring each word.
Copywriting isn’t like that.
Copy has to compete for attention.
We can’t assume that every word will be pored over, like a book.
That’s what made Ernest Hemingway different as a writer.
Hemingway trained as journalist.
Before he became a novelist, he worked on the Kansas City Star.
He learned the paper’s style, it became his guide to writing:
‘Use short sentence. Use short paragraphs. Use vigorous English.’
He learned to get the most from the least, to prune language.
Later in life Hemingway would call this style ‘The Iceberg Theory’.
By stating the bar minimum, you let the reader’s imagination add the part unsaid, the part below the surface.
In writing classes at universities it’s now known as ‘The Theory of Omission’.