πŸ’Ž On the false distinction between emotional and rational ad campaigns (demonstrated best by Volkswagen)

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

πŸ’Ž On the best example of branded content being 100 years old (the Michelin Guide)

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.

Excerpt from: Predatory Thinking: A Masterclass in Out-Thinking the Competition by Dave Trott

πŸ’Ž On the rational excuse justifying the emotional decision (always include one)

Reason, despite what we would like to think, is not why we do what we do: it is the result of what we feel or do.

Famed adman David Ogilvy recognized this long ago when he wrote:

“Customers need a rational excuse to justify their emotional decisions. So always include one.”

(In France I once saw this expressed as “le rationnel est l’alibi du desir”.)

Why I love this observation is that Ogilvy uses a word not often given an airing in the communications business: excuse. Not reason or even (eugh) benefit or proposition, but excuse.

Excerpt from: The Storytelling Book (Concise Advice) by Anthony Tasgal

πŸ’Ž On social proof inadvertently being misused and making the problem worse (the gender gap)

Take the example of getting more women on company boards, an issue widely championed by campaigners and indeed Prime Ministers, but often embodying a clear example of the ‘big mistake’. The normal centrepiece of campaigns to get more women on boards is a statistic along the lines ‘isn’t it shocking that only 25 per cent of board members are women?’ (less in some countries). It is shocking, but it’s also likely to be a message that inadvertently normalises the situation. On the other hand, if such campaigns made the equally valid point hat ’90 per cent of companies have women on their boards’, then the signalling is very different. Following discussions with Iris Bohnet, and expert on gender inequality, and Emily Walsh, special adviser to the UK’s Business Secretary, parts of the UK’s campaign to encourage more women on to boards was indeed reframed this way.

Excerpt from: Inside the Nudge Unit: How small changes can make a big difference by David Halpern

πŸ’Ž On qualitative research and creative thinking in branding (how BT Cellnet became 02)

Sometimes qualitative research can provide a real platform for some genuinely creative thinking. Entire brands have been based on exactly these types of consumer insights. The team behind the re-brand of BT Cellnet had noted in their research that consumers had said ‘my mobile is as essential to me as my house keys or my wallet – I wouldn’t leave the home without it’, and from this one thought came the creative leap to the essentials of life, and hence to ‘oxygen’ and its chemical formula O2. Backed up by a series of dramatic photographs of bubbles in motions, a key visual property and an entire brand toolkit was born. It was so powerful that its launch adverts simply used this brans idea with the line ‘a breath of fresh air’ and very little else. Through multiple campaigns, straplines and ‘owners’, the company’s core ‘idea’ has remained intact for over a decade.

Excerpt from: Branding: In Five and a Half Steps by Michael Johnson

πŸ’Ž The power of framing (crime) statistics to change their impact

A classic example of how alternative framing can change the emotional impact of a number is an advertisement that appeared on the London Underground in 2011, proclaiming that ‘99% of young Londoners do not commit serious youth violence’. These ads were presumably intended to reassure passengers about their city, but we could reverse its emotional impact with two simple changes. First, the statement means that 1% of Londoners do commit serious violence. Second, since the population of London is around 9 million, there are around 1 million people aged between 15 and 25, and if we consider these as ‘young’, this means there are 1% of 1 million or a total of 10,000 seriously violent young people in the city. This does not sound at all reassuring. Note the two tricks used to manipulate the impact of this statistic: convert from a positive to a negative frame, and then turn a percentage into actual numbers of people.

Excerpt from: The Art of Statistics: Learning from Data by David Spiegelhalter

πŸ’Ž Don’t tell people, show them (how escalators became “normal”)

Then someone had a brilliant idea: proof always works better than a claim.

Don’t tell people, show them.

William ‘Bumper’ Harris was an employee who’d lost a leg in an accident.

He was told to come to Earl’s Court station and ride up and down the escalator.

Just that, ride up and down, nothing else.

People at the bottom would see a one-legged man with crutches nonchalantly hop onto the escalator and ride it to the top.

Then he’d turn around, and people at the top would see a one-legged man with crutches nonchalantly hop onto the other escalator and ride it to the bottom.

‘Bumper’ Harris just did that all day.

When frightened passengers saw him do it they were reassured an ashamed.

Reassured that if a one-legged man could do it anyone could.

And ashamed that they were ever frightened in the first place.

After a day of ‘Bumper’ riding up and down, everyone was using the escalator as if it was the most normal thing.

And once that happened, the problem disappeared.

Escalators became as accepted as the have been ever since.

The lesson was, it’s better to show people than to tell people.

Excerpt from: Creative Blindness (And How To Cure It): Real-life stories of remarkable creative vision by Dave Trott

πŸ’Ž On information not being interpreted neutrally (we are swayed by contextual cues)

An experiment by Michael Deppe and his colleagues from the University of Munster, quantified the importance of media context. In 2005, the neurologists showed 21 consumers 30 new headlines. The respondents rated the believability of the headlines on a seven-point scale, with one being the most credible and seven the least.

The headlines appeared to come from one of four news magazines. Each headline was randomly rotated between the magazines so that each viewer saw the headlines in the context of every magazine. This allowed the researchers to address the effects of the context on the credibility of the headlines.

The scores were significantly influenced by the magazine. Headlines in the most respected magazine scored on average 1.9, compared to 5.5 in the least regarded magazine.

Information is not process neutrally. We are swayed by contextual cues.

Excerpt from:Β The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy by Richard Shotton

πŸ’Ž On the false split between emotional and rational messages (people buy the pearl)

How you say something may well be more important than what you say.

But you have to have something to say in the first place.

If you have nothing to say that will soon be apparent.

No one will be fooled.

Think of it as an oyster.

You start with a piece of grit, and build a pearl around it.

People buy the pearl, they don’t buy the grit.

But no grit, no pearl.

Excerpt from: Creative Blindness (And How To Cure It): Real-life stories of remarkable creative vision by Dave Trott

πŸ’Ž On the power of being specific in ads (Apple and the iPod)

My favorite example of the power of specificity was Apple’s introduction of the iPod. They didn’t give it the vanilla, global “World Class MP3 Player” treatment. They said “1,000 Songs In Your Pocket.” They were specific. They talked about the virtues of the product, not wooly melodramatic horseshit.

My direction to the creative teams who worked for me was always the same – be specific. Today the objective is to ignore the specific and “ladder up” the benefit.

Excerpt from: 101 Contrarian Ideas About Advertising: The strange world of advertising in 101 delicious bite-size pieces by Bob Hoffman

πŸ’Ž On brands admitting a flaw (to make all their other claims more believable)

Guinness and AMV publicised the slowness of the pour with “Good things come to those who wait”. The National Dairy Council alluded to the high calorific content of cream cakes with “Naughty, but Nice”. (Incidentally, that strapline was coined by Salman Rushdie while working at Ogilvy & Mather.)

Admitting weakness is a tangible demonstration of honesty and, therefore, makes other claims more believable. Further to that, the best straplines harness the trade-off effect. We know from bitter experience that we don’t get anything for free in life. By admitting a weakness, a brand credibly establishes a related positive attribute.

Guinness may take longer to pour but boy, it’s worth it. Avis might not have the most sales but it’s desperate to keep you happy.

Excerpt from: The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy by Richard Shotton

πŸ’Ž On how much the analogies we use can shape our thinking (for first introductions)

An experiment on Stanford international relations students during the Cold War provided a cautionary tale about relying on kind-world reasoning — that is, drawing only from the first analogy that feels familiar. The students were told that a small, fictional democratic country was under threat from a totalitarian neighbor, and they had to decide how the United States should respond. Some students were given descriptions that likened the situation to World War II (refugees in boxcars; a president “from New York, the same state as FDR”; a meeting in “Winston Churchill Hall”). For others, it was likened to Vietnam, (a president “from Texas, the same as LBJ,” and refugees in boats). The international relations students who were reminded of World War II were far more likely to choose to go to war; the students reminded of Vietnam opted for nonmilitary diplomacy. That phenomenon has been documented all over the place. College football coaches rated the same player’s potential very differently depending on what former player was likened to an introductory description, even with all other information kept exactly the same.

Excerpt from: Range: How Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

πŸ’Ž On the power of observing nature (for engineering breakthroughs)

Engineer Marc Isambard Brunel, (father of the more famous Isambard Kingdom Brunel) discovered the perfect method for tunnelling through mud and clay to build the Thames Tunnel under London by observing the action of the shipworm, which tunnels through the hulls of boats, lining the hold with a hard chalky material as it goes. Mirroring the worm’s action, Brunel designed a revolutionary and ingenious tunnelling system, in which workers could simultaneous cut and line a tunnel with brickwork to seal it.

On its opening in 1843, the Thames Tunnel was described as the ‘Eight Wonder of the World’, and Brunel’s shipworm system is the basis of tunnelling methods still used today — a version of it was used in the construction of the 50- kilometre (31-mile) Channel Tunnel, built 40 metres (130 feet) below the seabed.

Excerpt from How to Have Great Ideas: A Guide to Creative Thinking and Problem Solving by John Ingledew

πŸ’Ž On the false belief that using complicated words conveys intelligence (and low credibility)

Daniel Kahneman sets them straight in Thinking, Fast and Slow: ‘If you care about being thought credible and intelligent, do not use complex language where simpler language will do. My Princeton colleague Danny Oppenheimer refuted a myth prevalent among undergraduates about the vocabulary that professors find most impressive. In an article titled “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly”, he showed the couching familiar ideas in pretentious language is taken as a sign of poor intelligence and low credibility.

Excerpt from: How To Write Better Copy (How To: Academy) by Steve Harrison

πŸ’Ž On the advantages of making small changes, rather than big ones (cheaper, faster, reversible)

Big doesn’t necessarily mean good. It could even be bad.

By contrast, there are tremendous advantages to making small changes.

Behavioural science has shown that tiny variations in phraseology can cause huge change.

Small changes are usually less costly, and often free.

Small changes attract less attention from bosses and meddlers, so they are easier to implement.

Small changes are easier to rectify if they don’t achieve their original objective.

So bear in mind that the ‘next big thing’ could be small.

Excerpt from: The Smart Thinking Book: 60 Bursts of Business Brilliance by Kevin Duncan

πŸ’Ž People don’t just eat food (they eat the brand)

One day, Korzybski offered to share a packet of biscuits, which were wrapped in plain paper, with the font row of his lecture audience. ‘Nice biscuit, don’t you think?’ said Korzybski, while the students tucked in happily. Then he tore the white paper and revealed the original wrapper – on it was a picture of a dog’s head and the words ‘Dog Cookies’. Two students began to retch, while the rest put their hands in front of their mouths or in some cases ran out of the lecture hall to the toilet. ‘You see,’ Korzybski said, ‘I have just demonstrated that people don’t just eat food, but also words, and that the taste of the former is often outdone by the taste of the latter.’

Excerpt from: Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland

πŸ’Ž On the power of the media context to shape the message (it matters where you see it)

Information is not processed neutrally. We are swayed by contextual cues.

Jeremy Bullmore, former Creative Director and Chairman of JWT in London, notes that this affects not just headlines, but advertising too:

A small ad reading “Ex-governess seeks occasional evening work” would go largely unremarked in the chaste personal columns of ‘The Lady’. Exactly the same words in the window of a King’s Cross newsagent would prompt different expectations.

Excerpt from: The Choice Factory: 25 behavioural biases that influence what we buy by Richard Shotton

πŸ’Ž On the power of framing a (subway) performance

Bell’s subway performance started with Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin, on of the most challenging piece ever composed for the instrument. Over the next forty-three minutes the concert continued, but on that January morning there was no thunderous applause. There were no cameras flashing. Here was one of the best musicians in the world playing in the subway station for free, but no one seemed to care. Of the 1,097 people who walked by, hardly anyone stopped. One man listened for a few minutes, a couple of kids stared and one woman, who happened to recognise the violinist gaped in disbelief.

Except from: Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behaviour bu Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman

πŸ’Ž On reframing price comparisons in competitive markets (low-cost travel)

Transavia’s brilliant idea was to create a snack packaging that doubled as an aeroplane ticket to a low-cost destination. A €35 packet of crisps would buy you a one-way ticket from France to Barcelona, a €40 bag of gummy bears would take you to Lisbon, or a €40 cereal bar would get you to Dublin. Simply walk into your local Carrefour supermarket, buy the snack, and then enter the code found inside the packaging to redeem your ticket and choose your outbound flight.

Excerpt from: The Contagious Commandments: Ten Steps to Brand Bravery by Paul Kemp-Robertson and Chris Barth

πŸ’Ž On the power of admitting flaws (in legal trials)

Evidence for the success of this strategy has been found outside the domain of advertising as well. Consider an example of its use in law: in a study conducted by behavioural scientist Kip Williams and colleagues, when jurors heard a lawyer mention a weakness in his own case before the opposing attorney mentioned it, they rated him as more trustworthy and were more favourable to his overall case in their verdicts because of that perceived honesty. Additionally, anyone who is considering a career change may be interested to learn that a recruitment study found that applicants whose curriculum vitae contained only wholly positive references were invited to fewer interviews than those whose curriculum vitae first highlighted a weakness or slight limitation before going on to describe positive characteristics.

Excerpt from: Yes! 50 Secrets from the Science of Persuasion by Noah Goldstein, Steve Martin and Robert Cialdini

πŸ’Ž On how concrete imagery is more memorable than abstractions (Iliad and the Odyssey)

Yale researcher Eric Havelock studies tales that have been passed down by word of mouth, such as the Iliad and the Odyssey. He notes that these tales are charachterized by lots of concrete actions, with few abstractions. Why? The ancient Greeks certainty had no problem with abstraction — this was the society that produced Plato and Aristotle, after all. Havelock believes that the stories evolved away from abstraction over time. When they were passed along from generation to generation, the more memorable concrete details survived and the abstractions evaporated.

Excerpt from: Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

πŸ’Ž On the persuasive power of vivid details (even when they’re not central to the argument)

In 1986, Jonathan Shedler and Melvin Manis, researchers at the University of Michigan, created an experiment to simulate a trial. Subjects were asked to play the role of jurors and were given the transcript of a (fictitious) trial to read. The jurors were asked to assess the fitness of a mother, Mrs. Johnson, and to decide whether her seven-year-old son should remain in her care.

The transcript was constructed to be closely balanced: There were eight arguments against Mrs. Johnson and eight arguments for Mrs. Johnson. All the jurors heard the same arguments. The only difference was the level of detail in those arguments. In one experimental group, all the arguments against her had no extra details; they were pallid by comparison. The other group heard the opposite combination.

As an example, one argument in Mrs. Johnson’s favor said: “Mrs. Johnson sees to it that her child washes and brushes his teeth before bedtime.” In the vivid form, the argument added a detail: “He uses a Star Wars toothbrush that looks like Darth Vader.”

An argument against Mrs. Johnson was: “The child went to school with a badly scraped arm which Mrs. Johnson had not cleaned or attended to. The school nurse had to clean the scrape.” The vivid form added the detail that, as the nurse was cleaning the scrape, she spilled Mercurochrome on herself, staining her uniform red.

The researchers carefully tested the arguments with and without vivid details to ensure that they had the same perceived importance — the details were designed to be irrelevant to the judgment of Mrs. Johnson’s worthiness. It mattered that Mrs. Johnson didn’t attend to the scarped arm; it didn’t matter that the nurse’s uniform got stained in the process.

But even though the details shouldn’t have mattered, they did. Jurors who heard the favorable arguments with vivid details judged Mrs. Johnson to be a more suitable parent (5.8 out of 10) than did jurors who heard the unfavorable arguments with vivid details (4.3 out of 10). The details has a big impact.

Excerpt from: Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

πŸ’Ž On how contextualising statistics in more everyday terms can make them more tangible (compelling)

Contrast the following two statements:

  1. Scientists recently computed an important physical constraint to an extraordinary accuracy. To put the accuracy in perspective, imagine throwing the rock from the sun to the earth and hitting the target within one third of a mile if dead center.
  2. Scientists recently computed an important physical constraint to an extraordinary accuracy. To put the accuracy in perspective, imagine throwing a rock from New York to Los Angeles and hitting the target within two thirds of an inch of dead center.

Which statement seems more accurate?

As you may have guessed, the accuracy levels in both questions are exactly the same, but when different groups evaluated the two statements, 58 percent of respondents ranked the statistic about the sun to the earth as “very impressive.” That jumped to 83 percent for the statistic about New York to Los Angeles. We have no human experience, no intuition, about the distance between the sun and the earth, The distance from New York to Los Angeles is much more tangible. (Though, frankly, it’s still far from tangible. The problem is that if you make the distance more tangible — like a football field — then the accuracy becomes intangible. “Throwing, a rock the distance of a football field to an accuracy of 3.4 microns” doesn’t help.)

Excerpt from: Made to Stick: Why some ideas take hold and others come unstuck by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

πŸ’Ž On a little bit of controversy going a long way (fixing potholes)

Everywhere potholes are a problem, everywhere councils ignore the,

Sure they’ll fix them, eventually, when they get around to it.

Which usually means months, sometimes a year later.

One cyclist in Bury decided to elevate potholes up the council’s list of priorities.

He knew the council couldn’t be bothered about potholes.

But the council were red hot on covering up graffiti.

Graffiti left on display was like advertising that the council weren’t doing their job.

It was very visible so it was covered up immediately.

He decided to use graffiti to solve the pothole problem.

Wherever there was a large pothole in the road he sprayed a set of genitals round it.

Badly drawn — just balls and a knob, crude in every way.

But suddenly the potholes stood out.

Suddenly the potholes, which had previously been invisible to the council, were seen to be outraging public decency.

The potholes, which had been ignore for months, were repaired and the graffiti removed within forty-eight hours.

Excerpt from: Creative Mischief by Dave Trott

πŸ’Ž On the Knowledge Illusion (how do zippers work?)

How does a zipper work? Rate your understanding on a scale from 0 (no clue) to 10 (easy-peasy). Write the number down. Now sketch out on a piece of paper how a zipper actually works. Add a brief description, as through you were trying to explain it very precisely to someone who’d never seen a zipper before. Give yourself a couple of minutes. Finished? Now reassess your understanding of zippers on the same scale.

Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil, researchers at Yale University confronted hundreds of people with equally simple questions. How does a toilet work? How does a battery work? The results are always the same: we think we understand these things reasonably well until we’re force to explain them. Only then do we appreciate how many gaps there are in our knowledge You’re probably similar. You were convinced you understood more than you actually did. That’s the knowledge illusion.

Excerpt from: The Art of the Good Life: Clear Thinking for Business and a Better Life by Rolf Dobelli

πŸ’Ž On the danger of a market leader responding to a smaller brands claims (Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi, Hertz vs. Avis, etc.),

As Napoleon said: “Never interrupt your opponent when he is making a mistake.”

Years ago, Avis ran its famous campaign: “We’re only no 2. We try harder.”

It worked so well it began to harm morale at Hertz, the market leader.

Hertz was forced to respond with a single campaign saying: “For years, Avis has been telling you Hertz is no 1. Now we’re going to tell you why.”

It worked for Hertz employees, but for the public it cemented Avis as an equal competitor to Hertz.

Years later, Pepsi ran “The Pepsi challenge” saying seven out of 10 cola-drinkers preferred the taste of Pepsi to Coke.

Coke was so spooked it announce it was changing its formula.

On the day it did, all Pepsi employees were given a day off.

Because Coke was doing Pepsi’s advertising for it.

A few years back, the RAC ran a campaign about how it could get to a broken-down car faster than anyone else.

Rupert Howell has the AA as a client at that time.

He told me it was all he could do to stop the AA client from running a campaign replying to the RAC claim and disproving it.

Rupert managed to stop the AA from doing the RAC’s advertising for it.

Because Rupert understood what RAC was trying to do.

We shouldn’t be frightened of provoking a response, we should be trying to provoke a response.

Especially from someone bigger.

If we can use our budget to provoke our opponent into spending their money answering us back, it’s a very effective way of positioning ourselves in the public’s mind.

By making them spend their money doing our advertising for us.

Excerpt from: Campaign Magazine article by Dave Trott

πŸ’Ž On how big numbers fail to move us (for charity fundraising)

In a 1992 survey by W. H. Desvousges and colleagues, people were told that birds were dying because they became mired in uncovered pools of oil at refineries. This (fictitious) problem could be solved by putting nets over the pools. The experiment asked participants to indicate how much they would be willing to pay for nets to save the birds The researchers tried telling different groups that 2,000 birds were being killed a year — or 20,000 birds, or 200,000 birds. The answers didn’t depend on the number of birds! In all cases, the average dollar amount was $80. Evidently, all that registered was A lot of birds are being killed. We should do something about it.

Excerpt from: Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It) by William Poundstone

πŸ’Ž On the idea of alchemy (in psychology, 2 + 2 can equal more or less than 4)

The advertising agency J. Walter Thompson used to set a test for aspiring copywriters. One of the questions was simple: ‘Here are two identical 25-cent coins. Sell me the one on the right.’ One successful candidate understood the idea of alchemy. ‘I’ll take the right-hand coin and dip it in Marilyn Monroe’s bag. Then I’ll sell you a genuine 25-cent coin as owned by Marilyn Monroe.’

In maths it is a rule that 2 + 2 = 4. In psychology, 2 + 2 can equal more or less than 4. It’s up to you.

Excerpt from: Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense by Rory Sutherland

πŸ’Ž On costly signals being more powerful (Peacocks, Antelopes, and evolution)

This type of public grandstanding is common in the animal world, too. Israeli ethologist Amotz Zahavi noted that animals often engage in showy and even dangerous displays of courage to attract mates and raise their stats. Male peacocks show off their gorgeous plumage in part to demonstrate to females that they can support the heavy weight, an evolutionary disadvantage. (Large tail feathers translate into slower running and a reduced ability to hide from predators.) Antelopes often engage in stotting: They leap acrobatically straight into the air when hungry cheetahs are pursuing them, even though sprinting straight for the horizon is a better move. The animals’ dangerous waste of energy conveys strength, telling the cheetah, “Don’t even bother trying.” Similarly, guppies swim right under their predators’ noses before darting away. In evolution, it seems, survival of the fittest only captures part of the story.

Excerpt from: Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life by Francesca Gino