πŸ’Ž On the meaning of a message changing dependent on the source (reign of terror or honest farmers?)

The very meaning of the message, Asch (1948, 1952) insisted, changes as a function of the source to which it is attributed. Thus, to cite Asch’s classic example, an assertion to the effect that β€œa little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing” is much more widely endorsed when attributed to Jefferson than to Lenin, because it has a different meaning in the former case than in the latter. When the statement comes from Thomas Jefferson, it conjures up images of honest farmers and tradespeople throwing off the yoke of corrupt and indifferent rulers. When it comes from Lenin, the images (at least to Americans) are quite different – a revolutionary reign of terror in which mobs run amok and harsh new authoritarians take the place of the old oppressors.

Excerpt from: The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson and Joshua Aronson

πŸ’Ž On the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something (like birds)

Richard Feynman: β€œYou can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird…So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doingβ€”that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.”

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

πŸ’Ž On the power of a name (the Cornish sardine)

Caught off the Cornish coast before being salted and shipped all over Europe, they had been a delicacy for centuries, until the advent of domestic refrigeration and freezing caused the appetite for salted fish – at least outside of Portugal – fall away. “The market was dying fast as the little shops that sold them closed down,’ says Nick Howell of the Pilchard Works fish suppliers in Newlyn. ‘I realised I needed to do something about it.’ Fortunately, Nick though creatively. He discovered that what the Cornish often called the pilchard was related to the fish that was served, with lemon and olive oil, to British tourists in the Mediterranean as a fashionable sardine. So he changed the name from the pilchard, a name redolent of ration food, to the ‘Cornish sardine’. Next, a supermarket buyer who called to ask for French sardines was deftly switched to buying ‘pilchards from Cornwall’. A few years ago Nick successfully petitioned the EU to award Cornish sardines Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status, and the result was extraordinary: the Daily Telegraph reported in 2012 that sales of fresh sardines at Tesco had rocketed by 180 per cent in the past year, an increase that was partly explained by a huge increase in the sales of Cornish sardines.

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

πŸ’Ž On the pratfall effect (and how it destigmatised low cost airlines)

When you think about it, it is rather strange how explicit low-cost airline are about what their ticket prices don’t include: a pre-allocated seat, a meal, free drinks, free checked luggage – such deficiencies help to explain and destigmatise the low prices. ‘Oh, I see,’ you can say, when you see a flight to Budapest advertised for Β£37, ‘the reason that low price is possible is because I won’t be paying for a lot of expensive fripperies that I probably don’t want anyway.’ It’s an explicit, well-defined trade-off, and one that we feel happy to accept.

Imagine if cheap airlines instead claimed: ‘We’re just a good as British Airways, but at a third of the price.’ Either nobody would believe them, or else such a claim would raise instant doubts. ‘Maybe the only reason they’re cheaper is because they don’t bother servicing the engines or training the pilots, or because the planes are scarcely airworthy.’

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

πŸ’Ž On mistaking negativity for intelligence (anyone can say something nice)

In her study ‘Brilliant but Cruel’, Teresa Amabile, a professor at Harvard Business School, asked people to evaluate the intelligence of book reviewers using reviews taken from the New York Times. Professor Amabile changed the reviews slightly, creating two different versions: one positive and one negative. She made only small changes in terms of the actual words, for example changing ‘inspired’ to ‘uninspired’ and ‘capable’ to ‘incapable’.

A positive review might read, ‘In 128 inspired pages, Alvin Harter, with his first work of fiction, shows himself to be an extremely capable young American author. A Longer Dawn is a novella – a prose poem, if you will – of tremendous impact. It deals with elemental things – life, love and death, and does so with such great intensity that it achieves new heights of superior writing on every page.’

While a negative review might read, ‘In 128 inspired pages, Alvin Harter, with his first work of fiction, shows himself to be an extremely incapable young American author. A Longer Dawn is a novella – a prose poem, if you will – of negligible impact. It deals with elemental things – life, love and death, and does so with such little intensity that it achieves new depths of inferior writing on every page.’

Half the people in the study read the first review, the other half read the second, and both rated the intelligence and expertise of the reviewer. Even though the reviews were almost identical – the only difference being whether they were positive or negative – people considered the reviewers with negative versions 14 per cent more intelligent and as having 16 per cent more expertise in literature. Professor Amabile writes the ‘prophets of doom and gloom appear wise and insightful’. Anyone can say something nice – but it tales an expert to critique it.

Excerpt from: The Key to Happiness: How to Find Purpose by Unlocking the Secrets of the World’s Happiest People by Meik Wiking

πŸ’Ž On our want for the familiar done differently (not something truly new)

The concept of sushi was introduced into the United States during the late 1960s, a period of whirlwind change in tastes — entertainment, music, fashion and food. At first, the idea of sushi did not bite. Keep in mind that the average family at the time was sitting down to a dinner of cuts of meats with sides of mashed potatoes swimming in gravy. The thought of eating raw fish was bewildering, even dangerous, in the minds of most restaurant goers. And then a chef by the name of Ichiro Mashita, who ran Tokyo Kaikan, a small sushi bar in downtown Los Angeles, had a clever idea. He asked, ‘What would happen if the strange ingredients were combined with familiar ingredients such as cucumber, crabmeat and avocado? Mashita also realized that Americans preferred seeing the rice on the outside and seaweed paper in the interior. In other word, the roll would feel more familiar if it was made ‘inside-out’.

Demand exploded. The Californian Roll was a gateway for many people to discover Japanese cuisine. Americans now consume $2.25-billion-worth of sushi annually. As Nir Eyal, the author of Hooked, writes, ‘The lesson of the California Roll is simple – people don’t want something truly new, they want the familiar done differently.’

Excerpt from: Who Can You Trust?: How Technology Brought Us Together – and Why It Could Drive Us Apart by Rachel Botsman

πŸ’Ž On Alka-Seltzer and the importance of making a product’s function clear (in the tagline)

For example, people knew that Alka-Seltzer was taken for an upset stomach, but market research showed that nobody knew how many they should be taking — so most people just took one. But when viewers saw the infamous “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is” ads, purchases of Alka-Seltzer nearly doubled overnight. The tagline that sold the product became indivisible from the products function because it told consumer something they did not know.

Excerpt from: Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Frank Luntz

πŸ’Ž On the best copy (and revolutions)

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

πŸ’Ž On the weakness of the arguments for targeting Millennials (it’s a lack of perspective)

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).

Excerpt from: How not to Plan: 66 ways to screw it up by Les Binet and Sarah Carter

πŸ’Ž On how Nespresso increased willingness to pay by changing their comparison set (“the machine’s paying for itself”)

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 Β£6.50 for 25 teabags you’d look at me as if I’m bonkers. For Β£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

πŸ’Ž On the blurred lines between price and value (especially on Black Friday)

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.

Excerpt from: Product Gems 1: 101 Science Experiments That Demonstrate How to Build Products People Love by David Greenwood

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