On the psychology of price

Sailing across the Aegean Sea he was captured by Sicilian pirates.

They demanded a ransom: 20 talents of silver.

(That’s about 620kg worth about $600k.)

Caesar told them they were being ridiculous.

He couldn’t possibly allow himself to be ransomed so cheaply.

The pirates hesitated, the were confused.

Caesar insisted the ransom must be more than doubled to 50 talents of silver.

(Around 1550kg worth about $1.5 million.)

Now the pirated didn’t know what to make of this.

Normally their captives tried to escape as cheaply as possible.

They didn’t understand what was going on.

But if he said he would double the ransom, why argue?

They let Caesar’s men go back to Rome to raise the money.

And in Rome, in his absence, Caesar suddenly became very famous.

No one had ever been ransomed for such a vast sum before.

He must be very special, he must be very important/

That ransom demand put Julius Caesar on the political map.

He had just invented the Veblen effect.

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

On a little bit of controversy going a long way

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

On using political influence creatively to solve problems

So he wrote to the Russian embassy in Washington DC.

He told them the story about the poverty-like conditions the people of Vulcan, West Virginia were living in.

He told them America couldn’t even afford to build a bridge.

He knew that Russia had a foreign aid budget that could help build a bridge where America couldn’t afford to do it.

The Russians know this would be a major propaganda coup. They immediately sent a reporter, Iona Andronov, to visit Vulcan.

He could write the story about how the USA couldn’t support their own people.

How the poor people of America were crying out to Russia for help.

But the Russian embassy had to get permission from the US State Department before making the trip.

The US government wanted to know why they were going to the middle of nowhere.

When they found out about Vulcan’s bridge, things began happening.

This could embarrass the US worldwide.

The government told the state to fix it, NOW.

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

On the danger of a market leader responding to a smaller brands claims

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

You talk to the audience in their language. Not yours

Horse Power was comparison everyone could understand.

Suddenly, Watt had put the steam engine into a language that made sense to the layman. Which is exactly what Steve Jobs did when he launched the iPod.

He didn’t compare it to to other MP3 players for speed and fidelity.

That would have been a market-share comparison.

Steve Jobs had a much bigger opportunity in mind, market-growth.

That’s why he compared the iPod to something ordinary people could understand.

He simply held it up and said “A thousand songs in your pocket.”

Because 200 years later the rules for creative communication haven’t changed. You talk to the audience in their language. Not yours.

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

Communicating two strong propositions in one ad is like welding a JCB to a Ferrari

Whereas with a complicated proposition you dilute and fragment your message.

Less important points don’t add to the communication.

They detract from the most important point.

That’s what the single-minded proposition is all about.

That’s why we need people to make the effort to decide what is absolutely essential.

Not just people who think of what else they can include.

Welding a JCB to a Ferrari doesn’t make a machine that can dig roads at 200 mph.

It makes something that can’t do either job properly.

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

Smart Nudge to Reduce Littering

A writer at out agency, Rob DeCleyn, found another great example of choice architecture in his local paper.

A village in Kent had a problem with litter.

Sweet wrappers, crisp packers, soft drink cans and bottles were strewn all over the streets.

But the local shopkeeper didn’t complain or nag the children.

He just wrote their name on the crisp and sweet packets when they bought them.

That’s all, just the child’s name.

And the litter problem cleared up almost immediately.

That’s choice architecture.

The children could still choose to throw their wrappers in the street.

They didn’t have to put them in the litter bin.

The only difference was that now everyone would know whose litter it was.

Excerpt from:Β One Plus One Equals Three: A Masterclass in Creative Thinking by Dave Trott