💎 On the importance of scoring systems to the enjoyment of sports (Nadal now leads Murray by 127 points)

A few years ago a mathematician friend explained to me that the game of tennis is enjoyable to watch only because of the scoring system.

If players swapped serve alternately, and the tally worked as in basketball, (Nadal now leads Murray by 127 points to 43; new balls please) it would be almost unwatchable. But because tennis breaks the score into watertight compartments, namely games and sets, it creates a structure wherein a losing player feels he is still in with a chance right to the end. That makes the narrative of the game far more enjoyable to fans and players. And because some rounds (break-points, set-points) are more critical than others tennis’s moments of high tension are interested as in a good opera or play, with quieter moments when spectators can relax.

Excerpt from: Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland

💎 On the avoidance of regret being a much bigger factor in brand selection than the pursuit of perfection (I hope this TV isn’t a crock of shite)

Yet marketers very rarely acknowledge this distinction when debating the role of the brand – and it pays little attention to the job of being assuredly not crap – even though I suggest it is by far the more valuable economic role that brands play: not to be a promise of ultimate superiority but a cast iron assurance of pretty dependable non-shitness. The Fina ad is one good example. Even better is that great CDP ad for Smirnoff: “why waste money on real lemons”, which I can’t find, or the Volkswagen promise of reliability. But overall this proposition of “loss avoidance” is rare – most ads seek to boast a lot more than they reassure. Yet when you are handing over £1,000 to buy that flat screen TV, how much of your brain is worried about whether it is the best TV you can buy for £1,000, versus the part of the brain thinking “I hope this TV isn’t a crock of shite?” I’d put the ratio at about 1:2.

Because we all work in the field, marketers and advertising people are by temperament maximisers when it comes to brands. They use the fine distinctions between them to delineate themselves and to highlight their individuality.

Excerpt from: Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland

💎 On the burden of (self-imposed) rationality limiting what we think we can do

When I recently talked to Paul Smith here about advertising in the late 1970s, he remarked that the great virtue of the time was that no one demanded the same tedious logic be applied to every message. Hofmeister had a bear on the logo – that was enough. Hovis wasn’t even northern – but let’s pretend it is…. Hamlet had a message which was surely generic to all tobacco – indeed which was truer of cigarettes than cigars (cigars are rarely consumed at moments of stress).

And so on….

Freed from the wearisome burden of self-imposed rationality, and by the tyranny of consistency, there’s no limit to what we might do.

Excerpt from: Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland

💎 On turbo charged logic being a valid form of creativity (statistical modelling can be immensely creative)

In fact I eccentrically believe data analysis and really good statistical modelling can be immensely creative – because, just like a good creative team, well-worked data can reveal wonderfully unexpected, unasked for truths. In Freakonomics the guns vs swimming pools insight is arrived at numerically, but it is no less an astoundingly original thought for being uncovered by computers. Never forget this, folks: turbo-charged logic is a valid form of creativity.

Excerpt from: Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland

💎 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 £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

💎 On confusing the quantity and quality of work (a lesson from Henry Ford)

This last point reminds me of Henry Ford’s reaction to a consultant who questioned why he paid $50,000 a year to someone who spent most of his time with his feet on his desk. “Because a few years ago that man came up with something that saved me $2,000,000,” he replied. “And when he had that idea his feet were exactly where they are now.”

Excerpt from: Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland

💎 On breaking the hedonic treadmill (appreciate the present)

You could call it the Paul Arden question: “How can people more fully appreciate the magic and wonder they already have around them?” As advertising experts, we are supposed to be the authorities on adding perceived value to things. So we should ask ourselves why the public’s appreciation of most things (especially those things provided by private enterprise) is so woefully low. Ask people about their mobile phone, their Sky+, their broadband connection… goods which would have seemed miraculous to our grandparents… and within a minute or so you’ll be listening to morose complaints about the monthly bill.

It seems to me that, if we were seeking gratitude rather than money, most capitalists would have given up the game decades ago. 60 years ago, under communism, a few million Russians were happy to die for the right to queue for a potato. Today, in a market economy, people who buying a microwave oven for £70 at 2 o’clock in the morning complain if they have a three minute wait.

Excerpt from: Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland

💎 On the stupid and hard-working (versus clever and lazy)

Here is the main thrust of Neil French’s e-mail: “The German General stuff used to divide officers into four categories: the clever and lazy, the clever and hard-working, the stupid and lazy and the stupid and hard-working. The best Generals, the Germans found, came from the clever and lazy; the best staff officers emerged from the clever and hard-working; the stupid and lazy could be made useful as regimental officers; but the stupid and hard-working were a menace, to be disposed of as soon as possible.”

Excerpt from: Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland

💎 On the pernicious effect of “the Arithmocracy” (more specifically, the spreadsheet)

What the spreadsheet has done is to create in organisations and governments an over-reliance on numbers (by no means always meaningful or even accurate) with the result that often spurious numerical targets, metrics or values invariably override any conflicting human judgment. This has given rise to what a colleague of mine, Anthony Tasgal, calls “The Arithmocracy”: a powerful left-brained administrative caste which attaches importance only to things which can be expressed in numerical terms or on a chart.

Excerpt from: Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland

💎 On removing anxieties about buying a product (Dr Pepper)

But weirdly, I’ve never asked for Dr Pepper in a bar because you know they’re not going to have it and there’s that mild embarrassment about asking for something they haven’t got, and feeling like a bit of a twat. However, if you ask for Coke and they don’t have it, it’s their fault not yours, the whole dynamic’s completely different. The only place that it’s socially acceptable not to sell Coke is a total health farm weirdo place full of organic produce, and even then it’s a bit irritating. They’ll have loads of those Fentimans Victorian-style lemonades, and even then it’s a bit irritating—come on, just sell Coke for crying out loud! Everywhere else has to sell Coke and it’s their fault if they haven’t got it. An aversion to little things like minor forms of embarrassment stop me from being a maximiser and asking for Dr Pepper, and I’ll always ask for Diet coke if I’m in a pub or a bar unless they have some massive sign saying ‘We Sell Dr Pepper’, in which case I would obviously ask for Dr Pepper.

Excerpt from: Rory Sutherland: The Wiki Man by Rory Sutherland