💎 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 sailing as close to the wind as possible without capsizing (FCUK ADVERTISING)

To sail as close to the wind as we can without capsizing.

For instance:

Castlemaine lagers campaign, Australians wouldn’t give a XXXX for any other lager.

The poster campaign for French Connection UK:

FCUK FASHION and FCUK ADVERTISING.

The shop in Kings Road that sold brass front-door fittings, called Knobs and Knockers.

The Sun’s headline when Tammy Wynette died,

COUNTRY STAR TAMMY: D-E-C-E-A-S-E-D.

Eddie Izzard’s joke, “I come from a very traditional family.

My granddad hanged himself on Christmas Eve and we couldn’t take him down until January 5th.”

This is a naughty, schoolboy, playground sense of humour.

Excerpt from: Creative Mischief by Dave Trott

💎 On knowing your market (expanding into new markets)

The gin brand Hendrick’s engaged in a very clever bit of non-sense, when they suggested that their product be served not with lemon but with cucumber, which gained immediate salience. Being British, I failed to notice the genius of this move, which was that it also positioned the drink as sophisticatedly British in the United States; Americans find cucumber sandwiches a British peculiarity. To a Brit, of course, a cucumber is not seen as being particularly British – it is just something we make sandwiches with.

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

💎 On the danger of proxy measures unrelated to the end goal (‘number of views’, ‘likes’, ‘shares’, ‘engagement’)

Advertising agencies and marketing departments alike need to break their bad habit of placing too much emphasis on proxy measurements. Just because it’s possible to measure something, it doesn’t mean that something has value and is worth measuring.

Today there’s far too much emphasis on soft measures such as ‘number of views’, ‘likes’, ‘shares’, ‘engagement’ or even (dare we say it) creative awards. One problem is that development of advertising is often skewed towards improving these short-term measures in order to show some measurable progress. However, this is often at odds with what is best for the business long-term.

Another problem is that placing emphasis on these kinds of measures breeds distrust from other parts of the client business towards marketing and advertising, because they don’t represent real proof of any commercial progress. They are false proxies that really only serve to massage the egos of those involved, not actual measurements of success or growth that the rest of the business can identify with or actually use.

Excerpt from: How To Make Better Advertising And Advertising Better by Vic Polinghorne and Andy Palmer

💎 On the power of words (especially obscure medical conditions)

Listerine was invented in the nineteenth century as powerful surgical antiseptic. It was later sold, in distilled form, as both a floor cleaner and a cure for gonorrhea. But it wasn’t a runaway success until the 1920s, when it was pitched as a solution for “chronic halitosis”— a then obscure medical term for bad breath. Listerine’s new ads featured forlorn young women and men, eager for marriage but turned off by their mate’s rotten breath. “Can I be happy with him in spite of that?” one maiden asked herself. Until that time, bad breath was not conventionally considered such a catastrophe, but Listerine changed that. As the advertising scholar James B. Twitchell writes, “Listerine did not make mouthwash as much as it made halitosis.” In just seven years, the company’s revenues rose from $115,000 to more than $8 million.”

Excerpt from: Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

💎 On the word person being derived from the Latin word for a mask worn by an actor (we’re all actors)

(It’s not insignificant that the word ‘person’ derives from the Latin word for a mask worn by an actor.) In Goffman’s view, we’re all actors who have half-forgotten that we’re acting. Most of the time we play a double game, aware that others are performing for us and yet believing in the performance at the same time.

Excerpt from: Born Liars: Why We Can’t Live Without Deceit by Ian Leslie

💎 On the world we have come to inhabit is more like Huxley’s vision than Orwell’s (information drowned in a sea of irrelevance)

Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.

The future we have come to inhabit is Huxley’s. The question is not whether or not curation is needed. It’s how we build a system that financially accommodates the new diversity of activity.

Excerpt from: Curation: The power of selection in a world of excess by Michael Bhaskar

💎 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 social proofs influence on music choice (markets do not simply aggregate pre-existing individual preference)

This was what the network scientist Duncan Watts and colleagues found in a famous 2006 experiment. Groups of people were given the chance to download songs for free from a Web site after they had listened to and ranked the songs. When the participants could see what previous downloaders had chosen, they were more likely to follow that behavior so popular songs became more popular, less popular songs became less so. These socially influenced choices were more unpredictable; it became harder to tell how a song would fare in popularity from its reported quality. When people made choices on their own, the choices were less unequal and more predictable; people were more likely to simply choose the songs they said were best. Knowing what other listeners did was not enough to completely reorder people’s musical taste. As Watts and his co-author Matthew Salganik wrote, “The ‘best’ songs never do very badly, and the ‘worst’ songs never do extremely well.” But when others’ choices were visible, there was greater chance for the less good to do better, and vice versa. “When individual decisions are subject to social influence,” they write, “markets do not simply aggregate pre-existing individual preference.” The pop chart, in other words, just like taste itself does not operate in a vacuum.

Excerpt from: You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice by Tom Vanderbilt

💎 On the fact we’re often unaware of our motivations (lap dancers and fertility)

In another experiment, evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller quantified how sexually attractive a woman is to a man by recording the earnings of lap dancers in a strip club. And he tracked how this changed over their monthly menstruation cycle. As it turned out, men gave twice as much in tips when the dancer was ovulating (fertile) as when she was menstruating (not fertile). But the strange part is that the men weren’t consciously aware of the biological changes that attend the monthly cycle – that when she is ovulating, a surge of the hormone estrogen changes her appearance subtly, making her features more symmetrical, her skin softer, and her waist narrower. But they detected these fertility cues nonetheless.

Excerpt from: Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain by David Eagleman

💎 On our memory of product experience being distorted under questioning (remember your last meal)

Trying to look backward, to the last remembered experience of a meal—if only to make a new choice—invites its own distortions. In one experiment, psychologists were able to change how much people liked something (in this case, a “microwavable Heinz Weight Watchers Tomato & Basil Chicken ready meal”) after they had eaten it—not, as has been done with rats, by physically manipulating their brains. Instead, researchers simply had subjects “rehearse” the “enjoyable aspects” of the meal. This, the idea goes, made those best moments more “accessible” in the memory, and thus they popped out more easily when people were later thinking about the meal. Voila! The food not only suddenly seemed better, the subject wanted to eat more of it.

Excerpt from: You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice by Tom Vanderbilt

💎 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 “a 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

💎 On the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something (like birds)

Richard Feynman: “You 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 doing—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

💎 On the importance of everyone being a salesperson (you too)

I don’t want to be a salesman. I want to be an artist. I know it’s not easy, but it’s what I want.

If I can’t be an artist, at least I want to be helpful. I want to change things. I’ve seen the damage that crass consumerism can do. I don’t want to be a peddler. I am nobler than that.

You know what I mean, right? You agree, right

Well, here’s the thing. If you’re in advertising, you’re a salesman.

It doesn’t matter what you think you are or what you want to be. You’re a salesman. I don’t like it either.

One of the problems advertising has always faced is that there are a lot of people in business who don’t want to be salespeople.

Excerpt from: Marketers Are From Mars, Consumers Are From New Jersey by Bob Hoffman

💎 On differentiation preventing commodification (acknowledge that it is the availability of substitutes)

We will acknowledge that it is the availability of substitutes – the legitimate alternatives to the offering of our firm – that allows the client to ask, and compels us to give, our thinking away for free. If we are not seen as more expert than out competition then we will be viewed as one in a sea of many, and we will have little power in our relationships with clients and prospects.

Exceprt from: The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns

💎 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

💎 On the dangers of everyday low pricing (as JCPenney and Macy’s found)

Every day, companies or governments wrongly make highly simplistic assumptions about what people care about. Two major US retailers, JCPenney and Macy’s, both fell foul of this misunderstanding when they tried to reduce their reliance on couponing and sales, and instead simply reduced their permanent prices. In both cases, the strategy was a commercial disaster. People didn’t want low prices – they wanted concrete savings. One possible explanation for this is that we are psychologically rivalrous, and we like to feel we are getting a better deal than other people. If everyone can pay a low price, the thrill of having won out over other people disappears; a quantifiable saving makes on feel smart, while paying the same low prices as everyone else just makes us feel like cheapskates. Another possible explanation is that a low price, unlike a discount, does not allow people any scope to write a more cheerful narrative about a purchase after the event – ‘I saved £33’, rather than ‘I spent £45’.

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