05 Nov When Great Minds Think Alike #1
A short series of articles that join the dots between all the latest thinking and writing about marketing effectiveness.
We have learned a lot about marketing effectiveness in the last 10 years. We know more about how and why people make the choices they do and how to affect those choices. We know how successful brands keep growing and what we need to focus on, in order to drive brand growth. For all its increasing complexity, we have learned a lot about media, and how to use it to best achieve positive outcomes for the brand. We even understand some of the rules around creativity and what makes for a good ad vs. a bad ad.
Sadly, all this richness and insight into marketing effectiveness is mostly hidden in dusty and dry research papers, textbooks that nobody bought, and online blogs nobody read. But we have learned a lot. From some very smart and well-researched people.
Most of the marketers I meet around the world might have dipped into “How Brand’s Grow”, or more likely have read one of the many, dumbed-down, online précis you can find of that excellent text. If we are lucky, they might also have read one of Les Binet and Peter Field’s most excellent papers. I get it, I used to be a marketing director too. Life’s way too busy to be reading text books and white papers.
Joining the dots
What’s really interesting to me, however, are the overlaps and crossovers between the various works. When we join the dots between everything that’s out there, we start to see some really interesting patterns and themes. To get to that point, unfortunately, you need to read. A lot.
In the last 12 months I’ve finally overcome my academic lethargy and read and distilled nearly 30 different major works on everything from behavioural economics, to media and creative effectiveness and all points in between. I started with the obvious; Kahneman, Sharp, Binet, Field, et al, and then really pushed out, into the broader reaches of study into the field. Goldenberg, Mazursky, and Solomon anyone?
Critics and Trolls
It’s possible to pick holes in almost any of these pieces of work if you’re an accomplished enough statistician, or painful enough pedant. Hardly a day goes by without someone having an online pop at Byron Sharp. Even Les Binet and Peter Field came in for some (mostly unwarranted) analytical stick recently. I think such focus on the minutae often misses the point, though. A bit like pointing out that we had a cold winter, doesn’t refute the body of work on climate science. Picking statistical holes in specific studies ignores the fact that as a whole, we appear to be approaching some broad consensus, perhaps something we might start to call universal truths.
Even if we are not, surely, it’s better to act on this vast body of knowledge as if it were true, rather than just keep on wildly guessing what the right answers might be?
The Short of It
So, I’ve taken all these great published works, written by these great minds, and tried to make it into something more useable and digestible. I’ve obviously turned it into another dry and dusty white paper, because, “doh!”. I’ve broken that paper into smaller chunks, in a fruitless attempt to make it easier to read, and also, more importantly, to fill the yawning, empty chasm that is my inbound marketing content plan.
I have also built, what is hopefully, a much less dry and dusty series of practical, implementation-focused, training sessions for marketers. In so doing, I have undoubtedly done the original authors a multitude of disservices. My hope is that even in my vast dumbing down and misrepresentation of their greatness, I might pique enough curiosity for people to search out the original texts and learn a thing or two.
The paper and the training, however digested, is broken into five sections.
- how to influence behaviour
- how brands grow (and how they don’t)
- where successful brands focus their money and attention
- how media works or doesn’t
- how creative impacts effectiveness (or doesn’t)
This series of shorter posts that follows will take each topic in turn. If you’d like a copy of the full paper please email me at email@example.com with the subject heading “I want it all”.
What Marketers Do
I define marketing in simple terms;
“Marketing’s job is to profitably, get more people, to buy more stuff, on more occasions at higher prices.”
Jon Bradshaw 2016
As marketers we invest an organisation’s assets, in order to persuade large numbers of people to part with their hard earned cash, for the things we’ve invented, constructed and inherited. We do this by leveraging a series of shortcuts and heuristics we call brands. Marketing effectiveness happens when we do that stuff well.
What we have learned about that role in the last 20 years or so, is summarised neatly in the following dichotomy.
“Marketing is much less powerful than most people believe, and much more powerful than most marketers practice.”
Probably not Jon Bradshaw 2018
By the way, I somehow feel I have stolen the essence of this quote from someone, but can’t for the life of me find the source. The blogerati will no doubt correct me. Feel free to claim it as your own.
The Summary Summary
Marketing got harder to get right, more complex, harder to figure out. What we have learned is, if we focus the marketing effort on the right things, it can deliver a significant return for the organisation.
To do that, I believe, it needs to hold (at least) ten beliefs to be true. These beliefs are backed up and underpinned by all that convergent research I was talking about.
1. Humans make irrational, emotional decisions, not rational economic ones most of the time.
2. For behaviour change to happen, motivation, ease and triggers need to be correctly balanced.
3. Brands grow when they increase the number of people who buy them. Not by getting those who already buy, to buy more.
4. Consumers do not care enough about brands to exhibit loyalty. Or any other type of relationship metaphor. Brands help people choose, that’s all.
5. Recruiting new consumers is hard and takes a long time. Spend about 60% of effort and investment on the long game. Spend more on motivation and ease. Less on triggers.
6. Growing the number of users is a numbers game. Reach matters most. The more people who can remember us, find us, and shop us the bigger we will become.
7. Not all reach is equal. Attention, coverage and duration matter. Channel choice makes a big difference to effective reach.
8. Once is enough. Frequency is a poor investment of media money when there’s still reach on the table. Recency can drive short term effects. But not at the expense of reach.
9. To be effective creative work needs to be emotional and famous, in order to grab the limited attention we pay to advertising.
10. But it also needs to be easily comprehended and highly branded in order to be remembered and correctly attributed.
One things is for sure. In today’s complex landscape, marketing effectiveness ain’t easy. In essence it’s hard to get humans to do the things we want. We are not easily persuaded and we are certainly not persuaded by the things many of us used to call “persuasion”.
So for those of you with even shorter attention spans that’s it. 20 years of learning about marketing effectiveness in 10 sentences. For those of you less easily sated, tune in next time, for a deeper dive into behaviour change and how we can get better at taming the beast we call persuasion.
If you’d like to know more about this work and marketing effectiveness in general, Brand Traction have a series of training sessions, available now, based on this content, all aimed at improving your marketing effectiveness. From full and multi-day explorations into all of these topics. To 2 and 3 hour deep-dives into the specifics. To a dry and dusty paper.
So please. If you want to know more. Give us a call on +61 421 092 368.
Or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.