Wednesday, 22 May 2013


Last night saw Thom Noble take to the stage at King's College London for Warc's Neuroscience event. An esteemed neuromarketer, Thom's work strives to better explain consumer behaviour and to predict what people are going to buy. Both concepts that are undeniably useful from an advertising perspective.

i would like to buy one
just the same as that
Traditional methods of market research have been able to measure the conscious but neuroscience aims to blend techniques in order to access the vast unknown territory of the non-conscious.

The role for planners would appear to be in generating ways of exploiting this data and in drawing insights from it and Thom feels that it is necessary for planners to develop the consultant side of the neuromarketing industry.

baby imitating facial movements
baby see, baby do
Bringing a wider range of senses to the evaluation of an effective piece of communication is a compelling idea and the field of mirror-neurons, which are said to explain the evolution of language, is an area of particular interest. It also happens to be a part of the brain that is supposedly easier to trigger in women. This is why women respond to faces and direct eye contact and all of a sudden every fashion mag I've ever flicked through makes sense.

Although what starts as a conscious thought and evaluation depreciates to something less conscious throughout a given task, it is impossible to totally switch off from the fact that your responses are being monitored. Even when the technology becomes smaller and more integrated this awareness will be unavoidable.

It reminds me of how Big Brother housemates become less able to keep up a front as the fact that their every move is being watched slips to the back of their minds. They are however, always conscious that they are in an artificial set up and this is a variable that cannot be controlled. Sci-Fi human guinea pigs just won't do the trick.

I believe that in its current state neuromarketing is at its most useful when combined with other forms of monitoring, such as social media, where it can be used in order to measure people's desire to share. Despite the massive recent advances in market research and neuroscience, these methods still have a way to go before the variables are minimised and the data that they produce provides reliable insights into the behaviour of the human mind.

For the time being I have to side with the neuro-sceptics and back the corner of the more philosophical, qualitatively backed ways of reaching into the minds of consumers.

You can find out more about Thom and his work on the Neurostrata website.
You can also see his presentation slides here.

Cited books:
Descartes' Error - Antonio Damasio
Unconscious Branding - Douglas Van Praet
Thinking Fast and Slow (of course) - Daniel Kahneman

Thursday, 28 March 2013

brand loyalty

I’m really interested in the concept of brand loyalty and the debate as to whether or not it actually exists. I thought I’d take a look into why I’m a massive fan of Sainsbury’s to find out where this affiliation stems from. I really do love Sainsbury’s, ask anyone.

Bonding with my dad - The ‘Big Shop’ in Camden? A nice sentimental idea and although the Supermarket Sweep-like run to get the things left on the list once we reached the end is a fond memory, it could, in theory have been any supermarket and this memory is specifically attached to the Camden Sainsbury’s, not to Sainsbury’s as a brand.

Is it Jamie Oliver’s perky little face? Unlikely.
Is it because I want to Live Well for Less? I love a bargain as much as the next person and fall time and time again for the age old 2 for 1 offers but we all know that Sainsbury’s is not the most “cost effective” way to do the groceries. Also, Try Something New Today is always the tagline that I associate with Sainsbury’s mostly due to it’s epic planning tale of how it came to be.

Is it the soothing satisfaction I get from systematically winding up and down each isle? Do I have a particular affinity with the colour orange? Is it because they “made reusable bags sexy” (their words)? Love me a bit of CSR but again, not enough to pick one brand in favour of another. Is it because I fit into their target audience of Female AB 25-34 35-44? Well, it may be a factor, what kind of strategist would I be if I belittled the importance of having a clear idea of who your audience is.

My feeling is that it’s convenience over brand loyalty. Wherever I move to it tends to be the closest supermarket. I may begrudge having to go to Tesco’s if I moved somewhere where it was closer but the fact is that that sentiment probably wouldn’t last that long and I would adapt, shifting my Nectar card to the back of my wallet.

It also seems to be about managing expectations and sticking with what you know. As Rory Sutherland (yes - referencing Rory again) points out; people don’t want the best hamburger in the world, they want the hamburger that is just like the hamburger they had the last time.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

putting the you in ux

last week i went to an #ogilvychange talk in the very snazzy ogilvy offices in canary wharf. rory sutherland hosted the evening to promote matt watkinson's new book, the ten principles behind great customer experiences. this is a summary of some of the points that were discussed.

principles not processes
with business and purchase decisions being emotionally driven, we need to rely on using psychological principles to make decisions about the customer. matt readily admits that the principles are obvious but that they are abundant by their absence. a lot of emphasis is currently put on authenticity and meaning within brands but i believe it's as manageable as making people aware of why you're asking for a certain action, this clarity is really what leads to good will and participation.

ux's part in the customer journey
the customer journey is more extensive than we imagine and provides many more opportunities for brands to be helpful to their customers than the straight forward service they promote. that said, if customer experience is so important why isn't it better? why is it so difficult to make it better? matt believes it falls upon companies to set their customer expectations and to then meet them. by examining what distractions your customers are experiencing you can map out a more streamlined route for them to take - ux should be effortless and stress free.

the objective and the super objective
if your brand is the answer, what is the question? to fully explore this it's interesting to look at the difference between the somewhat obvious objective and then to delve deeper into the super objective that may not necessarily have been thought of by the customer when they set out to fulfil their primary objective. this was illustrated by matt by looking at photography. the objective would be: take a photo. this is solved by a brand such as kodak. however, if we push this a step further to the super objective: share experiences and the way we see the world with others, the real solution would be brands such as instagram and tumblr.

sensory indulgence
according to matt, "great customer experience should indulge the senses" and he demonstrated this with the satisfaction in the textures that come with unboxing the leica. another great example of this, as cited by adam powers, is the little bit of resistance and puff of air that comes when you open an apple product. these relatively minor considerations do a great deal to add to the customer experience of the product and subsequently their perceived image of the brand.

great expectations
the implications for managing people's expectations are really far reaching and vary greatly between brands. as matt pointed out, there are a different set of expectations on apple than there are on android. harking back to a recent blog post by james caig, john lewis don't exceed expectations but you know what you're going to get. people want what they know - they don't want the best burger, they want a burger just like the burger they had the last time.

many other points were raised in the q&a and it made for a really engaging talk. i only wish i'd been able to stay longer. along with matt's book i also managed to pick up a copy of this handy dandy #ogilvychange book, which is beautifully designed and offers interesting insights into behavioural science practice from a range of the best behavioural economics books out there. snap one up at the next #ogilvychange talk.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

bye bye h

what a climactic end to the year! in the same month that i acquire my master's in the art of advertising (Em M. MA) i have also come to the end of a three month placement at one of the world's most notorious agencies.

i really enjoyed my past few months at bbh. really enjoyed them, they flew by and i'm sad to have left.

i entered into bbh through their home grown scheme along with three other 'home growners' and was placed on the second floor in sprint (the office is divided up into six, sprint, mint and penthouse - it makes sense once you're in there...) my first tasks included researching how people are using nfc for barclaycard and delving into social media for virgin media. we were lucky enough to be given talks by both charlie rudd and jon peppiatt in our first week who gave us a sense of what bbh is about and the kinds of attributes they seek in the people that work there.

in my second month, as building work began and the agency transformed into a submarine, i was kindly taken under the wing of the research department on the premise that as a junior strategist the way that i could be most useful would be if i can find things quickly. richard helyar and his team opened up google a new for me as well as giving me a clear breakdown of their tools, including tgi, sysomos and warc. during this second month we also got a talk about insights from jim carroll (as mentioned in a previous post, a man who evokes huge respect), he explained the importance not only of condensing thought but also expanding it, setting tasks which may be worth a post in themselves.

throughout our time there we had the homegrown team, including abi and rishi, to go to with any concerns or queries and many other people were also generous with their time to have a coffee and impart their advice. i never took for granted the power of the minds in that building, as well as how nice everyone was. the old paradox of being good and friendly really holds true there (at least in my experience).

in my final few weeks i worked on a weekly digital zeitgeist for audi and a mobile thought piece for nick fell, which i'll be posting shortly. i also shadowed the prodigy that is tim jones. i helped him and the virgin media team on a commercial strategy and got to go to my first focus group.

the great thing about doing my placement at this time of year was that i got to go to the company meeting in the guardian building and the office christmas party. the less great thing is that it's not the best time for hiring and although it had always been made clear that there wouldn't necessarily be a job available, it would have been the perfect end to the year. i shouldn't have drunk so much of the kool-aid but this hopefully won't be the absolute end to my time there. as i said to john hegarty on my last day "i hope this is more 'au revoir' and not 'adieu'", yes, i actually said that to him. goals for 2013 include working on my inner monologue and being less awkward around advertising legends.