Archive for February, 2011

Social media is nothing new – the Romans were doing it.

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

This is according to the writings of Jonathan Salem Baskin – much respected marketer, author and blogger. His latest book “Histories of Social Media” explains that the behaviours we all talk about so much as new – Twitter, Facebook etc etc – are actually all really based on very ancient human practices. His entertaining analysis compares jousting and duelling with pistols to arguments in chat rooms. We should all relax about negative comments and apparently vicious attacks online – it’s better than being shot at or poked with a spear.

Salem Baskin’s take on the much talked about, and generally accepted idea of the Wisdom of the Crowd is almost chilling. His historical comparison here is with the Reign of Terror of the French Revolution in the 1790s. (As you’ll remember this ended badly for Marie Antoinette.) People died for their political and religious opinions on a widespread scale but also because they simply fell under suspicion of not being revolutionary enough.

The Romans come up in reference to crowd pleasing in the Colesseum – great if you’re in the audience – not so good if you’re a Christian or a Gladiator.

All of this gels with my overall theory that there was never anything new about new media anyway (technology aside). Anything that succeeds does so because it delivers against basic human instincts and drives, and indeed ingrained habits from generations ago. So the 20th century may end up looking like a digression when you take the long view as social media gives us back the ability to be in touch with everyone we meet always (like you were usually if you grew up in a village in the middle ages), and Ocado delivers my essentials just as the local grocer did for my great grandma.

See for a daily shot of history. And get hold of his book if you like a bit of perspective on everything that seems to be changing so fast, but perhaps is just mostly back to the future.

The real truth behind a qualitative research group.

Tuesday, February 8th, 2011

How refreshing to hear WPP’s planning guru Jon Steel, on a recent visit to MediaCom, talk about the need to get under the skin of what is really meant and felt in a qual research group, rather than simply reporting what has been said during it.

We live in such a world of instant accountability on a huge scale via Google Analytics and real time results that it’s more important than than ever before what the role of indepth qualitative analysis is.

Years ago I was massively impressed by one qualitative research moderator who we had used to probe new car buying patterns amongst men in their 60s. This generation were underwhelmed by the concept of sitting in a stranger’s living room and not warmed up by the available beer and crisps. When the discussion moved to the possible emotional motivations behind car buying decisions (this set of blokes were strictly rational as far as their conscious process went) some of them came close to aggression.

The moderator was unphased by all of this turbulence. She calmed them down, kept the discussion moving along, and came back with an analysis of the declared and undeclared car purchase process that transcended mere reporting of what was said.

I asked her how she’d managed to pull such nuggets from the somewhat dry groups I’d witnessed.
“Sue,” she replied, “I barely even listen to what anyone says in a research group anymore.. I simply soak up the atmosphere and deliver a version of what’s happened based on the unspoken feelings in the room”.

Many of you may find this ludicrous. And I’m sure she somewhat exaggerated her litmus like capabilities. But she uncovered a barrier to purchase that, though unspoken, was so deep rooted that it was obvious that it would be too difficult to target this group with this particular model, so we reallocated the budget more profitably against an alternative target group.

With so much true and instant quantitative data at our fingers tips it is crucial to dive deeper than ever with listening techniques – to not just listen to what is being said – but to feel what is not being said out loud too.

The true Venn diagram of marketing

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Everyone loves a Venn diagram don’t they ? I know I do. Venn diagrams were originally invented by John Venn in 1880. How many of us can expect to live on as a diagram for over a century.
The new truth marketing Venn diagram is the intersection between the three things that the consumer wants from a brand.

First the average consumer will ask for “value” (always first in any kind of consumer insight session). By which they usually mean value in its broadest sense – ie what they expect from a brand (the brand promise, functionality plus – even innovation if that’s a part of the promise) at an appropriate price. And value – often it its narrowest sense – is what everyone scrambles to give them. So in any category the punter will hear offers of “Cheaper” or “Added extras” or “Gift with purchase” – depending on the sector. Some sectors are rife with enticing claims about unmatchable prices that give the easily pleased the reassurance that they are not being ripped off, which satisfies all but the serious dedicated and time rich bargain hunter.

Once value is satisfied the consumer would like next to be entertained. Sometimes they’ll happily be so entertained by the gorgeousness of the advertising or the wit and humour of the brand that this is enough (for now). Enough even to overcome the reality of the service or the a possible over promise of the image. The golden days of British advertising when creative directors of ad agencies walked the streets of London like Homeric heroes were built on this consumer desire. “Entertain me” is less something they’ll say in consumer insight session but clearly is something that they respond to. But the consumer is more fickle in this respect than they used to be. They’ll talk about entertaining brands but often seek value elsewhere.

The third element is truth. The consumer is unlikely to ask unprompted for truth from a brand. Perhaps most have grown up in the world of spin. But when the truth leaks out it is very convincing. It creates talking points equal to those of entertainment or value. It cannot disappoint. And it is overpowering in comparison with artificiality. There is not one truth for any brand. The consumer does not want to know all the truth about any brand. But any brand that can speak truthfully and entertain and offer real value will get a superb edge on its competition.