Over the course of the last year, I’ve spent an awful lot of time reading, studying and discussing the importance of the herd to our neanderthal brains. We may think we have come a long way, particularly of late – thanks to our progression in the areas of science, culture and technology but in reality, our caveman brains (the most important ‘tool’ we use to understand and interact with the world around us) have stayed more or less the same since our time as hunter gatherers.
Why does this matter?
Well, because this is something that – under the shadow of the internet and convenient new shiney technology – marketers and brands seem to have completely forgotten. Or maybe they never really acknowledged in the first place, it’s just more obvious now as we all struggle to keep up with the latest ‘trends’ in technology, fawn over a baby start-up and mill around saying phrases like ‘big data’, ‘digital relationships’, ‘game changer’ and ‘content engagement’ without any real depth of understanding about anything. We seem to believe that because we now possess the latest smartphone 2.0, our own noggins’ ‘computer system’ has also received an automatic update. This is unfortunately, untrue. And the ‘game’ does in fact, remain unchanged.
We just still don’t understand how to play it.
Because the power of persuasion is really hard…
However, attempting to understand technology and the latest ‘it’ thing to do in marketing is still, relatively easier. It is, therefore, a lot more attractive a proposition to the majority of marketers, than attempting to unravel how consumers think, feel and behave.
Presumptions are made, Audiences get bundled into these bizarrely bland yet outrageous 1950s ‘target groups’ of ‘housekeepers’ or ‘young urban males’. Every possible cliche about who they are and how they think, act or feel is thrown into a brief and these presumptions are then pulled back out again -kicking and screaming – as ‘insights’. But before any of this happens, we’ll probably have selected the media. Because – for some unknown reason – it’s more important to us to know how people will hear or see something, rather than the what.
People don’t think/act/do what brands want them to do… Campaigns blip along, or fail. Clients ask why…. The technology or platform is blamed… Marketers move on to the next ‘big’ thing. And the whole process is repeated again without anybody learning anything. Although of course, you may be fortunate enough to bag an innovation award – which only serves to signify to others that of all people you alone are the lone wolf that knows what you’re doing… and copy you.
Mind Over Matter – Why People Still Need to Come Before Technology
So personally, despite my love of this interweb-doo-hickey, my latest reads have and will continue to primarily consist of books that help us to understand human behaviour, decision making and our thought process. We have a long way still to go in this process – as infinite, probably, as any other science. But as useful and mind-boggling thought changing too. And the good news is, we are coming into a new era of discovery – resulting in lots of lovely material on the subject that will give you practical advice and steps in the art of persuasion. I have milled into an extensive few over the last few months as part of my 99 New Years Resolutions list and if anyone is also interested in learning about the same, here are the ones that I would really recommend:
- Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other by Sherry Turkle
- The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks
- Herd: How to Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature by Mark Earls
- Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
- The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki
- Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
- The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg
- Sane New World: Taming the Mind by Ruby Wax
- The Logic Of Life: Uncovering the New Economics of Everything by Tim Harford
- Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
On My Wishlist (unread):
- Nudge: improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler
- How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer
- To Sell is Human: The Surprising Truth About Persuading, Convincing, and Influencing Others by Daniel Pink
Hooked – How to Build Habit-forming Products (this one sounds like a great ‘next step’ from The Power of Habit
The Shallows – What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains (sounds like a good build from Alone Together and Sane New World).
The Branded Mind (this one is directly focused on the neuroscience)
The Advertised Mind (by same author and a sort of ‘this is your brain on advertising) .
Thanks to Shane and Camillus for the recommendations.
Have you read any books recently that have changed the way you think, about how you think? Or maybe you’ve read some of the above and love/hated them? If so, please share with us your thoughts and recommendations!
For a laugh (or cry, depending how close you are to the problem), check out this video from Creative Fuel a few years ago about what happens when technology comes first.