Why it’s Time To Change the Way We Think, About How We Think

Down-the-Rabbit-Hole-Studying-for-FinalsOver 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:

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 12.13.46On the Bookshelf:

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

Others Recommend: 

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.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Edward says:

    Thank you for writing this 😉


    1. Rayray says:

      🙂 And thanks for writing that!


  2. Will Lynch says:

    Excellent book list Rachel!

    They are all very solid recommendations. Your impactful writing and along with your unique insights continue to impress. Fair play.

    I really, really loved The Social Animal! Loved how it was structured too and it lingered with me for a long time afterwards. Thinking Fast and Slow and The Power of Habit are both essential reads ( I had a feeling that Shane O’ Leary would make some recommendations!)

    Glad to see Dan Pink there too. Check out his TED talks – especially on Motivation.

    I love reading on a Kindle as it cuts out distractions (as mentioned in The Shallows) and it facilitates easy note taking for export into Evernote.

    You have a great list so some others I would recommend are:

    Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
    by Yuval Noah Harari
    The best book I have ever read about what it is to be human. Why we are the way we are and where we are going as a species. The pages stick to your fingers like glue.

    Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
    It is the best selling business book of the recent time for a reason. It’s brilliant. Essential reading for anyone working in marketing or business.

    Spent: Evolution and Consumer Behaviour by Geoffrey Miller
    A witty and well written joy ride through the consumer mind.

    Mean Genes: From Sex To Money To Food: Taming Our Primal Instincts by Terry Burnham and Jay Phelan
    Fascinating and rich in anecdotes. Great material for dinner conversations.

    The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature by Gad Saad
    I saw this guy give a very compelling TED talk and raced through this racy book. Brilliant.

    Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works by AG Lafey and Roger Martin
    Some really valuable take-aways. The book doesn’t flow well though so you are better off just reading the summaries. The insights make up for the mediocre writing.

    Talk like TED by Dr. Carmine Gallo
    If you want to become a more compelling public speaker, spice up your presentations or simply learn how to connect with and engage any audience, this book will help you to achieve all of this and more. I have read it twice now.

    The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
    Seth Godin gave this book a glowing review so I picked it up in an airport and was I glad that I did!
    It is an excellent synthesis of not only cutting edge business but the latest research from behavioural economics (plenty of Prof. Daniel Kahneman quoted in this book) and evolutionary psychology. Learn how to manage yourself better, understand fully the business cycle and how to lead and inspire others with solid, peer reviewed scientific research.
    It’s all here and more!



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