We are drowning in information.
Our world is evolving, in part, because information that was once the domain of the few is now available to the many. There is not an industry in the world that is not affected by information oversupply – from medicine to law, entertainment to education, and most certainly and overwhelmingly: communications. Information is shifting our behavior and putting the power into the hands of the public. Information is shifting our behavior and putting the power into the hands of the public.
We recall the thesis of Canadian sociologist Harold Innis’ groundbreaking book Empire and Communications, published in 1950, is that world empires throughout history have risen and fallen as information technology democratizes cultures. Our empire is no exception.
Marketers, specifically, are not immune to the democratization of information and the shifts in consumer behavior this has caused. Marketers are struggling to connect with consumers because:
- they have access to information on the publics (big data, analytics, insights);
- they don’t understand what this information is telling them;
- they don’t know how to act on this information;
- and d) they certainly do not know how to use this information to change behaviors of their target audiences.
In an industry constructed atop a foundation of messages and audiences, marketers are still chasing eyeballs, often satisfied with reach and ignorance – the conclusion that yes, they reached their audience, and no, they don’t know if this really affected their business.
Successful communicators understand that we can design strategies that change behavior, and measure these strategies to optimize outcomes.
With more and more information available to them, marketers design campaigns aimed at exploiting consumer behavior. Consumers, on the other hand, remain suspicious to advanced marketing techniques, or at the very least ambivalent.
This isn’t the fault of the marketers. This was never in their training. Business schools are behind, and most corporations simply aren’t structured for this new age. Planning is archaic, and results are… cloudy.
The breakdown in planning and results comes from three factors:
- Facts are conflated with insights, which means campaigns that are built with a lack of true, actionable insight;
- Behaviors triggered by communications are unknown, misunderstood or ignored;
- and Outdated approaches to measurement are applied, calling into question the validity of the entire campaign enterprise.
The result? Plausible deniability between the agencies and the marketers – don’t ask, don’t tell. Smart marketers fire their agencies and roll the dice on new ones. Ignorant marketers slide happily into mediocrity.
Agencies assume they are two steps ahead of their clients. This assumption rests on the fact that many agency staffers were trained to communicate with information-impoverished world. An information-rich culture is getting more and more savvy everyday. The idea that agencies are two steps ahead at all time is, at best, a temporary illusion.
Let’s break it down:
Facts vs. Insights
In its simplest meaning a fact is something that is actually the case. A fact is verifiable. In an information rich society, we are drowning in facts. In the marketing world – and especially the digital marketing world, facts are bandied about with abandon. For example, the best times of day to post, what photo filter will get more likes, the idea that dads like to be funny, or how Millennials love emojis.
An insight is the understanding of a specific cause and effect in a specific context. The confusion for many marketers is that facts are used to inform insights, and sometimes facts on their own can seem like insight. Sometimes an insight comes directly out of a single factoid.
The difference is that cause does not always mean effect. For example, if we test and see a tweet gets more engagement if I post at 4pm everyday, that may become an observable fact based on any number of factors, but it tells me nothing about WHY my posts do better at 4pm every day. Taken further, a statistic saying 61% of my coworkers are going to vote for a right-wing party on Election Day, it says nothing about why this is the case.
A fact can trigger an insight, but it is meaningless unless it can expand our understanding the hidden nature of something. A fact can trigger an insight, but it is meaningless unless it can expand our understanding the hidden nature of something. Facts are useful, sometimes. Insights make the invisible visible. For marketers, an insight provides answers about why people do what they do, and should immediately generate ideas on how to best change that behavior.
Facts can be discarded, ignored, manipulated. When you gain true insight, there is no going back.
Passive vs. Active
A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research by Melanie Dempsey and Andrew Mitchell in 2010 that examined the effects of active conditioning, specifically pairing a product with positive images caused participants to choose that product 70-80% of the time. Marketers have long known that people use brands to signal their identity, but this was the first time – in 2010 – anyone had studied whether or not people who strongly identified with brands were successful in feeling better about themselves.
Psychologist Carel Dweck argues that people see themselves in one of two different ways: Entity Theorists believe that personal qualities are fixed and cannot be changed through direct effort to improve, learn or grow, and as a result the look for opportunities to signal positive qualities via brand identification. On the other hand, an Incremental Theorist believes they can enhance themselves only through learning and hard work. These individuals are more likely to take on a challenge that carries the risk of failure, and thus brand identification has less power.
When developing communications and marketing strategies, why is audience behavior so often ignored? That is to say, knowing that your audience is a soccer mom who drives a minivan and listens to Adele while she sips a mocha-chai latte in the parking lot tells you nothing of why she may or may not decide to purchase a new vacuum cleaner, nor how many pictures of vacuum cleaners you should deliver to her on Facebook before she decides that her 60 year-old Hoover just isn’t cutting it anymore.
Marketing, advertising, public relations are all about communicating the value of a product, service or brand to consumers for the express purpose of promoting or selling that product, service or brand. The job – the ONLY job – of marketers is knowing exactly how to craft communications to trigger the correct behavior. The job – the ONLY job – of marketers is knowing exactly how to craft communications to trigger the correct behavior.
With actionable insight, one gains an advanced understanding of the consumer behavior that can be triggered, and a marketer can greatly increase their odds of success. Alternatively, with a series of facts, and a gut feeling about how the consumer might respond, you might hit the target, but only sometimes.
Eyeballs vs. Action
When you have the insight, and you’ve developed a campaign designed to trigger a specific behavior, the missing piece becomes measuring the performance of your campaign. Even with advanced measurement tools available to marketers, we are still talking often about eyeballs. Impressions, reach, applause. Yet when we talk to brand managers, the number one complaint is that agencies are terrible at measuring the effectiveness of their campaigns.
“He knew that only half his advertising worked, but the trouble was that he didn’t know which half.” This saying was true in an information-poor society where it was difficult to obtain information on why people behave the way they did. Historically, we lacked a quantifiable way to find out who is paying attention to what, and the result that no real effort has been made to make the audience addressable.
With new tools, we have access to direct, unfiltered ways to measure the effectiveness of our campaigns. In eCommerce, you are able to determine a sales funnel down to which tweet caused which sale. But there are other direct ways that we can move beyond measuring the number of eyeballs, or even the number of likes – these remain useful metrics, but only to a point.
We can do better by tracing behavior through the funnel on all channels. Simply put, if you’re not measuring, you’re lazy. “We can’t know that” needs to be shunned. Simply put, if you’re not measuring, you’re lazy. “We can’t know that” needs to be shunned.
In an information-rich economy, we propose a new way to approach marketing, that sets the bar higher for strategy. Execution, and measurement, and for results – all of which is rooted in understanding and changing behavior. We call this Behaviortising.
Behavior – “the way in which one person acts in response to a particular situation”
Tising – literally means to “turn one’s attention to”
Behaviortising introduces a new way of developing campaigns capable of causing a response or measurable action. It moves beyond conveying ideas to consumers and moves toward building communications that compel action.
Join us. It’s time to take make action.