What do you believe? What do you passionately believe in? God, football, politics, vegetarianism, ethics… don’t say you don’t, we are all hard wired to believe in things.
The trouble is, involuntarily we get caught up with faiths, some of which are fads. And by definition, a faith doesn’t require proof, which sometimes makes them dangerous things to follow.
Not being one who isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo, I’ve had my fair share of emails from people with opposite belief systems, through I prefer to think of myself as an open minded sceptic of many fashions within our industry, seeking maybe a more pragmatic, common sense approach. I think our industry’s disciplines are sometimes like football teams – each one has its passionate followers who believe in their team and values only.
I’ve often commented on the evangelistic nature of some marketers, who in my view over believe the hype and don’t want to be challenged. They adopt a trend, a sector of marketing or some rule with passion and can not let go. Are they narrow minded? No, just human?
How do you explain God? There’s no rational explanation, no solid proof and science can’t prove he exists. Of course if you are a true believer, you have faith. Yet despite this, billions believe in a god. So powerful is this belief that many will make significant sacrifices in his name, some will even die for their belief. Many use their belief to justify their actions, sadly those actions are sometimes plain evil, as we’ve recently seen.
I was talking with some fellow marketers at an event recently when one said, with a defined conviction, “It’s all changed, it’s all about story telling. If you want to engage people you need to tell stories.”
DEDICATED FOLLOWERS OF FASHION
Now this is a classic example of dedicated followers of fashion acting before they do any thinking. We all looked at each other and with a little interrogation it became obvious that our friend didn’t understand WHY story telling was better or could validate it. He just knew it was the next thing. Somewhere he’d been told, or read online, that story telling was the next big thing. Good reason to be wary of any article that includes the term ‘the new trend In marketing is…’ LinkedIn has loads of them – I think they should have a club for self appointed gurus.
Story telling can be a useful way of doing things, but you had better be the best story teller in the world if you want to use it to sell insurance or trainers. Waitrose have recently jumped on the story telling bandwagon and their TV ads are plain dull, while M&S’s food ads are many times better. And here lies another problem with belief systems, you don’t questions the methodology.
I prefer to think of marketing like a big tool kit. Don’t put all your faith in one tool, put it in the box, that way you’ll always use the right tool for the job.
We have all seen how too many clients jumped on the social media bandwagon, believing that SM would deliver a cheaper, more effective way to get their message into the minds and culture of consumers. But how many actually achieved the dream? How many big brands have turned back to TV – which is growing again. It takes a brave person to go against the grain, and recently Premier Food’s chief executive Gavin Darby bucked the social trend and said, they were “unashamedly sticking with TV advertising” and would not be shifting significant spend into digital channels.
For those of you who have signed up to the church of Behaviour Economics (a great repackaging of basic consumer psychology) you’ll know about ‘social norming’ – people behaving like pack animals. Or sheep if you prefer.
It’s in our DNA to follower others and the fashion industry have used that factor as a marketing tool for generations. And no matter how bad the fashion is – low slung jeans exposing your pants or tank tops – we laugh at first then follow. There’s been many tests to prove (scientifically) how vulnerable we are to following the behaviour of others and therefore fashion. It is actually this factor that can make social media so powerful.
If we are under the impression everyone is doing X, we will do X as well. How many readers have adopted social media just because everyone else is? “What do you mean you don’t have a Twitter account,” is often said with condemnation these days.5 years ago people said “you have a Twitter account,” with surprise.
Another interesting fact of psychology (yep, that’s what I believe in, back to basics and understanding how and why people do what they do) is first impressions – they really do count. I’m not talking about visual appearance but information. When introduced to something new, the first information portrayed as fact becomes embedded in the mind and attached to a belief system. If I tell a young impressionable intern that mobile phone advertising is all and everything and traditional digital is dead, it doesn’t take much to embed that belief.
If I take you to a strange land and tell you the woodlands are full of killer spiders, 90% of you will believe that and to a point where you’d try and stop the 10% taking a walk in the woods. Remember that film The Village?
Sure belief systems can be shaken but it’s harder to change them than to implant them. Even harder if they are based on fear. This is why each generation of entrants to our business believe passionately that their world is the new and right world.
Try selling a poster or TV campaign to a 26 year old digital planner who believes that old media is dead and mobile is everything. Even when you show them the facts, that big media still has the greatest influence, they won’t believe you. Belief systems are powerful and sometimes corrupting. Worse they can prevent us from making the right decisions.
A client of mine once said, “The trouble with marketing is that every discipline thinks it’s the right way. Everyone can prove that their way is the right way. But common sense tells you that isn’t right. The trouble is, common sense is not very common.”