There has been a dramatic rise of clever individuals who combine pieces of knowledge around technology, design, philosophy and marketing and then they wrap them up in interesting talks, videos or interviews. Jason Silva is one of them. He calls himself performance philosopher and viral artist. He is behind the amazing “Shots of Awe" YouTube channel, he gives TED talks and I am pretty sure he is a really interesting guy to have a conversation with.
Russian Standard Vodka decided to make him an ambassador in its latest ad campaign and build the promo around his personality and communicaion skills combining technology, entertainment, storytelling and nice graphics.
My opinion? Much much better than having paid a second tier celebrity.
———————————————————————————————————————————————In many ways, when you experience positive emotions in a context that doesn’t match that function, here’s where we’re finding that difficulties arise, and that we shouldn’t be trying to promote positive emotions at all times and in all situations, and for all people for that matter.
I recently came across a ReadWriteWeb article about BBC shutting down its 3D TV pilot program, citing lack of viewer interest.
According to Kim Shillinglaw, who oversees the public broadcasting corporation’s 3D initiative, the technology simply failed to capture British audiences. Approximately 1.5 million U.K. households own compatible television sets, and yet only half tuned in to the BBC’s 3D broadcast of the Olympics Opening Ceremony. Even Sony, one of the leading makers of 3D televisions, admitted last year that 3D "is not hugely important" to people. So if viewers aren’t enamored with this technology, then that leaves a big question mark on who the major proponents actually are.
Reading the news about the 3D TV operations of BBC, I remembered that during my Master’s, I was really lucky to work for 3 months for BBC Worldwide on a project basis. The project was “Is 3D TV viable and how BBC should treat the magic number 3”.
For those who do not know, BBC Worldwide is the commercial arm of BBC dealing with all the business activity of the British broadcaster , its websites, radio stations, print publications etc. All the strategy decisions are made at BBC Worldwide and then implemented on the relevant media channels.
Having to compile a presentation about 3D TV in BBC in early 2010 was pretty difficult because no one could safely predict how 3D would generally evolve as a tech phenomenon, if viewers preferred watching it only in theaters and not in their living rooms, if 3D glasses from different manufacturers would sync with TVs, what kind of tech infrastructure is needed for a broadcaster etc.
We were really privileged to work under the guidance of BBC Worldwide content managers, having access to BBC data and their amazing offices and living the whole experience.
To cut a long story short, what we came up was really risky and we were not sure if we should present it in front of C-Level executives who had already made serious investments in 3D TV. Our research and online survey brought us to the conclusion that 3D TV is not a “safe bet” for a corporation like BBC. There were various reasons behind that conclusion that you can easily check on our embedded presentation and we were really courageous to openly express it in front of BBC Worldwide.
Our work was graded with distinction, we received amazing feedback from BBC and later this year they let us know that the 3D TV plan that they launched was tailored based on our findings.
After all, it turns out that we were right.
(Illustrations by my dear friend Pan Pan, you can visit his website here)
There is a generic belief that humans are completely rational. It is easily understandable why a belief like this is popular. People want to think of themselves as rational because anything else would get us out of our comfort zones. It would be so frustrating to know that your choices do not derive from a logical assumption of your internal thoughts but as an outcome of uncontrolled, unconscious processes. We want to think that we are rational because this is the rational thing to believe.
However, human beings are not rational at all and I am pretty sure that it is not the first time you read about it. Our brain is “built” in a way that allows many irrationalities take place in our daily lives from the kind of the tomato we will pick in the grocery till the way we prioritize our work at the office.
I could write this whole post using images of naked women, I could change the title to something along the lines of “BAM: read this post and learn how human mind works”, I could bold some words, I could use a small trick writing the words and and 2 times and you would not realise it. (See what I did here?) All these different things would create a different reaction from you towards this post.
Take for example this amazing Medium post on how our irrational mind can affect web design.
I find human irrationalities one of the most interesting subjects out there. First of all, I find it extremely engaging to play the game of trying to remember when was the last time that my own brain performed a totally irrational action. And then, it is really interesting to check how this kind of irrationalities can be applied to business, personal life, ethics etc
If we consider that the “Human Irrationalities” chapter belongs to the book of “Behavioral Science”, then you can easily assume that someone who works at marketing, advertising, consumer research or even HR can get some really great insights on how to approach things in work. I have written some examples of how our unconscious part of mind can affect the marketing strategy of brands and their advertising campaigns and I am reading more and more reports of marketing agencies hiring cognitive scientists and psychologists instead of simple marketers, which means that professionals have finally understood how important our “irrationalities” are in the process of decision making.
Some months ago, I attended an event around behavioral science at the Ogilvy London HQ. The event was organised by Rory Sutherland who, among many other things, is also famous for embracing behavioral science and neuroscience in advertising and marketing. All the attendees of the event got a booklet named “Human Irrationalities” as a gift. In this booklet, the authors showcased with simple words the most common irrationalities of our brains. I have read this book so many times that I have almost learnt it by heart so I thought it would be good to write part of it here along with some of my thoughts and comments.
So let’s start:
Anchoring: Focus On Something You Know
Value is often set by anchors in our minds which we use as mental reference points, influencing our decision-making no matter how arbitrary the anchors may be.
A group of people was asked to name the last 2 digits of their social security number, and then they were asked how much they would pay for a bottle of wine. Those whose last 2 digits were above 80 were willing to spend $20 more than those whose last two digits were less than 20.
Chunking: Offer Small, Well-Defined Tasks
Small, individual tasks are far less daunting than big ones. The way in which tasks are presented and broken down affects how motivated we are to start and finish them.
RyanAir chunks the whole purchasing process. They lock you in with a low “seat price”, getting you excited about your trip. Then, once you have decided where to go, you begin to form a mental commitment. Once this happens, it’s very unlikely that you will change your mind about the purchase, so it’s here that they start to add the extra charges in bite-sized “chunks”. By the time you get to the full cost of your flight, you have put so much effort into the booking process, that you would rather complete the purchase at a cost significantly higher than the initial seat price.
Commitment: The Power Of A Public Pledge
The more public our stance, the less willing we are to change it. People will often go through with acts that they hold private reservations about if they have committed to them publicly. There are numerous cases of public figures having tweeted something and then acting in a way that conflicts with what they had said. This ALWAYS creates controversies in the public sphere.
A Finnish cable company offered new customers a discount if they were willing to dig the trench from their home to the street for their new cable connection. Months later, they found out that those customers who had participated in digging the trench were far less likely to disconnect their cable service than control groups. Admitting that they were wrong by cutting off their service would be both psychologically and socially painful.
Commitment: The Power Of Personal Investment
The more involved people are in creating something, the better they feel about the end product. this can lead to self-constructed items or products being valued more highly by the person who made it.
IKEA customers are emotionally attached with the pieces of furniture they have assembled together because they see a little piece of them in each one of them.
Consistency: We Behave In Accordance With Our Self-Image
We act in accordance with our beliefs about who we are. However, our self-image is not as set in stone as we would like to believe, and so by altering it, behavior can be affected too.
Every time a new customer walks into a jewellery store, he is offered a glass of champagne. By this way, customers consider themselves as consumers of luxury products and they are much more willing to buy an expensive jewellery to match their created self-image.
Social Proofing: The power of social influence
We are herd animals and make decisions based on what those around us are doing. We often justify our choices like this, validating them on the basis that others were following a similar course of action.
The phenomenon of social proofing has hundreds of applications in daily life. Especially in the social media era that we all live in, brands design their campaigns based on the notion that consumers will unconsciously follow what other users will post/tweet/upload.
Hyperbolic Discounting: The Power Of Now
We have an overwhelming preference for immediate payoffs over later ones. Even if, in absolute terms, the later payoff is “better”, we are addicted to “now” and we consistently choose fun things now over things that are good for us in the future.
You can see the power of hyperbolic discounting in your daily life. Taking for example the hours you spend at your office, check how many times you have interrupted a project to check your Facebook or Twitter. You think that spending 20 seconds will do no harm and then you will be able to continue your project like before but this is utterly wrong. You will probably click on a posted link, comment on a photo, attend an event, fav a tweet etc.
Hyperbolic Discounting: Make The First Step Easy
People do what’s “easy now”, even if their procrastination means that they will have to suffer more down the line. Our strong preference to avoid things that are effortful now, regardless of their long-term benefit, makes it really hard to sell complex products that are of strategic, rather than immediate importance.
Priming: The Derren Brown Method
Our behavior is easily influenced by cues that work subconsciously and prime us to behave in particular ways.
Half of a group of college students were asked to arrange brief sentences including at least one of the words Florida, forgetful, bald,gray, orwrinkle. The other half were presented with none of these words. After completing their task, the students were told to walk down the corridor to another room. The experimenters, unbeknownst to the subjects, recorded the time the students took to walk that short distance. Are you ready? Those students of the first group walked more slowly than those in the second group. The experiment was dubbed ‘the Florida effect.’ The unconscious association of terms commonly associated with being old affected the students’ walking pace.
Priming: Deep Seated Values Are Highly Malleable
We may believe our values and beliefs are stable and deep-seated, but in fact they are socially constructed, context dependent and highly malleable.
Two groups of students were asked to take a math test. The first group was asked to write the 10 Commandments before starting the test and the students of the second group were asked to write their 10 favorite books.
During the test, it was obvious that students could easily cheat if they want. The second group showed a much higher propensity to cheat.
Asymmetrically Framed Choice: Throwing In A Curve Ball
Including an obviously inferior third option, rather than simply giving a cheap/expensive price choice, can guide consumers to choose higher-priced goods.
A group of students were given the following price options for purchasing a magazine subscription:
Online - $59
Print - $125
Print and Online - $125
84% chose the expensive option. When the middle option was taken out, 68% chose the first choice.
The Paradox Of Choice: You Can Have Too Much Of A Good Thing
Offering customers more choices is not always better than offering them fewer choices. We are often paralysed by choice. When we have too many options, the likelihood that we pick the most suitable option is reduced, and so we procrastinate for fear of making a bad choice. If fewer options are presented, there is less chance of making a mistake.
When Toyota launched its Prius model, it heavily advertised it as “the first hybrid car”. By creating a new product category, the only dilemma that Toyota created in consumers’ minds was “Should I buy a hybrid or a non-hybrid car?”. The consumers that chose to move on with a hybrid car (which became very trendy because of celebrity endorsements, which is actually the next irrationality that I am writing about) they had only one choice. Toyota Prius.
Authority: Follow The Experts
Years of social convention have led us to place an often irrational trust in the judgement of experts such as doctors and lawyers.
Availability: Assessing Risk & Opportunity Through Top-Of-Mind Examples
Our decisions are heavily swayed by objects and events that are available at the front of our minds - this may be due to the regular exposure to them. The presence of highly memorable events in our minds can influence our judgements about their likelihood of occurence.
Lotteries do not try to sell tickets by advertising the real chance you have to win. Instead, they put forth recent winners.
Reciprocation: Give And You Shall Receive
People feel inclined to respond in kind to even the smallest acts of generosity or altruism.
The freemium business model is based around the idea of reciprocation. Freemium is a business model that emerged during the rise of web services like for example Skype. Skype gives you for free the option to create an account and make calls between desktop/mobile users. When you want to make a call on a landline, you will be much more likely to use your already created Skype account (premium) because you unconsciously feel obliged towards Skype.
Relativity: People Make Judgements Relatively, Not Absolutely
Many people will pay $2 for tea in Costa, but not 15p for a teabag in a supermarket. The two are identical commodities and yet the environment and trappings the commodity is presented in influence its perceived relative value.
Representativeness: The Effects Of Expectation And Stereotyping
We use stereotyping to provide mental shortcuts for quicker decision-making. Often, how we feel about a behavior is dictated by the preconceptions we held about it before we even took the action.
Scarcity Value: Wanting What We Can’t Have
People value things more highly when they believe that they are scarce.
Temptation: We routinely underestimate its effect
We are prey to our emotions when making decisions and these emotions are easier to manipulate than we think
Young men were asked to cross a high, dangerous bridge. Whilst on the bridge, they interacted with a female experimenter who offered them the opportunity to call her afterwards to discuss the experiment. The same happened to a number of guys who were asked to walk through a totally safe bridge, close to the ground.
The guys of the dangerous bridge showed a higher propensity to call the woman afterwards because they confused the high state of emotional arousal with romantic attraction.
Value perception: The Power Of Price
Price often dictates how we value something, even when applied to identical products.
A group of students was asked to be paid $2 each to attend a class where a professor will read poetry. 59% said yes.
Another group of students was asked to pay $2 to attend the same class. 3% said yes.
Then, it was announced to both groups that the class is now free. Of the first group, only 8% agreed to come, whereas 35% of the second group agreed to come.
Framing: It’s All In How You Look At It
Our reflexive system does not naturally check to see if rephrasing a question would produce a different answer. Framing a question or offering it in a different way often generates a new response, particularly if it changes the comparison set it is viewed in.
Goal Dilution: We Can Only Focus On One Thing At A Time
When multiple goals are pursued, they are less effectively achieved than goals pursued individually. The more goals attached to a single task, the lower the association between this task and each individual goal. As a result, people prefer activities, tasks and products that serve single goals.
Halo effect: Positive Traits Spill Over
People believe that positive or negative traits spill over, and so make generalisations about the whole based on the perceived quality of one part of it.
When Barack Obama ran for President for first time in 2008, his behavioral scientists/consultants advised him to appear with his shirt sleeves rolled up so that he will appear like someone who is ready for work and willing to het his hands dirty. You may think that this sounds rational but it wont have a huge effect on actual votes but the tricky part is that we don’t realize this kind of things. Our unconscious System 1 processes this kind of information and prepares them for System 2 to put them in order and form a coherent opinion which is “Barack Obama seems like someone who is ready to work hard if he gets elected”.
Loss Aversion: We Value More What We Already Have
We will go to greater lengths to avoid the loss of something we already have than to gain something new.
In surveys, the statement “you will lose x amount of money if you don’t insulate” is far more effective than “you will save x amount of money if you do insulate”
Prospect Magazine recently conducted an online poll on “The World Thinkers 2013”. Everyone could vote their favorite philosophers, artists, scientists, academics. I will leave on the side how dubious a process like this can be taking into account that you cannot really compare an evolutionary biologist with a sculptor and I will remind you that our minds are wired to like “lists”. Internet is full of lists of ANYTHING, there are lists of the best lists and so goes on. I had written about the great power of lists here.
So, Prospect released the final list of the 65 (best ?) World Thinkers for 2013. I think that the list is interesting for 2 main reasons:
A) The convergence of science, entrepreneurship, philosophy, art in our minds. The term “pop science” has gained such a popularity during the last years resulting to a phenomenon where if you check the best-selling books of a bookstore you will see that philosophers are publishing their thoughts using comics, entrepreneurs write about their achievements citing scientific researches and scientists issue new papers having already conducted experiments in social media. The rise of smartphones and tablets, the total democratisation of Internet access and the constant need to be “updated” have re-wired our brains to consume easy, visual information (this is not scientifically proven. it is my theory, so dont take it seriously) for everything we might be interested in and this has created space for people to emerge and be considered “influential” when they are actually nothing important. For example, I am pretty sure that there are more important thinkers than Nate Silver, Christine Lagarde and Sheryl Sandberg.
B) The second most interesting thing about the list is actually the last sentence of A. The power of lists is so strong that I could not resist the temptation to comment on the people included, their ranking etc. Amazing. I posted the list on my Twitter account and I instantly received mentions from people reminding of figures who are not included, how wrong this list is etc. So my hats off to Prospect. It is extremely engaging to issue a list as generic as the “World Thinkers 2013”.
However, the main reason of this post is not to comment on the list itself or to the power of lists. In this post, I would like to write a few words, embed some videos, link some books of the Thinkers that I was lucky enough to read, listen, watch. In this way, you could follow them as I do.
1. RICHARD DAWKINS
The most influential Thinker of 2013 is Richard Dawkins, something somehow expected not because of personal taste but because Dawkins is a famous scientist with many friends and contrarians, there are a lot of controversies around what he says, he publishes a lot of books, he speaks a lot, he is always on the forefront of media attention AND last but not least he is probably the most famous “atheist” (there is a lot of discussion around the word atheist and agnostic but I will not write about that now). His books attack religions and as you can imagine this gives him extreme popularity no matter what he writes in his books.
I have written a lot of posts about Dawkins, his interviews, his books and his theories. I have watched him live on a panel about Cristopher Hitchens (he is dead otherwise he would probably be included in the list as well), I have read 2 of his books and I have watched a lot of his interviews. I am a big fan of his theories, of how gently he handles controversies, of his british sense of humor but I was not following him for the last year. I was informed that there was a super interesting interview of his with Al Jazeera which led to online controversies with Muslim journalists and religious people. I spent 45 minutes watching the interview and I have to admit that the journalist did a very job confronting Dawkins. The job of the journalist is to question established figures, try to expose possible weak points in their theories and although Dawkins was excellent is his answers, I will give a point to the journalist on the argument about the physical abuse VS mental abuse.
I say that a lot but this is A MUST WATCH INTERVIEW.
3. STEVEN PINKER
Steven Pinker is a Harvard professor and deals with pretty much everything covering a range from linguistics to psychology and from evolution to social sciences. I “discovered” him last year and I have already read 2 of his books.
“The Better Angels of Our Nature" is a HUGE book on the argument that people are becoming less and less violent throughout the years. I have to admit that it is a "difficult" book that requires a lot of concentration and I came close to leave it a number of times but when a book gathers data about human interactions and social stats from centuries ago it does make sense to be a little boring.
The second book I read was “How Mind Works" which was published in 1999. It follows the logic of "pop-sci", Pinker tries to explain complex neuroscience with "common words" and he is pretty good at it. I would definitely suggest for someone who wants to get to know Pinker.
I also follow him on Twitter and you should as well because he suggests books, new scientists, comments on publications, writes about Harvard etc.
This video pretty much has everything about him.
10. DANIEL KAHNEMAN
Raise your glasses to my personal favorite Thinker, Daniel Kahneman. I know it seems childish to support a scientist like you do for football teams but Kahneman and his book “Thinking Fast and Slow” has actually influenced my daily life, how I work and how I interact with people.
Kahneman is a psychologist but his theories, his research and his books have given him the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002. He is considered the father of “behavioral economics” and I am pretty sure that this is the main reason of his popularity and catholic acceptance. He represents all the characteristics of the “pop science” phenomenon I described in the introduction. He explains how brains are working and he manages to do it in such an engaging way that you end up forgetting that you are reading a science book. He enriches his theories with illustrative examples, he has a kind face, he is a charismatic speaker and the most important of all is that his theories can be applied to a range of daily activities like buying things in a super market, making calculations, choosing the color of your car etc.
I have written a very long post on how his theories affect marketing and advertising, I have cited many of his articles but one of his TED talks is all you need to understand his importance.
16. NATE SILVER
Nate Silver is a statistician who gained extreme popularity during last U.S. elections when his formulas accurately predicted the poll results of each separate state. His blog in New York Times became the next best thing of Internet, he was invited in talk shows, he was voted as one of the sexiest scientist, people got crazy of his “magic ball” that can see the future.
I followed the “trend”, I read his best-seller book “The Signal and The Noise”, I was not blown away and it turns out that like all trends do, Nate Silver faded out. Do not read his book. Not a big deal.
21. MICHAEL SANDEL
Michael Sandel is an American philosopher and professor at Harvard. He is mostly famous for his Massive Online Open Course (MOOC) "Justice" which has the most subscribed online students than any other online course and millions of views on Harvard YouTube Channel.
Watching all 12 lectures of “Justice” is not an easy task as you need to extract the hidden messages from the casual conversation that Sandel has with the students attending the actual course in Harvard but it is totally worth the time. You catch yourself asking basic questions like “What is the moral thing to do?” and ‘Why I like Simpsons more than watching a history documentary about Cold War?”.
I consider that watching “Justice” courses can be a life changing experience. I recently bought Sandel’s book “What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets" but I haven’t read it yet.
I will not embed one of his lectures. You can find them in the recent post I had written about him but you can watch this TED talk as a warm-up session.
Most of the posts in this blog are related somehow to advertising and marketing and if you have read some of my previous thoughts, you know where I stand for the current form of most advertising formats .
For those who haven’t read any of my previous posts, I could wrap my thoughts up around the fact that advertising is broken. 30 second TV spots do not have a good ROI, banner ads have a crappy CTR, video ads make users angry, QR codes are a joke, mobile ads are the famous “fat finger” problem.
I could go on for ever. There is no solution or a holy grail in advertising. You can never be sure of what will work and what not. But if you want to call yourself a marketer and a creative adman you have to at least experiment with yourself, find new formats and surprise yourself first and the consumers then.
Native advertising is a very trendy word during the last months in the marketing industry. In a few words, native advertising is the form of advertising that a consumer cannot easily distinguish from the original content of a website, requires the collaboration of the brand and the content developer of the site, offers value to the consumer, takes a story-telling approach and is original.
Right now native advertising is mostly used in famous websites like Buzzfeed, Atlantic, QZ and Mashable. As every innovative product that breaks industry standards there are people who consider it the next best thing, others who make fun of it and there are cases which revealed its tremendous weaknesses.
In my humble opinion, native advertising will be the leading advertising format the next years. If done correctly (with skilful story-tellers, creative brand marketers, nice design, original content, personalisation) can create tremendous potential for the advertisers and the consumers. However, if you treat native advertising without respect, you think that everyone can create a nice story, can wrap it up around a brand with original ideas or if you try to confuse consumers and not set any limits then maybe it would be better to invest on the typical banner ads and deceive yourself expecting high CTRs.
These are 3 good examples of people who are masters of native advertising, know how to use it and present it in a very creative way.
2. Mashable is one of the most successful tech portals out there. It started as a personal blog from Pete Cashmore and has reached the point of Microsoft begging to get a premium advertising slot there. Adam Ostrow, chief strategy officer, talks about how Mashable works with publishers to produce nice native ads.
3. Sharethrough is probably one of the first companies which were based on the “native advertising” business model. Sharethrough brings publishers and advertisers together in order to create innovative native content, integrate it to the platform and measure its performance. Dan Greenberg, CEO, presents why native advertising is here to stay.