WriterAccess Webinar Archive
Why Creativity and Emotion Matter Most
Thursday, April 30, 2015 – 1:00 PM ET
Marketers have long believed the best way to sell their products and services was by communicating a Unique Selling Proposition that positions the brand as superior to the competition through rational features and benefits. The truth is, we’re more feeling beings than thinking machines.
While the facts, figures and stats can play an important role in selling your brand, they are not the primary drivers. We need to tap our emotions and this webinar will teach you how. Douglas Van Praet will provide you with an actionable framework to create content that moves people. He will take you from theory to practice using tangible examples of the some of the most successful advertising and branded content ever created.
Can't attend? No problem. Register now and we'll send you a link to the recording of the webinar AND a link to download a copy of Byron's new book: Professional Writing Skill and Price Guide.
The slidedeck from this webinar is available for download.
Bryon: Welcome everyone to the 60th Content Marketing Webinar here at Writer Access. I'm really excited to be with everyone here today. Particularly Douglas who's with us. Douglas? Are you here?
Douglas: I'm right here. Thank you.
Bryon: Hi! Sorry, my screen was not large. I actually did a bait and switch on everyone, I actually turned my screen off and added the number sixty on here so I'm not sure if everyone caught that or not (laughs). It's great to be here with you Douglas. You are of course the author of the popular unconscious branding - now a best selling - book on how neuroscience can empower and inspire marketing. I've been working with you for the last couple of months and chatting with you about content marketing conference. We're super excited to have you as our debut keynote speaker, not only for the conference which is new year, but our first keynote of the session. So we're really honored to have you here, it's really exciting to see your presentation.
I just want to go though a couple logistics with people real quickly. First of all, I want to encourage everybody to ask some questions. We've got a long, beautiful, gorgeous presentation that Douglas is going to be delivering today that's going to offer some Earth-shattering insights on (I think) how you think about connecting and communicating with people. Feel free to ask some questions. We'll loop back at the end of the presentation and try to leave five or ten minutes to ask some of the best questions that we receive so keep them coming.
Number two, please send some love. Minimally to Douglas... I would love some love as well (laughs). We'd really enjoy some feedback, we cherish the Tweets we get as we archive and store them. I look back on them and use them for our promotions so please help us with that if you could.
Number three, we have a welcome opportunity for anybody to join us in Las Vegas two weeks from today's date. You can follow us at the conference @CMCa2z if you want as well. We got four of our beloved writers at Writer Access attending the conference that will be hopefully Tweeting information and taking notes doing lots of great things.
I also want to mention that you certainly can connect with Douglas via Twitter I mentioned, but I also wanted to give you some links to my two free books before I turn things over. As promised, if there's any writers in the audience, you can get a PDF download of my book Professional Writing Skill and Price Guide. I wrote the book to better connect the customers at Writer Access with the proficiency and skills of actual work that's created. The book goes through a really interesting analysis of what you should expect when you pay more for content. Dissecting the elements of what to look for content you're paying more money for. If you're a writer, how you raise your game and how to create content that's more engaging that manages complexity in a different way and communicates differently.
The first book that I wrote, Content Marketing Roadmap (which is a really fun book) offers about 101 tips on how to plan, strategize, create content, engage readers, and keep them coming back for more so hopefully you'll enjoy that. So without further adieu, I'm going to turn things over to Douglas. Again, Douglas thank you so much for being with us today.
Douglas: Thanks, glad to be here.
Douglas: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." - Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein also said to embrace the mysterious. That it's the true source of art and science. He said that imagination is more than important knowledge. He created the theory of relativity by imagining what it would be like to ride on a beam of light. Some neuropsychological technique known as dissociation. It gets you outside of your head to look at the problem from a different perspective. His work on energy and inertia was so original that there were no footnotes... which means he made it up. He created it. I wanted you to take this perspective today of honoring our intuitive and creative mind of getting out of your head. Looking at the problem from a different perspective and a whole new angle.
If you can imagine your mind as an iceberg as Freud once conceived, you can see that the vast majority of our thoughts, our actions, our decisions, our value judgments, are made below the threshold of our own awareness. Evolution has designed our brains to make decisions without our knowing while giving us the confidence - but false belief - that we're actually in charge. In truth, most of the business of life happens unconsciously. So, we need to careful when we ask people why they do what they do, they simply can't tell you because they don't always know. About 95% of our decisions are made unconsciously, so in an industry that relies on consumers to tell us why they do what they do is why 95% of product launches fail. This is a problem, it's not just the marketing industry that needs to revise its models, it's the research industry. It's how we approach marketing, creation of ads, the whole approach to this business which we've been doing somewhat wrong in the past. I think the purpose of this presentation is to elucidate just how to move forward.
There's an old adage in marketing that says we must be single minded. Single minded is wrong headed in the sense that if we focus on a logical, unique selling proposition, that positions our product - or brand - that's superior to the competition... that's not going to move people. Every second your brain is processing about eleven million bits of information, which you're only aware of about forty of those bits. We have to understand we have a dual processing mind. Rationality, facts, and figures certainly play into that role (we're get onto that later) but if you want to move people at the depths of the iceberg below (the intuitive mind) which works not by rational analysis. It works by emotional association and inquisitive association which is actually non-declarative with things we can't recall. You have to focus on things like art, stories, metaphors, symbols, poetry, music, and imagery. These are the things that require you to get inside your mind and get into your own unit. These are the things that move brands and move markets.
So the process for decision making, we're going to be in the business of marketing, we really need to understand how people make decisions. The paradigm has shifted significantly in light of cognitive signs. The old paradigm used to be we that have a thought, we think about a decision, we make that decision in our mind, we take action, and that we create a feeling. Well, it's kind of how it works, but it's really completely the opposite. We start with a feeling in our body, we've taken action, and then we think about that action. In fact, most of what we do, we do emotionally and then we justify rationally after the fact... after the deal has been done.
So to give you a metaphor because we talked about metaphors being important, emotion is like the weather. It's simply part of our nature and it's shaped by our environment, which means you don't choose your emotions... in some cases they choose for you. So we can only try to choose our reactions, our conscious thoughts, in reaction to these automatic feelings that occur. Think of emotions as automatic action programs that guide us without having to think. Guiding us towards opportunity and away from threat. At this phase of evolutionary development, our emotions are like deep flowing rivers and rational thought is like babbling brooks.
So if we want to know how advertising really works, its works through a process of unconscious behaviorism. Which means that our behavior, our decisions are being shaped by our nurture and our nature at a deep unconscious level. It is the intuitive emotional conditioning that drives our decisions and our preferences.
There was a remarkable study done at two different universities in Toronto, Canada. They paired participants with made up brands, these people had never seen the brands before. They showed them a series of positive and negative associations of words and images. Participants saw so many different associations, that they could no longer consciously recollect which brands were connected with which associations. But they developed a preference for the one that had been positively unconsciously conditioned. They called it the "I like it and I don't know why" effect. In subsequent research, the same participants were shown rational information to contradict their prior conditioning. Logical facts that said their choices were inferior. They still went with the brands which they were positively emotionally conditioned. That's how branding works, intuitive emotional conditioning supercedes rational analysis.
So, in the marketplace - particularly online - marketers have a habit of foisting messages upon people, giving them disruptions and disturbances that are simply anchoring the brand with a negative emotion. You may get qualified leads, but you're also creating the "I don't like it and I don't know why" effect. You're damaging your brand. You can't force people to look at your content. You may get two out of a hundred people, but there's ninety-eight people that have been pissed off. So we really have to understand this emotional conditioning. How do we create that?
So, to understand exactly how this process of unconscious behaviorism works, Joseph would do (one of the foremost authorities in neuroscience on the field of studying emotions) has a story to tell that elucidates this:
Let's say one day you're out to lunch. You're eating at an Italian restaurant, you're having pasta or pizza. There's a red and white checked tablecloth. You get into a heated argument with your friend. Things get ugly, you both leave in a huff, and you're super pissed off. The next day you happen to meet this person - you've never met this person before in your life - and he's wearing a red and white checkered tie. You develop a gut instinct that says "I don't like this guy" and that's what happens. We create (sometimes) meaning where there is no meaning. Because our minds work primarily by inquisitive association. So we have these emotional tags to events and that creates the meaning.
So if you want to have proof that we do not make logical purchase decisions look not further than to do a purchase of tooth whitening formula and mouth rinse. Why in the world would I brush with a tooth whitening formula and rinse the contained "yellow dye #3" and "blue dye #6"? It doesn't make sense... it's irrational. But, through marketing and conditioning, the color green has become embedded in our minds with the associations of "fresh and clean". That association to that property supercedes rational analysis.
So Coca Cola is one of the best marketers in the world, has one of the strongest brands, but they're not without their mistakes. When you look at their mistakes, it's when they're following rational analysis. Look at the case of Coke Clear (this is not just Coke, this was the whole industry at the time, it was a clear craze in the nineties) and you could just imagine the focus groups. You're bringing this product in there "Here's A, the Coke with the artificial caramel coloring (which is actually not really good for you, it's burnt sugar) and here's the clear one with no artificial ingredients. Which do you prefer?" In research, the rational minded participants are going to say "Oh, we want the clear one with no artificial coloring" and you launch it in the marketplace and it's a miserable failure. Because the color (the brown color) is not just beverage but our perceptions, and without it feels like an impostor. We have these powerful emotional associations and it's not just to the brand properties, it's to the brand itself.
Look what happened with new Coke. Exact same thing. One of the best marketers in the world that really understood this process of unconscious behavior has made a big mistake. By paying attention to rational information that said "blind taste tests say that Pepsi tastes better"... but what they're forgetting is it's blind, they're forgetting the brand. We add the brand back into the mix, the preferences shift, our expectations create our reality.
So to get you to understand how to start applying this to you business, I want you to imagine there's three perceptual buckets. There's this whole process of our experience and our consciousness can be distilled into these three buckets:
- There's the physical experience (the body)
- The emotional feeling (the heart)
- Logical reasoning the (the head)
It just so happens that there are neurocarlets for those three distinct drives. The brain is the only organ in the body that's actually organized in evolutionary layers. At the deep base of the brain, there's the physical brain, which is the source of instincts for survival and center for our emotions, memory, and bonding. Then at the very most outer layer is our neo-cortex, this is the source of our rational thought. What's important here is the lower feeling brains serves as the seat of our value of judgments and drive our behaviors. So think of this brain as an organizing framework, if you want to get to the deepest, most emotional, most powerful drives, go right down into the reptilian brain. Those are so powerfully unconsciously conditioned, that they occur automatically... and change markets automatically.
To give you a better understanding of creative handles for these drives, these things are steeped in powerful emotions. Remember, emotions are something that we do not choose. So when you trigger elements of these things, you trigger hardwired responses. There's the Seven S's:
I'm going to show you some examples, I'm not sure if you've all seen them. They're some of the most pervasive marketing big branded content that's out there, so perhaps you have. I want to show these principles in action. I think the creators of these ads did this intuitively, I don't think they were using brain science. What I'm showing by using brain science, you can replicate what some of these creators did so effectively.
Volvo "Epic Split" Ad: Fantastic ad, it was brilliant, the casting was brilliant, setting was brilliant, and the execution of the trucks driving down the highway was brilliant. But they were ridding on something much more powerful than "muscles for brussels" as they were bootstrapped on to these hardwired responses. The first is the element of surprise, you notice you open with Jean Claude Van Damme on a middle to close up shot and you're hearing the sweet smooth sounds of Enya. That's a surprise, that's different. My mind is paying attention trying to figure out what's going on here. All of a sudden the camera pans back and the trucks are going backwards. And then when Jean Claude Van Damme conducts his epic split... we're all riveted. Have you ever stared at the highway at an accident, despite your rational protests of the horrors you might witness? Your decision to stare death in the face is not your choice. At least not consciously, no more than you choose the weather that caused the crash. Again , survival, safety, security, these are things that are deeply ingrained in our brain and when you combine that with executional excellence you get the most watched automotive ad in history.
Geico "Hump Day" Ad: Geico has a tremendous history of creating a brand that was once a very small mention but now it's a big, powerful brand and they've done this through wonderful advertising. With cavemen, and geckos, and pigs, but why was it one about a camel with an annoying question "Guess what day it is?" and a pretty awesome swagger, why did that camel, why did that ad rise to the top to become the most shared of the lot. Well remember I mentioned that the mind works mostly by implicit association, we're so hung up with the literalness of our message we don't realize the really evocative power is often the information and again, I don't think the creators did this with conscious intent. But marketers were quick to point out that the reason it spread is it gave people a rational trigger because Wednesday is when you can share the content, because that is the literal meaning of what hump day means.
But, that's part of the story, it's not the whole story. What's driving the emotional impetus, is the fact that it is a euphemism, it's for the emotionally charged F-word. It's a metaphor for sex. And that's why this became a meme, and that's why it spread. It was so viral that a CT middle school banned kids on the throws of puberty in the grips of hormones from blurting out the catchphrase every Wednesday. It was that powerful. So again, these are hardwired responses and they create powerful responses in the marketplace. There's nothing wrong with being provocative, because that's how advertising works.
Evian "Baby and Me" Ad: Evian has a great past/history of creating a lot of ads that feature babies. Now why do we love babies? Your decision to have a powerful emotional response to babies is not your decision, that's made by evolution. Cause if we didn't care about these adorable little creatures, they would never survive... and neither would our species. So they come pre-packaged with these powerful emotional responses. This was the most watched ad in 2013, if you haven't seen it's adults who are dancing, and looking in the mirror to discover their inner babies dancing in sync with them. And again what they're doing is commandeering these programs, positive emotional response of babies adding the element of surprise. When something is surprising, you're forced to pay attention to it.
Always "Like A Girl" Ad: Always "Like A Girl" has been lighting up social media and if you haven't seen this, very simply it's a casting call. It's a video about a casting call, and they ask the actors to run like a girl or throw like a girl and adults invariably do it in a manner that's humiliating, embarrassing, and inferior. And they ask the same questions to girls who are ten and under, and they don't interpret any negativity in that statement. They run their hearts out. This again, it's tapping into - this is just not this particular spot - this is a viral campaign, this is a genre that's exploded because they are appealing to the uplifting of women. Because women are often time judged unfairly. This is Always, a woman care product. Their way of fighting back, empowering women. Again it's about status. It's so fundamental to human nature.
Milk "Got Milk?" Ad: Arguably the most pervasive meme in our culture didn't even have the internet to make it spread. You know, the California Milk Processors Board "Got Milk?" is arguably the most imitated meme in history and what's the structure behind it? Obviously these were fantastic ads, they were brilliant, but they were bootstrapped to something more powerful. Scarcity of food, for over 99% we live as hunter/gatherers desperately searching for food or dying. So again nature has embedded this idea of paying attention to messages of food, especially combining with scarcity. That these drives are unconscious, emotional, and automatic.
So we have to understand that brand is a verb, it isn't a noun. It's a verb masquerading as a noun. It's a process. Although the process of decision making is unconscious, the process for branding involves both conscious and unconscious processes. So, this is a human process and that's what makes this very applicable. I don't care what target, what product, what demo you're working on. These two apply to everyone. I want you to think of these things as set of tools, not rules. I think that's an extremely important point, this is a process I'm going to show you that the mind is not linear, the mind works holistically on multiple levels. Parallel processing information. These are just a series of jumping off points that creatively you can leap off and apply these. It's not a checklist where you have to do all these seven things.
So the first of which is to interrupt the pattern. Brands are learned behaviors and when your teacher told you to pay attention she was absolutely right. The best way to learn a new behavior is through focused attention. But again, you don't choose what you pay attention to. These decisions are made by emotions such as surprise as we talked about. That's because the mind is a pattern recognizer, it's a prediction machine. Conscious attention is so limited, so we only pay attention to that which defies our prediction. So you only notice the car in front of you when it hits the breaks, because the conscious mind works on a need to know basis. So, when we lean into that and we create novelty, we can create a powerful viral buzz. Ever marketer want to know how to create a viral buzz, this is one of the ways to do it. Because novelty activates the dopamine system, the system of wanting, the system of pleasure. It makes sense that novelty activates dopamine because we have to learn new patterns, the mind has to learn to be programmed to want to learn.
So the next ad transformed a stodgy brand. Old Spice was a very stodgy brand, it was your grandpa's brand. This campaign became among the fastest growing and the most popular and perhaps you've seen this spot. [plays commercial]
Old Spice "Man Your Man Can Smell Like" Commercial: So again I think the creators of this ad knew intuitively the pattern of how it works. I think the point is now that you understand it, it's not just the smooth character of Isaiah Mustafa. It's the smooth, seamless interrupts that galvanize your focus with the payout of attention and the hit of dopamine again, and again, and again, and again, and again. Again, this campaign engaged people, spread online because it was tapping into biological truths and human truths, not just consumer truths.
So number two is to create comfort. Here's the paradox of the human brain, we're attracted to what's different, but we move towards the familiar. The brain is a paradox, it has conflicting drives and humans gravitate to the known. The number one drive in human behavior is homeostasis. We seek the same stable, predictable state, not just in our biology, but also in our environments. And, one of most enduring truths of humanity is that like attracts like, and again it has to do with our hunter/gatherer past. For 99% of our evolution, and then millennia we lived as hunter/gatherer tribes, and bands of people, twenty to a hundred-fifty people (many of which) were close cannon and people were very close to us. People just like us, you know here's the irony, in marketing and advertising we've always shown people who are impossibly higher status than us. Super models or celebrities, and we pay a lot of money for that. Well, you can actually make your ads more effective by being more authentic.
The brand that best tapped into this truth was Dove with their real beauty campaign. Which has endured, this campaign leveraged the human truth. People like me. At the time, again this campaign was called out to be extremely bold and risky. Why would they do that? Well, I think they're looking through the lens of the consumer and not humans. By the way, this isn't a just and advertising truth, it's a media truth. Most of the programming worldwide right now is reality TV, but again this is a slippery slope, you have to pull it off with authenticity. You can't half ass this and I think Dove is the first brand that has done it really well. We just saw a spot for Always that is in that same genre.
And American Eagle has brand called Aerie, and again, they borrowed that same truth. They stopped photoshopping their models, and immediately their next quarter sales went up nine percent. This is just one illustration, remember, this creating comfort, this is one way to do it. These are a couple brands that have done it and had remarkable results.
So number three is to lead the imagination. Imagination did not evolve for our amusement, it's fundamental to decision making. That's how we decide. They way we decide, let's say we have brand A and brand B, what we do is imagine ourselves in the future with brand A and brand B and we convert that experience into the same neurocurrency of feeling. Which scenario makes us feel better? That's how we make decisions.
So the congnitive scientist Mark Turner said it best, he said:
"Narrative imagining is the fundamental instrument of thought... it is our chief means of looking into the future, of predicting, of planning, and of explaining... Most of our experience, our knowledge, and our thinking is organized as stories."
So there's so much talk about storytelling, we remember stories better because stories are how we remember. And, if you want to look at a brand that led the imagination on a grand scale look no further than Nike's "Just Do It" which is perhaps one of the most lauded campaigns in history.
The beauty of Nike's "Just Do It" (again) is that it's artfully vague, marketers are so hung up on the literalness of their message, what they're missing is the fundamental method in which we become influenced. Which is this idea of being vague, when I'm vague, just like poetry, and art, and metaphors... I have to go inside and I have to give it my own meaning. This is why the book is often better than the movie. So when I go inside and give it my own meaning, that is the difference between internal motivation and external manipulation. Nike had stories about people who wrote to them saying it gave them the resolve to leave an abusive spouse or rescue someone from a burning building. When your message takes on a cultural impact beyond the brand, you know you've done your job. And again, I think we've done intuitively, but now that we know vagueness and this idea of ambiguity. And by the way, we often test ads and if they're slightly confusing or ambiguous, we think it's a bad thing but we're forgetting it's the first step for learning. It's the fundamental principle for persuasion.
So, look at other great brands. iPod, this billboard ad says nothing besides the word iPod but it says so much because our unconscious mind thinks in images. But the brilliance of the art direction of what Apple did is that it projects you into the picture. You can imagine that's yourself, you don't need to see the specific person. It's artfully vague in a very artistic fashion, similar to the line "Just Do It".
If anyone remembers the most viral campaign in history it's The Blair Witch Project. And what's so amazing about the Blair Witch Project (of course we could never recreate that with this kind of authenticity because so many people have pushed that button now in the marketplace) you believed it was real. There was a website, there was a documentary, there was a book, there were interviews. You went on the website and it talked about these documentarians that were shooting a film about the local legend the Blair Witch and they disappeared. All of a sudden people were saying there was some camera footage that a couple years later was found and you were really wrapped up in the story. You believed it. It led your imagination. And this movie was perhaps one of the (I think it may have held a Guinness World record) in term of efficiency in terms of dollars spent on advertising and payout at the box office. Again, when we use our imagination and we believe it, that's the difference between internal motivation and being manipulated by marketer.
So number four is to shift the feeling, and really this comes down to the basics of cognition which is our ability to know and learn information. Everything we do in the world, we do because of feeling. We have this artificial divide that we've created between rationality and emotion and it's not even true. You are emoting every second that you experience the world. Emotions do not hinder our decisions, they serve as substrate or the foundations of all our decisions. And remember, I said before, emotions create motion, automated action programs.
So, one of the foremost authorities on the neuroscience of emotion of Antonio DeMasio, he's a neurologist, he had a patient named Elliott. Elliott had brain damage, severed connections between his rational and emotional systems. At the end of an appointment, Elliott would deliberate endlessly without being able to decide whether or not he should sign his name with a black or blue pen or when to make his next appointment. Without access to our emotions, even basic rational decisions can't be made. So we need to understand that:
- A - There's no divide between the two. They're linked together.
- B - We need to understand that emotions are the drivers to the actions.
So, this is a spot that I was the brand strategist on. This became a global, cultural phenomenon. It's called "The Force" by Volkswagen.
So again, the brilliance of this ad was that magical leap from insight to execution. It's a fantastic ad, it's a fantastic story, but it's boot strapped onto something much bigger. So, if you know the natural patterns, where to mind, where to focus your message, you can replicate success. But not to the extent of this ad, this is lightning in a bottle. You don't re-create this consciously. The influence of events that led to the success of this is like lightning, and remember, like emotions, is like the weather, we don't choose it. There was so many powerful things in place, but understanding the patterns helps to create ads moving forward that can be as effective or at least aspire to be anywhere near as effective. What's interesting about this ad is that we tested it a couple of different ways, we tested it using self-reported research. Survey data, and again, you have to be careful to ask consumers why they do what the do. And, it goes below average in purchase intent. That's the way the industry has given has this measure is all by status but again it has very little predictability. But there was a company called Sands Research that tests all the Super Bowl ads every year, and they had never seen an emotional response like this. It was the highest emotional score they had ever seen and it became the most shared ad in history. Today it stands as the most shared Super Bowl ad in history. And again, it's rooted in a powerful story, in the power of storytelling, but it's a powerful emotional bond. This is less so an ad about a car, but more about a magical moment in the life of a little boy and a family. And the bond the parents got in that moment that they will never forget.
The most powerful bond is distilled by evolution, if you were parent/child relationship. Those are steeped in deep emotion. And again, we're also bootstrapping it on to the equity of Star Wars, again, all those complicit memories about Star Wars are very important to the Volkswagen brand.
Volkswagen started to create a revolution in advertising with honesty and brilliant ads and cars that made us smile. It was part of American culture, you can't think of the VW brand without a smile or good feeling. So again, we're tapping into all these things that exist within our culture, with a brilliant ad. But again, attention driven by what I call pattern interrupts, and this had multiple levels of pattern interrupts. It whispered when others shouted. You know, this is a Super Bowl spot where they all go over the top, and this went under the radar. It beat the Super Bowl of marketing before the game even started because we leaked it online intentionally. You know, that was a pattern interruption, you didn't put your Super Bowl spot out early before the big game. Counter intuitive, but a move that paid off dramatically.
And again, it's the evil dark lord played by a little boy. That's different, that surprising, that's engaging. And the structure of the story itself and its pattern interruption. The boy tries the force on the doll, the household appliance, the dog, the sandwich, and the pattern is interrupted when the dad secretly fires up not just the car, but the minds of people. You could actually see a spike on the EVG recording at that moment because your mind is forced to galvanize attention. And then we show at that moment the brand and the car. Very powerful story, a lot of these things are intuitive, but when you understand the art and the science of these things, it can be very helpful. And again, we talked about leading the imagination. A bad creative team would have suggested to unveil who mini-Darth was. It was very important to keep his identity concealed because you could project your child or someone you knew into that scenario.
So what is the role of consciousness in all of this? What is the role of rationality? In talking so much about the power of the emotions but we have to remember that the single minded is wrong headed, we have a dual processing mind. We make decisions emotionally, and justify them rationally. Often times we need to give ourselves permission to take action, and sometimes advertising has to be the vehicle to give people the permission to act on their emotional impulses. So we really don't have free will, we have free won't. We can apply the breaks of restraint, or we can give in to our feelings.
To give you an example of how logic can work, Certs has Retsyn. What the hell is "Retsyn"? Well it's a made up ingredient, it sounds pretty scientific. I'm looking at the shelf and I have the emotional desire for some fresh breath and this one has retsyn. I think I'll choose this one.
And if you want to understand the power of emotion of not just being in your advertising, but baking it into your product look no further than what James Dyson did in disrupting the vaccuum category. He put all his emotion into the design of this product, this was a vacuum cleaner and he made it like a piece of art. In fact the designer Paul Smith had one in his London store on display. These vacuums had an a pleasing glossy sheen, reminicent of a Jeff Kuntz sculpture. He was a designer by trade, because he viewed so much emotion into his product, and we have a dual processing mind, all his ads were directed at giving rational permission to buy. So in this case, the best way to go for your advertising was rational, because this guy put all his emotions into his product. Unfortunately, not all marketers do that. They look to you guys to add the emotional spin on the end, but his advertsing was just about the facts:
- The 5,127 prototypes
- The clear product demonstration
- Patented G-Force Dual Cyclone
- The air moves at 924 miles per hour
But remember, it was its story too. He told a rational tale, how he discovered how a vacuum didn't clean, it didn't suck up the dirt. He gave it a clear product bin that sucked up the dirt. Actually in focus groups they said they didn't want to see it and he ignored them and it became a defining feature. A feature that was immitated by the competition.
So number six is to change the association. Our minds work by implicit association, not rational analysis. So to change perception you have to change the association. If you can bootstrap your message to talk that already exists, you can create a powerful effect in the marketplace. Because it's not the literal facts, it's the emotional coloring atop the literal facts. If I said to you do you want to have this steak tonight, it's 90% fat free, you're like great, let's have steak. Then I'm like, well it's 10% fat. Maybe we should have chicken tonight. It's the same facts, it's the context of the emotional coloring on top of the facts.
One of the most powerful campaigns in the food industry was the Pork Board's "The Other White Meat" campaign. Well they found out that they had an opportunistic yet unconscious association between healthier meats at a time where health was driving meat purchase. They turn white when you cook it, just like turkey and fish. "The Other White Meat" campaign was not incredibly creative, but with one flip of the switch, it tapped into a cultural mental curistic. We make these decisions based on these shortcuts, and white meat is healthy meat. Immediately, it put five-hundred million dollars on the table the first year that wouldn't be there during ordinary circumstances. So what associations can we tap into to change our brand perceptions to move markets?
And the last step (but certainly not the least) is to take action. Here's the tremendous irony about all of this stuff in the field of marketing. Branding doesn't happen when you're sitting on your ass watching television or surfing the web at work. It happens best in the authentic experiences of real life. That's because we're more like human doings than human beings. Most of our brain is motor systems, you know, hunter/gatherers who walk twelve miles a day. The purpose of our sensory system are often to help movement, but when you have a physical experience, you encode a message in the deep motor systems of the brain and you also engage the multiple senses. So it's perhaps the most efficient and most powerful way to learn a behavior and a brand a learned behavior.
So if you look at a brand that defied traditional marketing completely and created a more effective campaign than Coke and Pepsi - in terms of acquisition and loyalty - look no further than what Dietrich Mateschitz did with Red Bull. Like James Dison, Dietrich Mateschiz had ward research that said he had a failure on his hands. They did a concept testing and he said the results were miserable. But he knew something intuitively, he knew that to bond people to your brand, you need to bond people to other people. People who share your beliefs, and it wasn't just random, these were high energy youth and high energy events and a high energy drink. So what he did was create these powerful experiences: killer parties, novel sporting events, extreme sports, things that arouse our physical and emotional sensibilities. So if I were to give you a brief (I have no idea what you're working on) I were to give you a brief, I would say novel, engaging, social, physical and emotional experiences. Now I'm telling you there's something in the real world, but look at what Red Bull did, they created their own media company by these small events. On the back end, he just amplified what he had already created in the marketplace through his own media company. But this event is called the Flugtag, crazy, silly, flying machine people try to see how far they can go. It's an event, you have fun, all people come together, but he invented it, it's just one example.
Again, marketers try to explain the incredible viral success of powerful efforts in the market, well look at what Red Bull did, and compare it to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. It's exactly the same thing. I don't think they had this brief, but now you do. The brilliance of this ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is that it's novel, engaging, social/physical experience that you share online and they added the element of challenge... which is fundamental to human nature. It spread incredibly, again, because they're tapping into human truths... not just consumer truths.
So we began this presentation with a quote from a scientist, I will leave you with that from an artist. When asked how he creates his masterful paintings, Vincent Van Gogh said:
"I dream my painting, then I paint my dream"
Bryon: I wish I could applaud for the people that were on today, because this was really pretty special stuff. I want to ask you a few questions myself, and please, everyone, send some questions in. Which we will huddle up and gather. Let's start from the back of the sixth prong of where you talked about "Change The Associations". That is really hard to do. Could you try to, you actually ask yourself what association you use that motivates action. Do you feel like there are many different elements that, how can we disrupt that, I'm not even sure how to ask that. But that element of changing, is, seems difficult, can you expand on that a little bit?
Douglas: It's the crux of the issue, it's like pushing a boulder. My background in planning and research and if you look at attribute ratings compare means over time (even for big brands that spend tons of money). Changing a brand or an association that I trust is an exciting brand or an exciting brand or any kind of association are very hard to shift. So what I would suggest is, none of this is easy, I wish I could just push a button and your brand is going to move, but the point about with the Pork Board is they found that they had an opportunisitic association, so, there was an existing way to tap into an existing association and saying "I'm like one of them" so what can you do? You know? This is what people do with borrowed interest with celebrities and stuff like that. "Oh well, Brad Pitt likes that, I do too." You know, So we have to be creative and clever but we could be oblique about it. Often times, our beverage doesn't taste as good, "Great tasting so-and-so" you know, you're just stating something that you want it to be, it's not the way to change associations. It's to intimate it, through a message, that obliquely creates access to something. I don't know if I'm being specific enough for you. It is a huge challenge, without the context of a specific product in marketing, it's a little hard to get more specific. But you're right, what kind of borrowed interest can I create? Always think about the association you're trying to create, I think it's important that when companies write their ads "What are we trying to change here?" and let's boil it down to a couple of attributes. Not just the ones that are explicit, but the ones that are implicit. You know. Pepsi could say "Oh well we really wanna say it's tasting better than Coke". No, you actually want to be cooler than Coke. You could say Coke is a really cool brand, because it embraced humanity, and owned and anchored the brand with hapiness or a basic human emotion.
Yeah, it's a challenge, but with the tools in your arsenal, you know... especially when you do some digging.
Bryon: The questions are just pouring in and by the way, so are the compliments. Awesome presentation, engaging, this is the best thing I've ever seen, and so hats off to you. Here's a question, how's a company that sells other products to companies connect emotionally with them?
Douglas: A company that sells products to other companies. So a B to B play. Emotions are at the center of every transaction. B to B is the same thing. I spent a lot of my time in advertising and working on B to B stuff. Really it starts with the relationship, you can create advertising with the same principles, but on a B to B level. It's all about the relationship and experience. How can you understand it better and respond to it better? Without understanding more of the specifics, it's hard to answer. It's the same principle with B to B advertising is very much the same as B to C advertising. You know, I did a lot of work for MCI before it became Verizon, just to give you a bit of a reference for B to B advertising.
During the digital heyday which was back in 1999 I work on this account for five years, the thing about MCI people was that these were the phone people. A phone company wasn't cool, and this internet thing was happening, and everybody is like "Ebay" and "Cisco" that were taking off, but the guys who worked on the phones were the network. These were the guys that were driving the network, they were the backbones of the internet, one thing about one of my clients was that a guy who worked there he was a day-to-day client and he worked for Google and he's the guys who created TCP/IP, the protocol in which the internet ran. Pretty amazing guy, he actually did create the internet, not like how Al Gore tried to create the internet. But the point being is that they felt like the uncool guys, and we created a campaign called "Generation V" and it featured all of their employees in a really cool, bleeding edge light image, and it was not about age, it was about attitude. It featured really cutting edge scenery and a campaign that was about giving them a feeling of mission or purpose that if you really want to know about the digital age and you really want to know about it then come to MCI.
There was a completely emotional campaign and there was the rational proof points of the network and all that stuff. They had a "Generation V" room there, they had t-shirts, they felt proud that they were a part of the digital revolution. Because people knew that they were at the center of it. It helped them hire employees and a lot of things. My point being, it was a B-to-B campaign that was completely rooted in emotions and not rationality. They could have made a hundred other proof points about the networks and the this and the that, but that's not how people are moved. When the rules really apply identically is because at the end of the day, they're humans, they're not consumers. Instead of focusing on this one is a business person and this one is a consumer, they're all humans and they're all responding to the same things.
Bryon: And just to add some more creative ideas to that, we take a company like IBM for example and take that beautiful vision of the eye, the lashes flopping off it, just absolutely brilliant campaigns. The whole think campaign right? Even look at small campaigns for B to B, much of your presentation, it embraces brand personality and B to B companies in particularly to you in your point where you need to create personality. You know, we need to move beyond thinking about features and benefits of our products and obviously more about elements. But lets make a note on surprise, again, a super small idea, but at Writer Access, a customer signs up for a fifty dollars kick the tires of our platform, we mail them a physical copy of one of my books. They just get it in the mail. Boom! You get it! Surprise! Simple things can happen and need to happen, so I just wanted to ask you a question about that. We'll get to another question here, I am thinking of how to implement the seven tools into text and not images. Although images were important for us to see examples of. I can think of storytelling metaphors, fables, allegory. What else would Douglas suggest?
Douglas: You know, I'm a writer. I think in words, but guess what, it's not the words, it's the images with those words. And that's the brilliance. That's why poetry and writing is so powerful because it requires you to use your imagination. Unfairly, as I sometimes evaluate creatively I sometimes navigate to writers because I view these people as idea people. Which is unfair, quite frankly (maybe I'm a shitty artist) because images are what move people. What I'm saying is the power of words is tremendous. Whether it's stories, words are like radio, in the theory of the mind and nobody wants to know what the radio spot is, but audio is text. It basically comes down to words and they're inside your mind.
So there's so many things that you can do with words when the goal is to evoke feeling. I think there's so much you can do, but, think about storytelling, think about metaphors, think about to see a metaphor. I'll share with you an article I just wrote for the environment in Psychology Today we use metaphors when talking to someone. You know, I learned this a long time ago, when I was working at JWT, we had what we called "Day Ones" where I always started my day one with strategy day with a client was a metaphor, cause here's the problem and reduce it to a metaphor. I was working on the Zantac, which was the number one drug in the world at the time, a heartburn medicine which is a really sad commentary on the world at the time. But, you know, that was a whole new way of looking at the world with something that stopped antacid and prevented it. Here's a map. here's a globe, this was like discovering the world is not flat, it's a big deal. So obiviously there was an image of a globe and the world, we can say these things with words and I mentioned that Warren Buffets said "Describe virture hathaway as a cigar butt approach to business, it has one puff left" as it isn't free.
When you say things explicitly, I'm not giving people ways to interpret. Think metaphorically, think storytelling. I have a lot of detail in my book if you want to get into it so there's many different ways to go about it. So think about the emotional coloring in the facts.
Bryon: Exactly, and just a little bit going back in my days as well, we would begin creative strategy as well by metaphor discussions such as "If product A were an automobile, what kind of automobile would it be?" or "If product Y was a cocktail, what kind of drink would it be?"
This gets our mind our of thinking about things and it's just fascinating. We have a couple more questions, that I'd love to get to. There's several questions about non-profit organizations. How do we reach donors? How can we reach people differently? Do you have any thoughts on that?
Douglas: Non-profit is fantastic. If you have an opportunity to work on a non-profit, you have an opportunity to do some of the best work. Because, there's a mission there, you know what I mean. There's a purpose and a mission there that you can tap into. A lot of non-profit ads you see the starving children and flies around the eyes and stuff like that. Preying on people's fears and insecurities is probably not the way to go and a lot of people do that because it works, but after a while there's no pattern interruption and we start ignoring those messages because we feel manipulated. With non-profits, I would try to find your mission and your soul stirring purpose. I think there's a duality to humans as we're selfish and incredibly alturistic. When we bring out our brilliant side we are at our best, and you can see that by vircation on the internet like "Watch this dumbass" or "Look at the amazing things we do" (laughs) So some of the most viral content is showing humanity at its best, so I would say focus on your mission and try to find something that's soul-stirring and be provocative. It really depends what the product is, you know. The "Truth" campaigns were pretty riveting and fairly immersive, it not all focus on the positive. There's just a richness to non-profits because it's not someone trying to sell you something or feeling manipulated saying "you know, you should do good" and I think there's a cultural trend towards humanity and away from the old days of business and I find that's one of the ways people gravitate towards the most of what I say. We've been taught that we have to sell stuff, and consumers are just not having it anymore. They're just pissed off and the concept is that we're trying to separate them from their money. So when brands try to do this they understand that they can fail miserably.
Look at Starbucks, a great idea, horrible execution. But look at Airbnb, they bring people together, they have a program now when there's disasters, they create ways to bring people together at a time of need. Talk about brand gold, that's pretty amazing what they do. Think about what your product is, and then find that emotional terrain and have it in a manner that seems authentic and not like you're trying to prey on people or manipulate them.
Bryon: And obviously there's an emotional connection in there as well just to throw that out. While you're thinking of a connection in there as well I'm going to throw one more thing at the non-profit and I want you to think about this,the question is your business statistics driven, how is it possible to appeal to emotion while including statistics. While you're thinking about that and I just wanted to chime in on non-profit real quick. Actually, I think a lot of non-profits make the mistake of not looking at who their actual core donors are or who your target audiences is. There's a great story in Harvard Business Review about how an aquarium (not exactly non-profit) they were tanking. They bought this gorgeous new quarter of a billion dollar aquarium (one of the best in the world) and they couldn't figure out they were running billboard ads and mass media ads but they bought in some data crunching analysts that looked at the neighborhoods of who were the actual members of the people that were paying these annual membership fees and the core support fact. Guess what, they weren't driving on the highways they thought they were. They went into the neighborhoods and changed their target audience and it was amazing how they ended up increasing their advertising in budget because they had a lot more success. So a lot of it is connecting with the audience and creating the story and creating the brand but looking closely where people are. What are your thoughts on the statistics for the business?
Douglas: You know, that's the thing. Maybe people can visit a short trip and they say rationality is not important, and they're absolutely wrong. They're linked you don't buy in how our mind processes it. As I mentioned before, we're emoting all the time so rationality plays an important role. If you can say something remarkable, absolutely say it. The problem is, I look at so many briefs, and so many ideas are brilliant, that you've got nothing here, and we're always dealing in that space.
Douglas: But, if you do something remarkable, rational proof points excite your sensibility. If you're going to sit down with me for dinner and I'm like "This is a thousand dollar bottle of wine, want a glass?" Yeah! That's a rational proof point. You'll get pretty excited about that wine right there. It's not one or the other, it's both. If you do something remarkable, say that, but not a laundry list of facts. You know what I when? What is the message you're trying to create, what is your proof point? You know, in line with your message. We sometimes throw a laundry list at them, but sometimes less is more. You know, behavioral economics has taught us that it's the cohesion of the story, not it's completeness that determines the persuasiveness of the message. Have a small story, a couple of facts, facts that line up with the message. That you don't have something special or significant advantage and try not to lean on the facts.
Bryon: It's so hard to create campaigns and answer these questions (of course) with what everyone wants with one in mind. But one of the things that comes to mind with this statistic driven question. Did you know for example, if thirty million people held hands, they would completely circle the earth. Right? Cool stat! Right? Interesting. So, that's a stat, so why can't you bring emotionally connecting statistics like that to your audience and forget about what you sell? And bring them the emotional connection and maybe building an archive of such statistic. How about we use touchy or taboo subjects such as health, STDs or addiction to treat people that yearn for information? Thoughts on that? It's a bit like non-profits don't you think?
Douglas: Well, how to reach out to those folks? It's kind of a funny that research business started to shift online. I was working with a guy that basically was the first disrupt in the research base online as that marketplace shifted. What he did was focus on exactly these topics, you know, these things were ordinarily done through focus groups. And wow, suddenly someone's explaining to him (remember, this was 1997-98) "here's a chat room" and he's like "so I can go to a chat room and I can talk to people about this stuff." And then not sitting in a focus group room with a two-way mirror and lights and strangers watching them you know. And all of a sudden you have real conversations, you know. They start to emerge, you know? There's a product coming out (I read about) that's a network that connects people that suffer from depression. They can rely on other that have gone through what they have gone through and get information. I has done some work for a major biotech company, if you go to their websites, and check out their blogs they are astonishing with the depth of comradery and feeling for a disease which there is no cure for. All they have is each other and these drugs to take. So, if you find the right environments, which again, comes back to me, if you can find that safe certain people online, in person, elsewhere, and what can you do to facilitate those bonds with a very focused group of people that share beliefs, attitudes, and most importantly, feelings. You know exactly what each other is going through. So, that's what you have to think about, how to create that community and respect their anonymity. You know, it seems like there's so many ideas that can come from that, but there's some of them that are easy to execute. A lot to work with I would think.
Bryon: Really great stuff here. I wish you could see all this positive feedback coming in Douglas. A couple more questions, they're such great questions, I have to ask. Should brands target one generation at a time, and I want to give you another one, if a brand has a large anti-product following, what is your opinion of attacking those criticisms head on in advertising in a way that is head on versus ignoring them on other aspects of the brand?
Douglas: So, what was the first part? Anti-product criticism and how do you address that?
Bryon: Yeah, the anti-product stub and how do you address it. Why don't you go ahead and go with that one first?
Douglas: You know, you need to be careful about leaning toward. You give it more energy when you respond to stuff online, you know. The irony of social media is that you think you're making rational decisions, but you're doing the opposite. Fanned by the emotion of our social groups and that's what's driving the conversations of the social groups. It's not the rational proof points. It's more emotional. So don't dive headlong into the wood chipper. I mean, if you have anti-product criticism. I see this happen with a lot of companies, you know, I've done a lot of work in the real estate management industry and stuff like that. And you get people bagging on the product and line and jump online. There's a time when you must respond and there's a time where there's not. You can look very defensive to respond point for point when it comes to what other people say. So, you know, depending on what the criticism is. If it's setting the facts straight, I've written articles for a facts company and someone will jump on and say a brilliant and inspiring story with skinny facts. And then there will be ranting and raving about how my data is wrong. I'm talking about the Super Bowl in 2012, not 2014. We seem to be on a different page here. But I did it very nicely, I'm being attacked for something that is so obviously this guy's fault. He's the one who looks like a dumbass. But I did it in, sometimes you have to set the record straight. But don't tell tale to people, it's better to just change the conversation. You know, I think maybe what we were talking about a little bit was dividing each other into groups. I think that campaign and marketers say that it's not PC and who would argue. The most effective campaign of the first decade, that pretty effective thing and that's what they were. You attack one guy, you imply implicitly "Do you use a PC? Do you use Microsoft? You're a dork." You know "If you use Mac, you're a cool guy" and those work really well. And that stands for "Right back at you Mac" and they're doing the same thing. "Don't wait three days for the same thing, the Samsung is cooler." They work incredibly well, but I think sometimes there's a bigger brief, sometimes you don't have to beat up someone. Sometimes you don't have to be aggressive, sometimes that is the paradox. There is no right or wrong answer. I think, historically, we're competitive against brands. I worked for MCI and MCI dismantled AT&T in the nineties. Just completely tore them apart. But we did it with parody, and humor, very rational stuff. You know, when your market is right there for you and you know you have a glaring problem, don't go at 'em, but I think the bigger brief is humans not consumers. The arguments we have, is the Mac really that much better than the Whopper? They add humor, they're not hard driving, competitive attacks that cross each other. You have to add humor, but you have to add a bigger brief, go above the fray sometimes and act bigger. Because sometimes when you do, your message speaks louder. It's a slippery slope, sometimes you have to set defense. Get your facts straight, but be careful not to ever seem apologetic. Unless you're apologizing for something that was a grievous error on your part.
Bryon: Just one final question. Should brands target one generation at a time? Can you talk about that a little bit. How do you build personas as a brand's generation?
Douglas: You certainly can, conventional wisdom is that you should and culturally you should really understand a generation that should stand. It's not the only way to go. There's sometimes human insights that can transcend generation.
The problem with generation advertising is that it often backfires. Look at the "Pepsi Generation", it's so obviously an attempt to get a group of people to say "I'm with you guys" and you say "Well, you're just a brand and you sell sugar water" and I'm not saying it was a horrible campaign compared to Coke, who took the high ground and honed happiness and had the famous hilltop spot. "I'd like to teach the world to sing" you know. Apple trees, honey bees, and doves. They just create association that didn't say "this is who you are".
The problem with generational advertising is that people feel like they're being talked to. It especially falls on deaf ears when (or if) you call older people "Silver Foxes" that's obviously jarred to say "You're cool" but you're really saying "You're kind of old and you're not relevant anymore". So it's a slippery slope, I think that you should certainly try to capture it. The generation V thing with MCI was an attitude, not an age. It really was that. The ad showed people that were 22 years old, and an old guys who was equally cool. It tried to transcend the demographic, and say it's an attitude, not an age. I like attitude over demographics. I think attitudes are emotions and demographics are statistics we try to segment people. Be careful when you do it. Don't be clear that you're talking to them, just find out what they dig and feature it.
Bryon: Really appreciate you being on today and thank you Douglas. Are you still there?
Douglas: Yeah I am still here. Thank you Bryon and glad to be here. If you have any questions that are looming there are ways to reach me online.
Bryon: Right and I have up on my screen now Douglas' book "Unconscious Branding". Everyone can take a look at it and you can go to unconsciousbranding.com and see how to get a hold of Douglas directly if you need any marketing consultation. If you need any reference. Feel free to reach out to Douglas directly. I'm going to sent out an email that I know we had a lot of questions that we couldn't get to. I'm going to send Douglas a good challenge in the end saying that if you didn't get your question answered and you'd like to ask one question, what would it be? I'm not going to promise that Douglas will answer that question, but I will give Douglas all the answers. If perhaps it becomes some information for his next book thinking. I also want to throw out the opportunity for anyone that wants to make a late entry into the conference the day he will be giving a keynote conference there the night before the speaker event if anyone decides to attend due to this fabulous keynote presentation, I'll invite you to that so you can meet Douglas personally and chat with him along with some of our other speakers. It would be a fun opportunity for you to do that. We're looking forward to last minute guests o join us at the content marketing that some of us had gotten information on.
Without further adieu, it's been one of the best, engaging webinars we've had in a long time, so I appreciate Douglas for joining us and I want to thank everyone for tuning in. Douglas, any final words of wisdom before we're sail away to Vegas here?
Douglas: No, thanks. I appreciate the opportunity here and I look forward to seeing you and anyone else in Vegas.
Bryon: Terrific, thanks everyone for tuning in.