That’s how Richard Davies opened a recent email reply to me, Nine days elapsed since I wrote to him about several people who might be interesting for him to interview for his podcast “How do we fix it?” and other matters.
Did I mind a slow reply? Just the opposite. It struck me like the difference between fast food which hits on a few tastes and slow food with its complexity and depth of flavors. I enjoyed reading his stories about the upcoming networking coffee he was about to have, his plans for contacting a colleague, and his interest in contributing to a compilation of humanistic business resources I’m putting together.
Reflecting on why I enjoyed reading Richard’s email, I realized that his progress notes and ideas came to me as a whole, not as a series of individual items delivered in discrete messages across a week and a half. That allowed me to concentrate on what he wrote, to think about what to say back, and to feel calm instead of performing the usual drill: react, respond, and go on to the next one.
Colleagues who’ve adopted this “write when you have something meaningful to say” approach realize that exchanging more complete information with context and a point of view offers greater value to the recipient and ups the quality of the conversation. Fewer but more thorough communications contribute to efficiency and productivity in many ways: better understanding, alignment and coordination among co-workers or friends; more time devoted to work; and a relaxed, attentive more open frame of mind.
Slow reply doesn’t mean taking 9 days or some defined period of time, just however long it takes for a stepping-back to see the bigger picture, to figure out what’s really going on, and to map out a path to progress. We hunger for this. One of the most important pieces I’ve read on knowledge management dates from the 1970s. I think the title was “On the need for evaluated information.” The author, a library scientist, argued that knowledge workers needed vetted information organized, synthesized, and presented in ways leading to rapid comprehension, analysis and decision-making. Thirty-five years later that need remains a largely unsatisfied demand. My experience running the Knowledge Center at the Advertising Research Foundation in the late ’00s and early ’10s revealed that’s what members wanted: not just access to information – they had plenty of that – but an authoritative take on an issue from their perspective. They want to know: what does it mean for my brand and business?
The people best equipped to do that level of information gathering, analysis, interpretation, and recommendation are those closest to the situation, not third-parties. Each one of us is that person. If we are to serve our cause, whatever it is, we have a responsibility to offer a slow reply.
Email, IM, social media, and texting advances make it routine to send, post, update, and share. It’s in their nature to be immediate and for us to use them as they would like. But we can use them a little more deliberately at times. When we really have something to say, it won’t be a slow reply at all, but a valuable communication from you. And that’s a pleasure.
Fordham University’s Center for Positive Marketing put on its 4th Conference for Positive Marketing on March 26. A great blend of academic and practitioner talks and viewpoints, most of us participating felt refreshed and energized.
For me, I was absolutely thrilled that the humanistic ideas I and others have written about and talked on for a few decades are becoming accepted more widely and by mainstream brands. It also served to frame my own journey in business and research.
Empathy and Experience Design
I got a charge from hearing Stacy Graiko of Millward Brown Firefly talk about a retailer who wanted their customers to leave feeling better than when they walked in, irregardless of whether they bought something. When my mother and I opened a restaurant, City Island Diner, back in 1986, those exact words were the first principle of my business plan – they emerged from listening research I did to figure out what type of restaurant City Islanders wanted that we could create for them.
Cigna’s Christine Chastain and Tim McKnight, VP Global Innovation, talked about empathy, design thinking. and consumer experience.
Their excellent presentation reminded me of how I designed the restaurant from that first principle: the menu was to focus on comfort on familiarity – I described it as “the food you had growing up, but made with the freshest ingredients, to order, and in front of you.” I also banished square edges and right angles to the extent possible, which offered respite from the gridded world most of us live in, where our vision is forced to be straight, forward or back, up or down. This took form in the plates, cups, and saucers – only round or oval, chamfered edges on the tables, round stools, a curved counter, and so on, which let the eye wander. For dinners, every night had a theme that was warmly evocative and alliterative where possible: Meatloaf Mondays, Turkey Tuesdays, Wegetable Wednesdays, Pot Luck Thursdays and Fish Fridays. Many menu item names reflected the nautical heritage of City Island, and several local characters lent their names to desserts. My mother owned the restaurant for 11 years, then sold it to a local family – the “new” owners – who’ve had it for 18 more and counting. Some of the people hired over 25 years ago still work there, as do their kids, sometimes. A number of movies shot scenes in there, such as Solitary Man, with Danny DeVito as the Diner owner who offers his friend Michael Douglas a job. Jerry Seinfeld did an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee with Ricky Gervais at City Island Diner.
Brand Love, Materialism, and Happiness
Prof. Aaron Ahuvia of the U. Michigan Dearborn Business School gave a talk about brand love, materialism, and happiness. Generally he found that materialism was not related to happiness, but he also found that, paradoxically, people who expressed love for brands were happier. He admitted that he didn’t have an adequate way to explain the findings yet and urged the audience to submit ideas. This was unusual at a conference – so often the ideas presented are so apparently airtight, but very welcome, showing that we have much to learn and can do so collaboratively.
Using Mobile Technology for Good: Mobile Apps, mHealth, and Mindsets
The Conference offered 6 Salons – presentations followed by participant discussion. These were held in 3 sets of two that ran concurrently. I gave one with Dr. Sandy Ng of RMIT (Melbourne Australia) having to do with mobile apps, mHealth, and mindsets. Sandy talked about her research on mobile apps, and I reviewed research by my colleague Howard Moskowitz on reducing hospital re-admission rates. Conversation we stimulated dealt with creating apps that helped people improve their lives, the need for integrated apps, and different ways to think about monetizing apps.
Training Positive Marketers
Dawn Lerman, who heads the Center for Positive Marketing, and Yanan Wang of Bishop’s University led a salon on training positive marketers. Yanan recapped a course she gives on “Happiness Marketing.” She covered a lot of ground. What I found interesting was the emphasis on training marketers to be happier people in order to create products and programs that help people improve their well-being, quality of life, and life satisfaction. Dr. Wang outlined specific frameworks that strengthen marketers’ empathy and understanding. The discussion following was far ranging and very engaging, touching on areas like inner strength, self-knowledge, and how can happiness marketing avoid being seen as a cute fad and become integrated into marketing culture.
I couldn’t attend every salon, but all the topics were of interest. They were: Gifts, Reciprocity & Obligation: Applications for Positive Marketing; Psychotherapists, Life Coaches & Professional Organizers: Why Consumers Seek Professional Help and How Professionals Improve Consumer Well-being; Overcoming Stereotypes in Multicultural and Global Marketing Strategy; and Purpose Driven Marketing: Achieving Social Change Through Brands and Consumer Advocates
You’ve probably felt it. Advertising and measurement has changed. And you’re uneasy. You sense that the old school ideas centered on the impact of media exposure—the one that led us to ask: “what is our advertising doing to people?”—doesn’t really describe how advertising works today.
But many of us—and probably you, too—realize that we need an up to date model to understand how advertising works in today’s digital, social, mobile world. A world where people act, transact, speak, and feel. One where the data we collect captures their humanity and life in the world. And one that asks a different question now: “What are people doing with our advertising, and with what effect?”
5 Different Ways to Think About Advertising
I asked experts contributing to The Digital Metrics Field Guide to share their thoughts about how we should be thinking about advertising today. They boil down to five:
#1. Digital Currencies May Not Be Needed After All
Merkle CRO Yaakov KImelfeld presented a challenge: Do we need a currency for digital media? His provocative answer—“it’s not clear that we do.” Well-designed online campaigns “thrive in the absence of a currency.” Kimelfeld questions the need for comparable cross-media metrics. While their familiarity comforts us and are simple to understand, they chain us and restrain us from exploiting “online’s unique capabilities for brand building and customer experience.” Focusing on reach and frequency forces us to serve ads based on demographics, not on relevant audience characteristics such as interactions with the ad, sharing, influence, and other uniquely online behaviors. Kimelfeld urges us “to start facing forward.”
#2. We Need to Shift from Models Of Audience Delivery to Models of Advertising Effectiveness
Graeme Hutton of media agency UM advises the need to develop an advertising model for our 21st century, not the 19th—when straight line Awareness-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) and purchase funnel models appeared on the scene. Hutton argues that we should shift from models of audience delivery—which we still need to measure—to models of advertising effectiveness grounded in contemporary science and empirically supported. Hutton sees progress coming from research areas like neuroscience and analyzing online social behavior. Armed with a contemporary model of advertising rooted in effectiveness, advertisers and agencies should be better able to explain why their advertising will work and how it will work, leading to improved planning and purchasing that reduces uncertainty and improves business results.
#3. Include The Consumer’s Context to Understand Effectiveness
Advertising’s effectiveness model should include context. Kevin Moeller, formerly of Media Behavior Institute but now at UM, contends that effective targeting in today’s complex media system depends on deep insight into the roles consumers are playing, the situations they are in, and the emotions they are experiencing at the moment that messages reach them. Reaching audiences when they are most receptive to the message often improves the response to advertising, resulting in enhanced advertising ROI and increased value to advertisers.
#4. Evaluate Advertising Performance on Consumer Actions
Niels Schillewaert and Annelies Verhaegheof InSites Consulting believe that the “key performance metrics we need to add to our arsenal for measuring communication effectiveness should really be centered on consumers’ online and offline brand-related actions (COBRAs).” Marketers need to know what people do for their brands after exposure to marketing initiatives for products, services, or experiences. Conversation, sharing, reviewing, and buying are some of the brand-related actions people take. Niels and Annelies found that TV ad effectiveness was related to an ad’s ability to stimulate conversation among viewers.
That finding just received substantial support. Keller-Fay’s Brad Fay recapped a very rigorous WOMMA study analyzed by Analytic Partners. It concluded that “The single most important factor in the success of an advertisement is this: Does it stimulate consumer conversation and sharing? Nothing else matters as much.” Consumer conversations, the study found, “actually increase the sales impact of advertising by 15% and account for an average 13% of consumer sales overall.”
#5. Develop Predictive Indicators for the Outcomes of Actions
MotiveQuest’s David Rabjohns takes consumer actions further. He studied many types of consumer actions, one of which was advocacy: the number of unique people strongly recommending and promoting a brand because they want to. With Northwestern University, his firm modeled the relationship of advocacy to sales—one of the “gold standard” measures of return on investment. Rabjohns and his team discovered correlations that make advocacy a leading indicator for next-month sales. Correlation is not causation of course, but the level of advocacy tells us that something is going on in the real world, as well as in online conversations, that is boosting sales or forcing them to plummet.
These 5 Ways Lead to The Emergence of Humanistic Advertising
A cynic might look at these ideas and say we’ve heard them before. They could be dismissed as nothing more than overused trade terms: engagement, advocacy, and effectiveness. But that sorely misses the point. Too many digitally-oriented campaigns narrowly focus on getting “more” with the belief that if brands can get more consumers to engage, advocate, and act, then marketing success will follow. So they do things that get those numbers up.
But when you consider these ideas, you soon realize a humanistic impulse underlies all of them. They aim to understand people as people living their lives. They see brand marketing and advertising as one means to help people live their lives more as each person would like, and less as the brand wants them to. Now we can relax a bit. We have a newer way to think about advertising.
This more humanistic model will grow in importance over time as we become more comfortable with “humetrics,” or understanding people through measurement, and as more brands shift from a “do to” to a “do with” mindset. The media exposure model will be around for media buying and selling reasons—it’s the way that business is done, but we can expect that its grip on strategy will weaken.
6 Actions You Can Take Towards Humanistic Advertising
There are a number of things we can do for our brands—and ourselves—to help them succeed in this humanistic era:
Challenge accepted strategy. How can a “do-to” strategy transform into a “do-with” strategy?
Identify and study brands that have adopted a humanistic approach and talk them over with your colleagues. These ideas need to be socialized for them take hold . Apple is one of the poster children for this. Find others.
Experiment. Test out old model vs. new model thinking when you can. See which works better, when, and why.
Understand people better. Acquire penetrating insights into who they are, what they value, and what they would like to achieve or attain. Discover the ideas that make a difference to a person and to the business.
Learn about social processes. Most brands still treat social, mobile, and digital as they do mass media.These media are not simply delivery channels, they are webs of connected people and enablers of social interaction and interpersonal communication. Large knowledgebases exist in the social sciences about why people share, engage, or advocate and what results from that at the individual, group, and community levels. Leverage that.
Think of your customers as people living lives in which your brand is a part that contributes to their happiness. Figure out what your brand should do-with them.
Link of the Week
The Google Trends Data Goldmine by Ben Spiegel explains Google Trends and its many uses. I’ve been a fan of Google Trends for years and include it into the hands-on sections in my workshops on social listening. This post is a Link of the Week because the data provides a window into the humetrics of people’s interests and intentions,.