Reflections of 12 years of involvement with Behaviour Science – a conversation with Kimberley Ferguson of BHF
I have spent about a decade working on the application of BE to behaviour change/running courses on it ( since doing work for UK govt via the late lamented COI). This piece (published first in Aurora) offers a basic briefing on its application to communications.
Key thought in a 100 words or less: we delude ourselves, because we are able to develop verbal arguments, that we are mainly rational/considered in our decision making. Yet much of our thinking is fast, instinctive and informed by visuals rather than words. You can see the results everywhere- not least in the high value that brands place on developing instantly recognisable visuals (The insurance market is probably the most extreme example).
For practitioners (rather than academics) I have two must read book recommendations :- 1) Decoded by Phil Barden and 2) The Choice Factory by Richard Shotton ( the first of these has the best summary I have read of Daniel Kahneman great book Thinking Fast and Slow
(This article was first published in Directory – and is reproduced with their kind permission)
Son (25) and daughter (23) have returned home after university: the perfect opportunity for this planner for some close-up observation of two millennials with their always- to-hand smartphones and dirty, untidied bedrooms.
I pause at this point to give some advice to fellow sufferers who have failed to train their children to “TIDY UP THEIR BEDROOMS!”. The advice is this: it’s too late. There is no point in bellowing things like “PICK YOUR CLOTHES UP OFF THE FLOOR” through closed doors as your children fester in the sheets of their unchanged bedclothes. You should simply adopt at air of Buddhist calm and accept the inevitable. You will be much happier.
Anyway, back to the social observation: –
Right here, right now, anywhere, anytime. These millennials, now re-installed chez Saunders, are tooled up with and glued to devices, which looks very similar to those flip open thingies that Captain Kirk spoke into whilst fending off aliens on planet Zog. Star Trek has come true.
Son sits at dinner with a slight smirk on his face as he messages friends in China on WeChat. Daughter grabs the remote control from my wife because she is too slow at downloading the latest episode of “Made in Chelsea.” “FFS, it’s like watching a moron” she says affectionately as she prods buttons in a blur of fingers and thumbs.
Son ignores us during the evening meal as he searches for cheap flights to Japan so he can visit his girlfriend. He might not yet be able to dematerialise in one place and materialise in another but otherwise the world is at his command. He can order or book seemingly anything with just a few prods of fast moving thumbs. He can banter via an app with friends in four different locations around the world. He is living a life of semi- planned spontaneity in which arrangements can be made at the last minute and change live and in real time. He has the power. He has the freedom. Beam me up Scottie.
Or does he?
There are also limitations and constraints. Stuck at home, he doesn’t fancy spending half of his trainee income on overpriced rental accommodation. The taxman is taking his cut to recover student debt. Several of his friends have little or no income so they can’t come out.
Property is stupidly expensive in London but quite cheap still in Berlin, but, sadly, some beery backwoodsman called Farage has screwed up his plans to work where-ever he wants to in Europe. His parents and other property owning oldsters have “eaten all the pies”. New labour’s winning anthem has turned sour – things are not getting better. In fact, they may get worse.
This is THE BIG TENSION.
It works like this: empowerment + freedom runs up against the pressure cooker of constrain. The most resilient brands in the future will be those that help resolve THE BIG TENSION. What my children want is (surprise, surprise) Value and Service, just like their parents. But how they want it is different: –
Tough customers. They are ratty when things don’t go smoothly (“they haven’t got a mobile site FFS!”). Expectations have been raised/new standards set by a generation of constantly innovating brands that live in their smartphones. If your brand does not wake up to their exacting service expectations then things are not going to go well for you. So, what are their demands?
Quick and easy through a smartphone. With a couple of prods with their thumbs (BTW- talking at out loud at your smartphone- via Siri for example- is still way too embarrassing)
It is a smart move to design for mobile first. Want a brand to model your design on? Look at Booking.com- Google’s largest customers. They are pretty much always page 1 of search and work constantly to make their e-commerce as smooth and frictionless as possible
Don’t just use their data without asking. They know that Zuckerberg’s mob is a bit scuzzy and have tried to get away with things in the past through impenetrable T&Cs. They know that when you are encouraged to “sign in through Facebook” that it is just an attempt scrape your data. Clean up your act in this area. Embrace the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is your friend.
Cheaper and quicker (and quicker). Amazon. Enough said. Try Googling Amazon innovations and you will see what I mean – Prime/One Click checkout/Drones. It is all getting quicker. Want Jamie Oliver’s new book? My daughter did: the cheapest price is also on Amazon and she can have it tomorrow.
Design in flexibility. “Book now pay after you stay.” “Sign in four of your friends”, “Cancel whenever you want with no exit charges” “No contract means that you are free to go free to stay” “Only drive when it works for you. No office. No Boss” “Request a ride and you will be on your way in minutes”. These are promises made variously by brands my children love including Booking.com, AirBnB, Netflix, Uber and Lyft. They make perfect sense to a generation that does wants to act spontaneously but cannot come up with the cash.
Upgrade the experience all the time. To live life through a smartphone is to experience constant improvements and enhancements. Every year your phone gives you a big software makeover (you know the one that takes at last 15 minutes) with new bells and whistles. Meanwhile over at Facebook and Snapchat ferocious amounts of A/B tests are happening in order to design new enticements to keep you in the habit (“You have memories to look back on”, “You and Patrick have been Facebook friends for 10 years”, “Jim likes your post”). It’s Darwinian innovation of course – if they don’t evolve then you will fall out of the habit and they will be swept away as Myspace was. The effect of all this restless paranoid innovation is to make the smartphone an endless pleasure ground of daily upgrades, which become, of course, an expectation- a new norm.
Abolishing the BIG TRADE off .The most resilient brands in the future will be those that help resolve THE BIG TENSION- and they do this by abolishing THE BIG TRADE OFFS. Here’s how it works:-
Long ago we were inculcated with the idea that we had to accept trade-offs. You could get it tomorrow but you had to pay through the nose to get it delivered. You could get (say) great Sport on TV but you would be locked into a long-term contract. You could get a cab home from central London at midnight – but regret it when you saw that crumpled receipt for £35-00 the next morning. You could book a great boutique hotel in Berlin but you would have to pay a % up front to secure the booking and do it several months in advance. You could work for a great company but in so doing lose your soul to the narrow pursuit of shareholder value over all else. You could decide to get fit by working those abs but you had to join a club and pay monthly direct debits.
The brands that are big in my children’s lives have systematically dissolved theses trade-offs. Delivered tomorrow and cheap (AMAZON). Book now and pay after (Booking.com/AirBnB). Cashmere jumpers and less that £100-00 (Uniqlo). Get it now without being locked into a contract (Netflix). Dynamic and socially responsible: most good companies promise this as part of their recruitment of young graduates. Value and service ( most modern brands except Ryannair – and even Michael O’Leary may have seen the light)
Where-ever you see an old fashion trade-off, there is an opportunity. Just take the words either/or and replace them with the word and. See where it takes you. If you design your brand for those toughest, most demanding and spontaneous of customers-the millennials- you will prosper and even be admired.
Memories of my recent visit to Karachi and Lahore, at the invitation of Pakistan Advertisers Society, to run my seminar “Brand Building in the digital age”
This piece has just been published in the latest issue of Market Leader and is reproduced with their kind permission. Article hereSaunders
Plus pics of “The welders”,”The landlord”, and the “Wrestler from Peshawar” – who feature in the piece
Tech evangelists are all wide eyed and excited about it, promoting the idea of super-fast disruptive change just round the corner. I am not so sure – my latest on how fast change really is,just published in Aurora
Was the theme exposed and discussed in a new style seminar (called Bad leader) that has been launched by the Marketing Society’ new CEO, Gemma Greaves.
50 or so society members sat in the round in a session moderated by leadership expert and coach Steve Radcliffe. Two people shared stories of being on the receiving of painfully bad leadership. Observations were invited from the floor. And former leaders felt compelled to ‘fess up having been bad leaders. Glasses of wine loosened tongues.
The stats are dispiriting.
In a large survey only 38% of people said that their organisation was well lead. That leaves 62% that are underperforming because they are not getting the best out of their people. The impact of leadership is well attested. Schools, for example, with the similar resources and socio-demographic profiles, can deliver good or bad education depending on the quality of the head teacher. Getting more from the same (or less resources) is the drum beat of our times and particularly of the education debate so there can surely be no more important investment than leadership training.
Behind the bald stats lies much human heartache.
Millions waking up in the morning with a sense of dread after a sleepless night. And worse- bullying, depression and sickness.
Once bright eyed and motivated workers start to think more about how they can leave their organisation than doing a great job. Bad leadership has huge economic and personal costs.
The tragedy of leadership is that we live our lives forwards and learn what we should have done by looking backwards later. Leaders (mostly) get the job first time round by having been great operators and managers, which does not prepare them for how leadership is different. An investment on training and mentorship at the point of promotion can deliver both better performance as well as human flourishing for both leaders and lead.
The seminar gave a taster for the experience of attending a full training session with Steve Radcliffe. There were useful insights on offer such as
-Leaders need to know who their support team is – their sounding board and support
-Leaders need to communicate their vision and (very important this) keep communicating it (even when v busy and under pressure)
-leaders need to create a safe space where the views of others in the company can be heard
-People want consistency – when leaders veer dramatically from one mood or point view to another it can cause confusion and anxiety.
-Leaders need to be able to stand back and evaluate their own behaviour – why are they behaving aggressively or steamrolling their team when they are in “get things done” mode.
Another side to the story was also revealed. Often working for a really bad leader can be the making of you. Observing one in action can make you determined not to repeat his or her errors when you get the top job. It can also force you to re-evaluate what you really want and go for it, get out and start something new. Bad leaders can trigger resilience and determination in their subordinates.
Bad leadership, then, is bad, but can have benign un-intended consequences.