Monday, 19 January 2015

Threesomes and stand-alones

Where does your eye go first?
What will you remember of this page? 

The message in the red square here below. It's not large, nor on top of the page and still it's the one message you will see and remember. 

1. Because it's the only colour
2. Because it's easy to grasp
3. Because it's a stand-alone.

You understand this message better, since I've explained it in a threesome 

We love threesomes, we're very used to it, it's the rhythm of the waltz, and so many things in our culture come with 3. (Father, Son and Holy Ghost, the 3 layers of our brain, etc). 

In a blur of texts, the human eye goes to a threesome because: 

  • It looks easy
  • It's a pleasant rhythm
  • It's a summary of everything

There are many, very many elements in marketing to enhance the chances of being noticed and being understood - and they do not all have to be difficult. 


Sunday, 18 January 2015

Notes on the 'Je Suis wave'

One can understand that Obama did SO not want to be included in that photo-op.

The acute threat of being kissed and hugged by the French president is one. The ever lasting importance of an iconic photo another. 

It would have been the precise opposite of 'winning hearts and minds'. For hearts and minds always remember just one thing and one thing only. And stick with that first impression for a very long time. It's practily irreversible. 

Just like an irreversible impression is made the second your website opens.

What good is it for Europe to have so much, if the unforgettable image etched into the world's collective mind is that of some cartoons somewhere? 

1% of the cartoons seen by 0.1% of the French and 0.001% of all other Europeans, and now some terror guys and some politicians seem to have turned it into our logo.  

I'm one of the 395 million Europeans who did not use that expression, but there you go, it's always about perception and symbols. 

Everybody, bar the average and well-meaning European, tried to brand himself that day. Quite annoying for Europe as a brand itself. 


PS: Tourist, it's safe now, the threat level of being kissed-and-hugged by presidents has been lowered to yellow!

Friday, 16 January 2015

All is fear in love and marketing

Fear sells. 
After sex and food it's the 3rd most sensitive human trigger - and thus the 3rd most used button in marketing. 

Fear, danger, urgency, warnings sell unlike anything else. 

I notice this all the time. So far I wrote 132 blog posts, loving marketing and searching for insight - and then look at the list of most read posts. It basically includes every article with a warning. Making me look like a rebel. Which I'm not. 

And it seems that not only commercial brands study psycho-social triggers: here's a cut-out, blurred and minimized - and you will still recognize it. 

Maybe only Coca-Cola has this level of 'Brand recognition'.

Marketing is both less expensive and more powerful than a tank - and someone at IS clearly knows what the most successful marketing campaigns have in common (and is very good at applying all techniques). 

Our fear radar is very sensitive. Hence why the radio no longer speaks of snow but 'snow misery', not of a warm day but 'heat alert'. Or why IS is going over the top, taking instilling fear to the highest possible level. 

(What amazes me most is how the western media go with the flow right now, adding injury to insult to tactic. Personally I switch them off, for if I didn't I would be in a permanent state of anxiety). 

And all this because we members of the human species have got a very long experience with extreme danger. We can even say: addiction

Do you remember smilodon, the sabre-tooth tiger?

You think you don't? An adversary from 2 million years up to only 10.000 years ago? 

We might have forgotten him in our Neo Cortex, but he still pops up in our nightmares, that world of monsters and long teeth. You'd think that by now the bad guys in our nightmares have got machine guns or bombs, but no, they are still Vampires, Dracula, Hannibal Lecter and the more unfriendly alien. 

You don't easily get rid of a pattern you've been practising for, oh, a few hundred thousand years. 

If we're not busy fleeing danger, we're busy chasing it. It's magnetic. 'Smoking kills' is a clever marketing strategy, not meant to make you stop smoking. Since you can also get immune to a sense of danger, marketers forever have to up the ante. 

The Whodunnit has to become a Thriller that has to become a Horror movie, until we're only still scared if a movie is about a gathering of 12 serial killers of whom at least one targets the whole planet. 

The message 'Smoking Kills' will be replaced by photos of diseases. In 30 years from now they might throw in a free skeleton with every pack of cigarettes. Or the Tobacco shop will be decorated as a haunted house. 

(One doesn't dare to imagine what IS will do next). 

I can't count the marketing messages that either target your desire for safety, or your wish to flirt with danger. 

"We should fear nothing but fear itself"
Rationally, we know that to be true. 
We know it's the one and only reasonable and right reaction. 
We know it's the only dignified attitude, triggering the least chain reactions. 

But it takes a Hercules, having control over his limbic and reptilian brain, to actually act upon it. Danger is a button unlike any other. And so it comes that millions are glued to the TV right now: looking for clues if there's reason to feel fear, and if so, how much, and because of whom.  

OK, we just went through the siesta of the lovely, newsless 80s and 90s. So everything that happens right now is like the landing in Normandy, Warsaw ghetto uprising and abolishment of slavery rolled into one. Who of us can say there's not a big ghost sitting on our shoulder calling the shots? 

(Damn that Hitler, that he can still poison our feelings today. But, well, there you go, if Smilodon still can,  than Hitler for sure. We're forever busy fighting the dangers of yesterday). 

So, there we go, even in the midst of our most cosy, peaceful moment... we just have to press the danger button.

For sure somewhere on Facebook there's something that will upset me? Damnit, nothing - maybe if I go to a page of people who believe the opposite of me?

For we just have to look into the cliff, have to test the ice, have to bungee jump or try that roller coaster. 

Think of that the next time you get marketing emails or offers telling you: 'Don't lose out on...', 'you risk to get behind...', 'your pension will...'.

It's a marketing technique. 

It's a given that this article will end up in the list of the most read ones - and not because it's the best one.   


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Knowledge is Power

This post will be read by very few people. For knowledge is not researched. We have no instinctive or automated drive to search for knowledge. 

If you want to attract many readers, offer ‘panem et circenses’ – but do not talk about knowledge. With as result that knowledge is gold. 

To try to find it online, is as starting to dig for gold somewhere in the midst of a trillion hills. Hoping that someone has put a sign there: "Here's the gold the whole world is after" (*)

It's because of knowledge that today’s powerful are so powerful they are almost a different species

We wouldn’t even know who they are: a helicopter lands on the rooftop of a Manhattan bank: a satellite monitors the behavioural patterns of billions of people. We have no clue who is behind it. 

For the best way for an aristocracy to avoid a revolution, is to not be known. 

A search engine probably knows more about you than you. Your search pattern at age 16 can predict the potential of your voting or spending pattern at age 20. (Obviously no CEO is interested in you or me, but in the collective of tens of millions of you’s). 

Plato still thought a ‘6 to 1’ wage disparity to be fair – the owner of a company should earn 6 times as much as the worker.
In the 1920s the convention was ’21 to 1’.
Today we are at 500 and even 1000 to 1.

Of course, the earth's population has thousand folded. Thus the market. Thus the knowledge. Thus the wages. 

"Is that fair"? It's a question we can't answer with yes or no. 

If anyone studies for years, be it at University or online or as self-made man, he or she gathers knowledge in a specific domain, takes chances, postpones earnings. 

We could say that anyone can have the drive to search knowledge. Just as anyone can have the drive to spend life chatting and watching TV.
Those are choices, heavily influenced by background, parents, education, social environment, character, temperament and especially the people we surround ourselves with - but choices nevertheless. 

Some search knowledge for personal profit. Others search knowledge for the sake of humanity.
The economy also benefits from those who aim at personal profit, just as society can be damaged by those with an ideal. Humanity suffered as much from those who did not think of personal profit, as from those who did. 

So there is no answer. We would need to study the outcome of millions of people with thousands of levels of knowledge, to know whether the overall picture is a positive or negative one - fair or not fair. 

If knowledge is power, is non-knowledge slavery?

For sure
How to make a human addicted to a smartphone has been studied as much as to tobacco, drugs, sugar, entertainment... someone somewhere is making money out of that.  

Never forget though that there's no such thing as total freedom: there are only very many levels.

Also the trillionaire owning a satellite and being high above the 'mediocre millionaires' with their flying cars - is a slave of his cognitive biases, hormones, patterns, peer pressure, social and cultural determination. Neuro-scientists already long know that it's debatable whether or not we have a free will. 
You could even say: what's wrong with someone who has such a thirst for control? Isn't that a choleric temperament gone astray? Alpha-maleness gone coocoo?

And never forget that power is not equal to happiness. 
It can even be a detour. 
Anyone, anywhere, at any given moment, can take the distinct decision: 'I am going to be happy'. 

There are shortcuts to happiness. Dancing. Loving. Painting. Cooking. 
Neither power nor knowledge are the be-all and end-all. 

Personally, I happen to love digging for knowledge regarding marketing. It's one of my short cuts. I love the intense brooding and thinking of how to put a customer in the market, and am over the moon with my customers who share this drive. 

I don't think that everyone should be studying or gathering knowledge all the time. 
Just as I do not judge those who have this drive but thousand folded. I admire people who are thirsty for knowledge, regardless of the scale. 

Gathering knowledge and insights makes me happyI'm happy with personal success, and the success of customers. It's the happiness of an athlete who has just beaten others or won the game. 
The earnings are a side-effect. 


(*) Sure, there are such signs. 'On top of the search engines for 20 Euro'! Resulting in millions of people starting to dig in that spot, making it utterly useless. 

It's almost endearing how naive we become when we turn online. If someone on the street would stop you and say 'I can make double your business' you would think: dada. Online we have no problem forever throwing 20€ here and 60€ there. 

There's still a great disparity in the split second persuasion

I cannot offer much knowledge  either - at least not in comparison to what there is out there. I'm in my 12th year of digging. And by now I know that it truly is a question of rolling up the sleeves. 'There is no such thing as a free lunch'. 

Thank You Mark 

 Thank you, my favourite photographer in Brussels, Mark Timmermans, for your gorgeous photography. I think you are worth every penny and your reputation as a gem of a photographer.