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Down at Cubery HQ, we’ve noticed a worrying pattern emerge in the marketing and communications world over recent years: the work of industry thought-leaders (including the likes of Daniel Kahneman, Les Binet, and Peter Field) has been misconstrued by some to sell the dangerous rhetoric that ‘emotion is all that matters’.
This represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the role emotion plays in driving marketing success. A more robust — and evidence-led — approach comes courtesy of human psychology and the behavioral sciences. It can be distilled into three, equally important areas:
Firstly, for marketing to drive commercial effects it must tap into people’s needs and wants from a functional, psychological, or social perspective.
Secondly, for marketing to drive commercial effects it must be executed in a distinctive and emotionally memorable way.
Thirdly, for marketing to drive commercial effects the brand must be both easily recognizable and the overall impressions synergistic with expectations.
The evidence makes it clear that much human decision-making isn’t conscious and rational — it’s fast and instinctive, anchored in our System 1 beliefs, biases, and intuition. This means market research which is overly persuasion based or reliant on claimed reasons for behavior is often extremely misleading. However, ‘System 1’ is all-too-often conflated with ‘emotion’.
What we believe: ‘Emotion’ works hand-in-hand with ‘Motivation’ to drive brand effects; or, as we like to put it, ‘Captivate’ + ‘Compel’. To be clear, this doesn’t require a trade-off between the two — they’re both prerequisites for success. ‘Connect’ is the third pillar of our framework and diagnoses the strength of branding, which plays an equally important role within both Captivate and Compel.
There’s no magic formula, set template, or proven algorithm which will guarantee marketing success. Marketing is an incredibly complex combination of art, psychology, economics, and science. But this isn’t all doom and gloom — the marketing and communications industry would be a pretty bland and uninspiring place to work otherwise!
What this does mean, however, is that there isn’t a single market research company on the planet with a ‘validated’ methodology for predicting the impact of marketing — particularly with regard to quantifying the role of creativity.
While there are a handful of unscrupulous vendors who do lay claim to having this ‘holy grail’, what we’d suggest to marketers when agencies purport to have such ‘evidence’ is to scratch below the surface — extremely tenuous underpinnings will quickly reveal themselves.
“There are no absolutes in marketing, despite what the marketing scientists, running towards you across the field in their white coats, might want you to believe.”
Advertising and communications testing in particular has for too long been perceived as a pass or fail exercise, with the creative idea’s survival at the mercy of the consumer. Cubery’s reason for existence is to change this toxic paradox, and to restore advertising and product evaluation research to its rightful place as an opportunity for iterative learning.
It’s our belief that the very least marketers can do when making high-stakes decisions is to bring the consumer into the conversation. Give them a seat at the boardroom table and hear what they have to say; another perspective to balance the potentially loud and powerful voices of other stakeholders — each with their own agenda and biases.
Research by the globally renowned Ehrenberg-Bass Institute has shown that marketers’ ability to predict the sales effects of advertising is no better than chance. Countless other research studies have highlighted the chasm which exists between the types of people working in creative agencies and those they ultimately seek to influence.
It therefore goes without saying that inviting the consumer into the conversation isn’t just a pragmatic thing to do, but to ignore them would constitute negligence. While the consumer shouldn’t ultimately hold any more sway in decision-making than other key stakeholders, to not — at the bare minimum — hear what they have to say is akin to rolling the dice. And, when marketing is reduced to a game of chance, it becomes ignorant to the wealth of evidence at our disposal.
Bringing the consumer into the conversation provides us, as marketers, an opportunity to step outside our bubble and to learn from people who are (often) nothing like us.