When my daughter was young she worked in Jessops.
She said she learned a lot about advertising working there.
She learned it from the manager, Robert.
The main thing he taught her was you’re not in hard-sell mode.
That just scares people off.
You’re in the business of helping people find the best solution.
So work out what their problem is.
For instance, when someone comes in they start looking at the cameras in the glass cases.
They don’t want the hard sell from a sales person, so they try to work it out themselves.
Eventually a sales person comes over and says “Can I help you?”
They’ll say “No thanks I’m just looking at this camera.”
The sales person says “That’s a great camera, would you like to buy it?”
They’ll say “Not right now thanks. I’ll have a think about it and come back.”
The person leaves the shop to get away from the hard sell.
They don’t come back.
They go somewhere else to look at cameras.
You lost a sale.
My daughter told me she was taught as follows.
Daughter “Do you need any help?”
Customer “No, just looking at this camera thanks.”
Daughter “What will you be using it for?”
Customer “I’m just getting started on photography.”
Daughter “Because that’s ones good for action photos, with the motor drive, but it may not be ideal for what you want.”
Daughter “Yes, if you want landscape photography there’s that camera which has better lenses. If you want interior photography that one is better for close ups. If you want street photography, that one is more compact. So you may not need to buy that expensive camera. It depends what you want to use it for.”
Customer “I was thinking of photography around London.”
Daughter “Okay, there’s three cameras that are all good for that. This camera is bulky but does everything you want.
This one is smaller but it doesn’t have so many lenses.
This one is more professional, it’s got the best lenses but it’s the most expensive.”
Then the customer would choose which camera suited them best.
The way my daughter had been taught, the customer was in control.
It was always their choice, they weren’t being sold anything.
That way they stayed in the shop.
That way they chose from the range of cameras they were shown.
That way the shop made a sale instead of losing it to another shop.
She learned selling isn’t about hard-sell.
Selling is about helping people find an answer.
She was at art school at the time so she only worked weekends.
But customers would come in during the week and ask for her.
Because she was so helpful they trusted her.
Because they trusted her, the shop got repeat business.
And repeat business makes business sense.
It’s much harder to win a new customer than it is to keep to an existing customer.
The same cameras are available in pretty much every camera store.
Why would the customers keep coming back to that one store?
The only difference was the sales experience.
Read more on PEOPLE IGNORE ADVERTISING WHEN ADVERTISING IGNORES PEOPLE…
Debbie Sterling is an engineering graduate from Stanford U.
Engineering wasn’t what she originally wanted to do.
But she was good at maths, so she tried it and found it was actually really creative, she loved it.
But engineering was a male Dominated profession.
Debbie wondered what she could do to change that.
Read more on NEVER MIND WHAT WE WANT…
David Geffen was Jewish, he was born in Brooklyn.
But he wanted to go live among the ‘beautiful people’, so when he was 18 he moved to LA.
The trouble was, he wasn’t any good at anything, and he got fired from every single job.
He was talking to a struggling actor about this.
The actor said “You can’t do anything? You should be an agent, they don’t do anything”.
Geffen took him seriously, he got a job at the William Morris agency.
He got a job in the mailroom, and he had to lie to get it.
On his CV he said he’d got a degree from UCLA.
He figured it didn’t matter, no one would check.
Then he found the guy working next to him had just been fired for claiming he’d graduated from CCNY on his CV.
So they did check.
Luckily Geffen was in the mailroom, so he got in early every morning and went through the mail.
A few weeks later he intercepted the letter from UCLA.
He steamed it open and changed one word.
He changed “David Geffen never graduated from UCLA” to “David Geffen recently graduated from UCLA”.
Plus his boss thought he was a good example, starting work early every day, so he raised Geffen’s salary.
All the time Geffen was delivering the office mail he was watching what agents did.
He said “All they do is bullshit on the phone all day. I can do that. I can bullshit on the phone.”
And being from Brooklyn he was actually better at bullshitting than anyone else.
And he noticed what they were doing was trying to sign established acts.
This made no sense.
Established acts were more expensive, and competition to sign them was greater.
To Geffen it made more sense to find the acts before they were established.
So that’s what he did.
While all the other agents were at home with their families, Geffen would go to clubs and bars and find talent before anyone else.
He’d sign people who didn’t have agents.
And he became the most successful agent at William Morris.
He was so good that he opened his own record label by the time he was 27: Asylum Records.
The artists he made famous on this label included: Neil Young, Crosby Stills and Nash, The Eagles, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Tom Waits, Elton John, Judee Sill.
Asylum produced some of the best, and best-selling, records.
In 1972 he sold the company, and eventually he left.
Five years later he opened Geffen Records.
This time with artists like: Donna Summer, Cher, Aerosmith, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Nirvana, The Stone Roses.
But he really wanted to sign John Lennon.
The problem was so did everyone else.
Geffen thought “How do I get upstream of this problem?”
So he did what no one else was doing.
The other labels were talking directly to John Lennon.
Geffen figured that Yoko One must feel excluded.
So he didn’t talk to Lennon, he talked to Yoko Ono.
Geffen persuaded her, and then she persuaded Lennon.
He signed to Geffen’s label and released the Double Fantasy album, his masterpiece.
Geffen Records was a massive success.
In 1990 Geffen sold it and a few years later he left.
He left to open a movie studio with Steven Spielberg: DreamWorks SKG (Geffen is the G).
Geffen is now worth around $6 billion.
Not by being better, or tougher, or faster, or smarter, or richer, or better educated than other people.
Not by trying to beat other people at their own game.
Read more on WHAT AREN’T THEY DOING?…
When I was sixteen I had a motorbike, at seventeen I had a car.
They were old wrecks, very basic, I could fix them myself.
That’s where I learned basic, simple logic.
Read more on SIMPLE, BASIC LOGIC…
Years ago we started an agency called BST.
Me, Paul Bainsfair and John Sharkey got a big French agency, BDDP, to back us.
Their creative head was Jean Marie Dru and he wanted to meet me to discuss advertising.
The two of us sat in a room and he explained his theory to me.
His theory was called ‘Disruption’.
Basically, advertising should be different to its category.
In other words it should stand out from the advertising around it.
And I waited for the rest.
But that was it, the rest was just examples of how advertising worked better if it was different to what was around it.
I kept waiting for the next bit.
After about half an hour I realised there wasn’t going to be a next bit.
That was it.
Advertising had to be different to what was around it.
I gradually realised that, to Jean Marie Dru, this seemed an amazingly original thought.
In fact, he even wrote a book about it.
In the book, he backed up the theory with examples from all the great New York agencies.
Showing again and again that advertising worked better if it broke the category rules.
If it stood out from the advertising around it.
I sat there fidgeting.
In my head I’m saying the following: “Of course it bloody works better if it’s different. Does anyone, anywhere, expect it to work better if it’s the same? If your advertising looks exactly like everyone else’s advertising how the hell does it stand an earthly chance of even getting seen?
Being different is just the start point. We all know that.”
But that’s where I was wrong.
His brilliance was in spotting that we didn’t all know that.
In fact, outside the creative department, hardly anyone knew that.
Being different was seen by most marketing people as risky, even irresponsible, behaviour.
At the time I couldn’t see it.
At the time it was just too obvious for me.
Without being different you wouldn’t even get noticed.
And as Bill Bernbach said “If no one notices your advertising, everything else is academic.”
So of course, to me that’s just the start point.
But many years later I heard Rory Sutherland explain the brilliance in that theory.
Rory said “Creative people have a fear of the obvious, but they must sell their work to people who have a love of the obvious”.
And in my head it went ‘ping’.
I hadn’t seen the problem, that marketing people distrusted anything different.
They thought creative people just wanted to be different for different’s sake.
They didn’t understand the reason creatives constantly fought not to be part of the wallpaper.
The brilliance of ‘Disruption’ was that it gave legitimacy to being different.
Suddenly ‘standing out from the environment’ had credibility, because it had a theory: case studies, numbers, evidence.
Read more on IT WORKS IN PRACTICE, BUT DOES IT WORK IN THEORY?…
A few years back, Kevin Bacon heard some college students had made up a game about him.
It was called ‘Six Degree of Kevin Bacon”.
It was a joke on the play “Six Degrees Of Separation” by John Guare.
The play was based on the premise that everybody on the planet is separated by, at most, six other people.
The President of the United States and a gondolier in Venice, just fill in the names.
With Kevin Bacon it was actors linked by movies.
Bacon found it depressing.
He said “The joke was that you could link the best actors in the world, Lawrence Olivier or Marlon Brando, to this lightweight in just a few names.”
He said it made him look like a joke.
He felt like his career was over.
And depressed, he opened the fridge to get a beer.
As he reached in he noticed a bottle of Newman’s Own Salad Dressing, with Paul Newman’s face laughing at him.
And a light bulb clicked on in his head.
He thought “Hey, what if I don’t take this seriously, what if I have fun with it?
Maybe I could do some good like Paul Newman.”
In 1982, Paul Newman had started giving his recipe for salad dressing as a present to his friends.
They liked it so much he began marketing it.
Pretty soon, the bottles with his grinning face on were in every supermarket across America.
The range grew like crazy: pasta sauce, salsa, marinades, frozen pizza, cereal, popcorn, pretzels, cookies, coffee, iced tea, lemonade, even wine.
Nearly 100 different food products.
And Paul Newman gave 100% of the profits to charity.
So far, over $370 million has gone to thousands of charities in fifty countries on five continents.
All funded from bottles with Paul Newman’s grinning face on the label.
All featuring the jokey company line “Fine Foods Since February”.
As Paul Newman said “It started as a joke and got out of hand”.
And Kevin Bacon thought about that.
He thought maybe being a joke isn’t such a bad thing after all.
Maybe being a joke can actually be a good thing.
And he went online and bought the rights to “sixdegrees.org”
He thought: if the joke is about how everyone’s connected let’s use the internet to connect everyone to movie stars and to charity.
And in 2007 he started his charitable website.
The Internet was the perfect place for a charity that was all about connectedness.
People could find their favourite celebrity and give to his or her favourite charity.
Then they’d get a badge with a picture of themselves next to that celebrity, plus the name of the charity.
Jeff Bridges, Nicole Kidman, Jon Bon Jovi, Robert Duvall, Tyra Banks, Kanye West, Jessica Simpson, have all signed up to help Kevin Bacon’s charity raise money.
In just five years, it’s raised over $5 million for various charities.
And one of the main benefactors has been Kevin Bacon.
Read more on REPACKAGING BACON…
The most iconic moment in Raiders Of The Lost Ark is the fight scene. Harrison Ford has defeated all opponents with his whip.
Suddenly the crowd parts and the biggest, baddest opponent of all stands there.
A giant of a man with a massive, razor sharp scimitar.
In his huge hands it seems as light as a feather.
He spins it, twirls it, flips it, he is obviously going to carve Harrison Ford up like a salami.
Ford’s whip is useless against it.
So Harrison Ford pulls out a gun and shoots the man dead.
Then he turns and walks away.
Read more on BANGS FOR BUCKS…
There seems to be some confusion about the title of my book, Predatory Thinking.
A recent criticism was: “predatory branding doesn’t quite fit with the zeitgeist”.
Well yes, I agree.
Predatory branding would be a dumb thing to do.
To label a washing powder as getting clothes Viciously clean.
To brand cakes as having Brutal and Cruel taste.
To sell a deodorant as Harsh & Violent smelling.
It doesn’t take a genius to see predatory branding would not be a smart thing to do.
Which is why the book isn’t called Predatory Branding.
It’s called Predatory Thinking.
Thinking isn’t always visible or apparent.
Thinking is what goes on strategically, behind the scenes.
In which case Predatory Thinking is actually the opposite of Predatory Branding.
For instance, Adam Morgan talks about ‘behind the curtain’ and ‘in front of the curtain’.
He compares marketing strategy to a stage performance.
There are things we want the audience to see, and things we don’t.
Predatory thinking is what happens “behind the curtain”.
Where the audience doesn’t see.
Someone has to grow at the expense of someone else.
We have to identify who they are, and how we do that.
Then we have to choose how we present ourselves “in front of the curtain”.
For the audience’s view.
And it probably won’t be remotely predatory.
In 2008 Warren Buffett was named the richest man in the world by Forbes magazine.
For 13 years he and Bill Gates shared the two top slots.
Warren Buffett made all his money by investing in companies.
Put simply he would buy and sell shares.
Buffett was named as the most influential investor of the century.
He was certainly the best.
His personal fortune was $65 billion.
How did he do it?
One of his main pieces of advice for anyone is “Don’t follow the market”.
Obviously you don’t get to be the richest man in the world by doing what everyone else is doing.
You can’t think like the rest.
Buffett elaborates “Take advantage of the market’s mistakes. Use the market’s fluctuations to your benefit”.
So Warren Buffett says you need to know what other people are thinking so you can think differently.
So that you can take advantage of them in fact.
This is predatory thinking.
That’s what Warren Buffett (the richest man in the world) said was the right thing to do.
But does that mean Warren Buffet is cruel and mean?
Well so far he’s donated over $30 billion to charity.
$30 BILLION to making the world a better place.
There are entire countries and governments that haven’t done as much.
Bill Gates says “When Melinda and I started our foundation I turned to Warren for advice. His brilliant way of looking at the world is just as useful in attacking poverty and disease as it is in building a business”.
That’s the other richest man in the world talking.
Bill Gates is saying that Warren Buffett’s thinking (predatory thinking) is helping make the world a better place.
Read more on THE HELP YOURSELF BUFFETT…
Jamie Oliver was giving a TED talk.
He delivered statistics on American children and obesity.
He gave numbers for various diseases caused by unhealthy diet.
He showed slides with bar graphs of life expectancy.
He talked in detail about the additives in foods.
The statistics were impressive.
The trouble is, impressive as they are, they’re still numbers.
Then he walked over to a wheelbarrow on stage.
He said “The milk they drink in school has to be flavoured. It’s got as much sugar in it as a can of Coke.”
He dipped a spoon into the stack of sugar in the wheelbarrow and started throwing spoonfuls over the stage.
He said “That means this much sugar every day.”
He grabbed a glass and started scooping up sugar and emptying it onto the stage.
He said “That means this much sugar every week.”
Then he tipped the entire contents of the wheelbarrow over the stage.
It spilled everywhere, even into the audience.
He said “Over the first five years of elementary school they get this much sugar just from their free school milk.”
The audience gasped.
The wheelbarrow full of sugar did more than all the statistics.
It stood out, it got their attention.
They’ll remember that.
When Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air he had lots of statistics. About speed and capacity, pixels, RAM, processors, weight, size.
Probably impressive, but repetitive and dry.
So he didn’t use them.
Instead he said “Ladies and gentlemen, the MacBook Air is the thinnest laptop in the world.”
And he popped it into a manila envelope.
A computer in a little paper envelope?
They got it: this was revolutionary, amazing, unbelievable.
It hit home in a way none of the numbers could have.
Richard Branson started Virgin Records recording arm on the back of Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells.
He hired the Queen Elizabeth Hall for a live concert to launch it.
This was so important he even drove Mike Oldfield there himself, in his Bentley.
Suddenly Mike Oldfield had a panic attack.
He started hyperventilating, he said they had to stop the car.
He couldn’t go onstage.
Richard Branson had a theatre with an audience of thousands, plus musicians, the world’s press, and television cameras.
He could have read reams of statistics to Mike Oldfield.
About money spent so far, manufacturing and distribution costs, probable future income, worldwide sales, gross and net profits.
He didn’t do any of that.
He took the keys out of the ignition.
He held them up to Mike Oldfield and said “If you go ahead with this concert, the Bentley’s yours. Think about it”.
Mike Oldfield didn’t take long to think about it.
He took the keys and did the concert.
Tubular bells became one of the biggest selling albums of all time.
And Branson built a recording empire on the back of it that he sold to EMI for a billion dollars.
Numbers and facts aren’t anything until you bring them to life.
Read more on REINFORCED CONCRETE…
In 2006, Peter Attia was a surgeon on duty in ER.
An obese, diabetic woman was brought in with a badly ulcerated foot.
The foot stank of rotting flesh.
Peter Attia was asked if they should amputate the foot.
He said yes.
The thing that stuck with him was the disgust he felt for that woman.
How she’d let herself get to that state.
Usually he was sympathetic and caring towards his patients.
But everyone knew Type 2 diabetes was caused by obesity.
And obesity was caused by over-eating.
This woman had caused her own situation and he felt nothing but disgust for her.
Until about three years later.
Peter Attia had been fanatical about exercising and healthy eating.
Then suddenly he began putting on weight.
He exercised more and ate less, but still he put on weight.
Eventually he found he’d developed metabolic syndrome.
He became insulin-resistant, and that leads to diabetes.
Peter Attia found that overeating and obesity weren’t the cause of his susceptibility to diabetes.
So they may not have been the cause of the woman’s diabetes.
Which meant obesity may not be the cause of diabetes at all.
Maybe we were mistaking the symptom for the cause.
And his world shifted.
He likened it to people walking into doors and getting bruises.
And doctors believing that bruises caused people to walk into doors.
So we try to stop people walking into doors by treating bruises.
Science believes obesity causes insulin resistance when it may be the other way round.
He cites the fact that 30 million obese Americans don’t have insulin resistance, while 6 million lean Americans do.
Yet science ignores these people, because they don’t fit.
So he founded the Nutrition Science Initiative, to study and challenge all our assumptions in this area.
Because he believes our assumptions have led us to wage the wrong medical war.
Unchallenged assumptions often do that.
We consistently believe the wrong thing and consequently do the wrong thing.
Rory Sutherland talks about the flaw in the “opinion-changes-behaviour” model of marketing.
Which leads to the lemming-like belief in “the answer is brand now what’s the question?”
Rory has data to prove that changing opinion doesn’t always drive behaviour.
Quite the reverse, in fact: changing behaviour drives opinion.
People don’t see an ad, fall in love with the brand, blindly believe it’s the best thing ever and refuse to buy anything else.
People, for whatever reason, try something, find it’s good, and buy it again.
Advertising isn’t a dark art that hypnotises susceptible masses into obeying our will.
The process is the reverse of what we’d like to believe.
But of course, it’s very hard to change opinion before behaviour.
For Peter Attia to change his opinion on diabetes he had to develop the symptoms himself.
Jonathan Haidt describes our emotions as an elephant going pretty much where it wants.
On its back sits our logical mind trying to justify where the elephant goes.
Read more on FLAT EARTH MARKETING…