October 01, 2009

Brain Science Validates Advertising Assumptions It’s always heart-warming when science validates the assumptions that underlie our thinking about messaging and media. For years advertising agencies have been advising clients that disruptive or unexpected imagery seen, scanned or read with some frequency builds brand impressions. And that these impressions turn into awareness, preference, and purchases over time. Freud inferred that the unconscious mind picked up and processed as many signals as the conscious mind and on this basis the advertising industry developed rules of thumb about how, when and how often to intercept consumers and present brand messages. Now brain researchers at Tel Aviv University have conducted experiments to prove this point. Professors Moti Salti, Dominique Lamy and Yair Ben-Haim documented that unconscious perception exists. A far cry from Freud’s postulates about repressed trauma and childhood angst, the data suggests that our brains take in signals and process messages on several simultaneous levels of consciousness. Perhaps this explains why even those who skip the commercials and flip past the ads can recall brand logos and key copy points. According to Professor Salti, “You walk around and are exposed to many stimuli from all directions but are aware of very few.” The tests exposed participants to a square on their computer screen. By hooking these subjects to an electroencephalograph, they charted brain activity to document how and when they were conscious of seeing the square. In 50 percent of the cases they could pinpoint the exact location of the square, even if when questioned about seeing a square, they could recall nothing. The complete scientific results are being published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. The implications for marketers seem to be … Don’t focus as much on engagement as on exposure. Carpet bombing might work better than we thought especially if the brain is your ally in reaching individuals who aren’t formally paying attention. Frequency works. The more unconscious exposures, the more likely that the target customer will “absorb” your message regardless of his or her intention or viewing and reading habits. Create scan-able messages. Don’t assume ads will be read or watched. Approach traditional advertising creative like online creative; assume things will get a quick glance at best. Then purposefully create a stimulus that is distinct and different from what is expected and what is popular and you gain a nanosecond or two of extra attention, enough to score that unconscious comprehension. Messages Don’t Need to be Linear. It’s possible that those ads you see and scratch your head about, thinking “what were they thinking” may be scoring more points that we thought. Subliminal advertising might exist and work.
9 Change Management Tactics from Chairman Mao If you are charged with changing an organization’s culture, you can not ignore the biggest sustained case study in change management over the last 60 years – the transformation of the Peoples’ Republic of China under the guidance of Mao Zedong. And while Chairman Mao and his successors’ philosophy, approach and policies might be abhorrent politically and while no one can ever condone or minimize the butchery or the massive scale of human suffering brought on by successive campaigns, decisions or regimes, the actions of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) offer the greatest number of lessons in how to transform a country from abject poverty to modernity and from political chaos and internecine warfare to stability and participation in the world political system. Facing a smaller task – changing how a company can change its culture and act differently internally and externally – there seem to be several clear change management concepts that can be extracted from Chairman Mao. Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating any of the CCP methods. But I am suggesting that the CCP understood underlying and possibly universal motivational and communications principles which can be extracted, humanized, tempered, democratized and applied in organizational settings to achieve scalable change. Involve Top Leadership. From Mao thru Wen Jiaboa every Chinese leader has been an active front man and spokesperson for change. Routine and regular appearances to underscore the effort and tout the party line are key expectations of top leaders. Create a Party Line. The CCP plans their work and works their plan. They articulate a clear, concise policy line and demand active adherence from all cadres. They use party discipline to enforce every zig and zag in the party line. But the existence of a clear point of view and articulated short and long term goals direct and orient the organization. Just don’t expect consistency or historical continuity. Use Simple Slogans Frequently. While the CCP will never win any creative awards, they understood early on that communicating big concepts to the masses required shorthand that is universally and instantly understood and frequently repeated. Like Mad Men they crated short punchy slogans and bombarded the masses with them until they were unavoidable, unforgettable and firmly drilled into everyone’s consciousness. Influence Every Unit. By identifying early adopters, purging dissenters and designating change leaders at each level of society, the CCP mobilized and motivated millions of “change agents” to accomplish their mission. Every house, block, factory, military unit and sector of society had party member and trained cadres tasked with instigating and sustaining change. Change requires worker bees at every important level of the organization. Model Behavior. People need to understand what is expected of them. By calling out model citizens, model work brigades and model collective farms, the CCP held up the desired behavior and then dissected and disseminated the operative elements of the behavior they sought to encourage. By showing the end result, often entirely fabricated, they were able to drive behavioral change by showing the path forward and illuminating the desired end result. Celebrate Every Victory. The corollary to modeling behavior is celebrating every win. In the case of the CCP many were entirely bogus, nonetheless they understood that change is an incremental process where success builds upon itself and small victories can be compounded, packaged and merchandized to yield increasingly bigger victories. They also understood the need for people to join a winning team and the attractiveness of perceived momentum as a recruiting and validating device. Marshall Peer Pressure. People do what others are doing and often comply with widely held expectations. We and they are monkey-see; monkey-do cultures. The CCP set the bar and used every form of peer pressure and coercion to attain conformity. Their methods, while odious and brutal, built a culture where the cadre reinforced and policed its own behavior. This was further reinforced by the use of tangible experiences, music, operas and common symbols (e.g. The Little Red Book, Mao pins) to consistently reinforce the message. Accepting and implementing change is a viral process that builds on itself and needs to reach a critical mass. Manage Self-Interest. It was always more important and better to be “red” rather than “expert”. Toeing the line determined everything from housing and work assignments to personal freedom. The CCP aggressively used the “performance review process” backed by secret police and Gestapo tactics to help people act in their own best interests. Baking expected behavior into key performance indicators and into personal objectives yields...

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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