Technology is (at best) your persuasive vehicle, not your impact and not your communication

So I’ve worked in digital agencies my entire professional career.

In those years a lot of our work followed above the line campaigns, and I think for the time and for the most part, it worked out fine. But as technology has personalised and evolved, and evolved fast, the pendulum has swung more in favour of the digital solution as it’s fully immersed itself into our lives in a symbiotic role – what I do should just be recorded or monitored, and what is recorded should enhance and better what I do etc (I can see why this topic can be perceived as creepy).

But I have become increasingly malcontent with some processes… Namely how we develop solutions for our customers.

In recent brainstorms, I’ve heard ideas as bluntly expressed as “AR is big right now”, “3D projectors” and “let’s do VR”… I’ve even had a deck come across my desk where the end result was an AR-triggered object, sent to certain individuals with literally no logic or backstory to how or why this was what it was…

The order to tackling advertising and getting your customer’s attention is:

  1. Impact
  2. Communicate
  3. Persuade

Dave Trott harps on about how we spend all our time on the persuasive part – what I consider the technological vehicle everyone vomits out in brainstorms – and assumes that it will make an impact simply because it’s made, published and out there… Then turn their backs to the underlying stat that everyone is smashing the “skip ad” button, the rise of ad blockers and the overall fact 89% of advertising fails.

Digital advertisers (generalising) have forgotten what fucking job we’re in, and because they’ve been sold the wrong line somewhere along the way, we believe we’re in the “industry of cool” and started producing sophisticated ‘art’ to win awards.

Connecting on a deep emotional level with your customers creates a lasting relationship between product and person. New technology is like sex – it’s fun, and new and everybody wished they had more.

But sex doesn’t create an imprint in the memory and it doesn’t make someone feel personally connected with your brand. You can only do that by appealing to their deeper emotions. Humans are biologically programmed to make decisions on emotions, however we may try think otherwise.

You are the product. You, feeling something, that’s what sells. … Not sex.” – Don Draper

I recently attended a talk by Ajaz Ahmed (author, entrepreneur and founder of AKQA) where someone from the audience asked a bit about his process and his ideas/methods concerning the work his team produces for clients (something he stayed true to from the beginning). His response was pretty nonchalant (perhaps expected looking at his bio, but he didn’t sugar-coat anything either) as he responded, “I ask what the problem is, or what the client’s goal is, then I fill in the in-between.”

Now, I enjoy a good gizmo, novelty, multi-sensory, tech-driven, whatever experience as much as the next guy – actually a lot more to be honest – and there is more interesting uses for creative application than ever before, but I (and I think we all do) agree with Ajaz. Make sure you use the best vehicle to creatively drive your idea and objectives but invest in the meat and potatoes and not just the plate it arrives on (which is also important – no one will enjoy your steak as much as they should if you serve it on a paper plate with plastic cutlery).

Persuasive-focus I believe did use to work a load better than what it does now, for what it’s worth. I still think focusing on those three steps in the right order is best whatever your generation, but when my parents grew up and had one, dedicated channel with planned tv-scheduling, everyone in the family tuned in and the broadcast stopped at 10pm, then I’m pretty confident your booked advert slot would be rather impressionable and you’d get by with those mediums in those beige media-spectrum times – the setting was so controlled, that anything you said would likely payoff.

— I mean, look at today, structuring your entire organisation around a 30second television advert in an on-demand world is also primitive, but is still happening for what it’s worth. Digital is just doing the same, foolish act when priming our content for new media alone when instead priming it for user-impact (there is a distinction).

Today everything is the best and newest and craziest. There is so much clutter and STUFF that you need to evolve this thinking a lot more for people to even take notice.

Tech will change (quickly), and beyond that trends will even change (quickly). Luckily these are avenues for us to utilise based on something a little more stable: truths.

“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford

Truths are things that will never change and by looking at the stakeholders in my work, there are two truths I look toward:

1. Universal consumer truths – the impact – delivering on what humans want
Consumers often don’t know exactly WHAT is it they want, but they cognitively recognise what does work for them when given it. This is really where we should be flexing our problem-solving skills as this is the tough part – using signals, behavioural sciences, data and our expertise to ultimately deliver and articulate this solution through a  creative medium or experience.

Steve Jobs is a great example when it came to this approach, not listening to what focus groups (verbally) told Apple what they wanted but instead saw the silver, magic thread in human’s intuition and cognitive interactions to produce something consumers naturally took to.

Spoiler alert!!! Consumers don’t “naturally” take to your “OOH, socially-integrated, VR experiment to achieve top-of-mind recall among first-time house buyers in attempts to shift more units of the brand’s toilet cleaner”.

As a side note: Steve Jobs did this because he knows the world has more “opinion-followers” than “opinion-formers” and therefore can’t listen to followers for recommendations. It’s product and advertising teams responsibility to take the role of an “opinion-former”, themselves (your impact & communication), and then direct this message to other “opinion-formers” (your prime target market) through the right persuasive technique (your platforms, tech and mediums). Then the followers do what they naturally do best… follow.

2. Bottom line – brand value
This CAN be a very complicated attribution. But it also CAN be very simple too… At the end of the day, we don’t look at vanity likes, impressions and frivolous touchpoints. If shareholders don’t see more figures dropping into their accounts, then you’re doing it wrong. If your communication sucks, it doesn’t matter how you try and polish that turd with your persuasive angle. 💩

So! Here is a little framework which was shared from the Young Global Leader lab on twitter, and something we all should consider when making new, amazing solutions.

Remember, your duty and due diligence is to the brand/shareholders and (even more importantly, for me at least) your consumers – not simply the trending technology.

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