Why do consumers buy into brands when all they really care about it the product you’re selling? Thinkerbell founder Adam Ferrier shares his insight into the psychology of brand loyalty and the pitfalls of short term marketing.
“The more you listen to the consumer the more potentially generic your brand will become, as you meet their product needs rather than focusing on what makes you different or trying to find new space”.
Advertising Guru, founder of agency Thinkerbell and author of The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour, Adam Ferrier thinks that we might be drawing the wrong lessons from the boom in highly personalised marketing data.
“Consumers will give you good feedback on how well the product meets its needs, rather than what your brand stands for because they don’t really care,” Adam says. “I worry about whether the marketing industry is paying enough attention to the core of what our business is about, which is building brands.”
Adam says the focus on the data of individuals, and the relentless drive to deliver messages specifically relevant to their product-driven pain points, discourage brands from building a coherent message around the values which underpin the brand’s long term success and market differentiation.
“I think the brand and what the brand stands for should guide most of the decisions we make. Because we’re used to getting so much data at the end user level, we’re starting to optimise the data we’re getting and then forgetting about what the brand stands for,” Adam says.
“You start to end up with inconsistent and ultimately incoherent communications.”
Brands are trying to focus on doing too much of their communication in one go around the moment of purchase, and need to focus more on providing consistent, “always on” communication with consumers. According to Adam this can then be “spiked with moments of doing wonderful and really interesting, engaging things”.
In this episode of the show, we also speak to Jane Caro, award-winning novelist, social commentator, Walkley Award winner, and one half of the Masters of Spin show with Adam Ferrier. She also advises against focusing entirely on individual data.
“The trouble with the way we measure consumers,” Jane says, “is that we emphasise what makes them different from us and different from one another. The thing about it is we are different a bit, but we’re much more similar than we’re different, and if we emphasise our similarities, that’s where you get emotional impacts.”
Tune in as we discuss the science of branding, the art of long term thinking and how taking ethical stances could be the key to standing out in the market, with Adam Ferrier and Jane Caro.
The CMO Show production team
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Participants: Hosts: Mark Jones and Nicole Manktelow
Guest: Adam Ferrier
Mark Jones: Thanks for joining us on the CMO Show. My name is Mark Jones.
Mark Jones: Adam Ferrier is our special guest today. Anybody who is anybody in Australian marketing knows about Adam Ferrier, the founder of Thinkerbell. He’s also author of The Advertising Effect, and I think, for most of us, the Gruen Transfer and being on different TV shows.
Mark Jones: Right?
Mark Jones: Yeah.
Mark Jones: We do.
Mark Jones: It is the myth buster in me. I’m sort of digging into our psyches here, and marketing has always been fighting for that boardroom seat. The seat at the table.
Nicole Manktelow: So you’re thinking that science lends that credibility so that even the people who only deal with numbers can finally understand what it is that a marketing department does.
Mark Jones: Right. No longer are we the department of pretty pictures. No longer are where we sales people who don’t work out so well-
Nicole Manktelow: I think it is. I think I … I’m hearing a lot about it, and certainly when we deal with products now it’s a huge part of the product sell for any tool that a marketer might need to use.
Mark Jones: Adam’s moved through a number of different businesses over the years, but this idea of how to get the right mix of science with creativity, and there’s an argument to say, “Actually, we’ve gone almost too far down the science path. Let’s get a bit of the sparkle back.”
Nicole Manktelow: And interestingly, one of the great and refreshing things about talking to Adam is that he hasn’t started drinking the kool-aid. He is very much about let’s make sure we don’t go too far down that path, and keep the creativity going, and finding a balance. So I’m really interested in how our conversation all finished up.
Mark Jones: Ah, but before we go, Jane Caro is also a special feature guest in the middle of the podcast.
Mark Jones: Yep. Novelist. Social commentator.
Mark Jones: And our producer, Candice, had the opportunity to have a quick chat with her about all things marketing, and consumer behaviour, and so it’s a great little segment in the show. Make sure you stick around to listen to that as well.
Mark Jones: Adam Ferrier from Thinkerbell and many other places. Thank you for joining us.
Mark Jones: I think the obvious place to start is your current agency and giving us a quick insight on how you’re thinking about the world, I don’t know how many times you use the word think in a sentence, but-
Nicole Manktelow: Well, every time I hear Thinkerbell, I think sparkles.
Mark Jones: Right.
Mark Jones: But-
Mark Jones: In fact, their logo bears no resemblance to Adam at all. And we mean that kindly.
Adam Ferrier: It would be a frightening thought if it did resemble me, I think. So, at the moment, there’s kind of two massive schools of thought in the world of marketing, which is kind of the influx of marketing sciences and having to be more accountable, yet there’s this kind of driving need within marketing to still be more creative and find kind of really kind of creative or metrical solutions. We’ve kind of tried to bring those two disciplines together and created an agency around a proposition of measured magic, which is scientific inquiry meets hardcore creativity, and that is represented in our lovely logo, which is Rodin’s The Thinker crossed with Tinkerbell. So that’s the measured magic is the promise we’re trying to live up to.
Mark Jones: Got it. And obviously, you’ve been doing the agency game for a long period of time, and you sort of reference those macro trends. Are you somebody who just enjoys the thrill of starting a new thing? Is that the sort of focus for you-
Adam Ferrier: I think the focus is to be gainfully employed by people who will have me around. And I think the easier way to do that is to start your own thing, rather than having to fit in into something already established. But so I just realised, especially at Naked, we had nine years of having a very good time as well as doing really good work, and I really wanted to … I could make that work, and I was fortunate enough to make some fantastic partners in Jim, Couz, and Margie, and to help kind of recreate that and make that thing happen again, because it’s really exciting. And I guess just also with this whole kind of thing around consultancies and consultancies and agencies coming together, as well as being able to meet somebody from PWC and kind of get PWC to be an investor in the agency, as well, kind of, again, makes it really fresh and interesting to see what we can shape with those guys, as well, having a stake in the business.
Mark Jones: … just on its own.
Mark Jones: That’s right. Exactly right. And so, look, you know what, maybe we’ll park that idea and have you on another time and you can tell us about that universe. But we really wanted to drill into this idea of the future of marketing science and we have no vested interest in this beyond knowing that there’s a conference coming up, the Marketing Science Ideas Exchange. I’ve been a couple of times. [crosstalk 00:03:21]-
Mark Jones: Yeah. It’s an umbrella gig, and I guess I’m interested in the big picture of the science meets creativity, AKA your entire story. But give us an idea of what’s the industry interest in this? Are you pushing a barrow, or is this actually a reflection of what’s going on?
Adam Ferrier: I love that question. You know what? I used to … To be honest, I was wondering before … A few years ago when we started it, it was very, very hot, and behavioural economics was really coming into the industry, and everyone was kind of grabbing hold of it. And in that kind of slipstream, people like Byron Sharp and Mark Ritson’s voice became louder as people were becoming more accountable and wanting to have more scientific answers into how they do stuff in kind of a more scientific, rigorous approach. What’s been really interesting is those two names spring up in front to everybody as kind of top of mind, but if I ask you who are the other marketing scientists around, they’re still very few and far between. So it kind of feels like I’m half pushing a barrow, and it feels like I’m half kind of latching onto the new tidal wave. And I still don’t quite know. And that’s why I think it’s a really interesting question.
Adam Ferrier: But I think for people who can get there getting early on this kind of stuff, and I still think it’s early days, there’s massive competitive advantage just to be able to explain how marketing works. So few people can actually got a coherent answer as to how the whole thing actually works. And even just getting some nomenclature around that is valuable, let alone being able to do things that have some form of predictability.
Mark Jones: There’s been a historical kind of undercurrent, if you like, and this is touching on the psychology side of things. If you think about marketers and advertisers are if you like a subconscious paranoia, this defensiveness of having to justify and explain and pitch and sell and just kind of communicate why this whole matters and why it works. I mean-
Adam Ferrier: Yeah. But that’s kind of … It’s not paranoia, mate. It’s kind of reasonable if you’re about to spend two million bucks or something that the person who’s gonna help you spend that kind of knows why they’re recommending what they recommend.
Adam Ferrier: [inaudible 00:05:55] if you’re into a search and they said, “[inaudible 00:05:59] I’ll start giving it a hack, it’ll be fine.” You would kind of be a bit wary about that. And so the onus is on us, really, to lift our game on these things.
Mark Jones: Yeah. So maybe I’m being a bit too harsh. I think that there can be a defensiveness of people who would attack it. And I’m talking about sort of mum and dad consumers who say they tend to deride advertising and other forms of creative media. And they say, “It’s not real, or they’re trying to manipulate me,” or there’s that reaction that we all instinctively have against-
Nicole Manktelow: Well, it’s-
Mark Jones: … this industry.
Nicole Manktelow: … the more media literate audience. That’s usually how that audience is described. People who have more exposure and are aware that things may not be as they seem. They don’t take it for granted. And then you’ve got to play with that. You’ve got to acknowledge that they’ve got that insight.
Adam Ferrier: Again, I think the questions you guys are asking are great because what Marketing Science Ideas Exchange is doing is raising our level of knowledge within the industry for what’s desperate to happen. What I’m desperate to happen for is for the world, for the consumers to understand their level of … To improve their level of literacy around all of this. And I think today’s generation of consumer is probably the least marketing-savvy generation that’s ever existed. They really kind of live in this marketing supersaturated solution. And everything they get is kind of marketed and branded. Where if you spoke to-
Adam Ferrier: I don’t know. If you spoke to your father or your grandfather and said, “Tell me about this product versus that product,” they’ll probably go for the one that’s … I’ll imagine they’ll instinctively go for the one that’s got functional superiority over the one that’s kind of got a bit of topspin on top of it. And so I wonder … So [inaudible 00:07:49] where I could look at a consumer today, and I wonder whether they’re buying into the hype more than they’re buying into kind of the substance of a product. However, all of that could be changing. So, you see new brands emerging that are both purely on the kind of the rational substantiation of what they do. All kind of almost anti-brand brands who like the worlds of Amazon who are just providing a superior service and not focusing too much on the puffery that sometimes exists with marketing.
Nicole Manktelow: I kind of feel like there’s applied science. So you’ve got your people who are looking at the numbers that are we did this, we did that, even in LinkedIn when they do a bit of automatic AB testing of various things, that that’s an applied use of skills with numbers. We can call that science, I guess. But then I always think the psychologist angle, and this is something you can tell us about, is this theory, is putting in these ideas and what-ifs and then testing those. It’s so much more … It’s just not black and white, is it? So …
Adam Ferrier: No, no. I think they’re both exactly the same thing. I think one’s more complicated from the others. So I think marketing is much more complicated than brain surgery or rocket science. It’s a really, really difficult thing to understand because you have to understand ephemeral concepts like humans and brains. But in psychology, in clinical psychology, believes in the scientist practitioner model, just like a kind of applied AB testing, if you like. So if you have a clinician and you’ve got somebody with an anxiety disorder in front of them, they should be applying what science tells them to apply and working out solutions on how to get that person to reduce their anxiety by doing X, Y, and Z that science has told them to do.
Adam Ferrier: The issue is when you’re trying to optimise messaging in an ad, for example, or something, and kind of AB testing, that’s pretty simple as to what kind of message works better. But the more you zoom out of that into kind of what brands, what’s brand positioning, what does my brand stand for, where shall I go? The harder it is to … The more kind of murkier all of those concepts become, and the harder it is, in some ways, to apply science to those concepts. And that’s where I think the whole thing gets a bit unstuck.
Mark Jones: Right. And I think just at a practical level, how do you price that? And how does the buyer of that, if you like, service, the marketer value it? If it’s so murky. There’s a real sort of practical challenge there.
Adam Ferrier: Yeah, totally. And I think what you’re finding is marketing sciences is making real inroads into media optimization and then a bit more into communication strategy, but in brand positioning or in brand strategy, marketing science is still kind of very rarely kind of evolved. And when people talk about … When Byron Sharp talks about not believing in segmentation, for example, he’s often talking about communication segmentation as opposed to portfolio management. And I think sometimes there’s a bit of confusion between those two areas.
Nicole Manktelow: Adam, I think you’ve got a pretty interesting point of view on brand, I want to know what you think about the longevity of brand marketing or if it’s coming back into fashion again? What it’s been like with a lot of the new tools and the focus on the numbers, and how it’s … I don’t know, it feels like it’s been marginalised?
Adam Ferrier: I think the brand should be, and what the brand stands for should kind of guide most of the decisions we make. But because we’re getting so used to getting so much data at the end user level, we’re starting to optimise the data we’re getting and then forgetting about what the brand stands for. And so one is kind of almost [inaudible 00:13:11] the other. And then the discipline of understanding a brand and building brands and so forth. It used to take three months to kind of work it all out. It can now be done in a three-hour workshop, you know what I mean? And I worry about that, because I worry about whether the marketing industry is paying enough attention to the core of what our business is about, which is about building brands.
Nicole Manktelow: Well, just to be clear, you’re saying that the market’s asking for it to be done in a three-hour workshop, whereas they used to care enough to spend more time and expertise on developing their brand stories?
Adam Ferrier: Yeah. So, sometimes, we tend to expediate the stuff that we don’t necessarily value as much as we should. And so I think that’s kind of a slight macro trend that’s happening. A slight macro trend, if there is such a thing. I think that’s a trend that might be happening at the moment.
Mark Jones: I guess the other part of the brand story, though, we understand that the brand lives in the mind of consumers. That’s, again, you mentioned this is an ephemeral concept. What’s changed in terms of how we attempt to construct that image in their mind? Is there any big differences?
Adam Ferrier: … we’ve got lots of data at that point, and because we can AB test at that level, then we kind of tend to focus on all of that stuff, because we can control that a little bit more. And then we maybe don’t pay quite enough attention to what the brand stands for and making sure the brand is our guiding light, rather than what tends to get optimised in the latest AB test.
Adam Ferrier: Yeah. So that’s the other point. Because consumers will give you good feedback on how well the category meets its needs, rather than what your brand stands for because they don’t really care. They care about the category more than they care about your particular brand, i.e. they’re thirsty and they want to drink, and then the whole lot of brands will meet that need. They want to have a car to get from A to B, and there’s a whole lot of different brands who will meet their need. And they’ll often give you feedback at a category level rather than at a brand level. And so the more you listen to the consumer, potentially, the more generic your brand will become as you meet the category needs rather than focus on what makes you different or trying to find new space.
Adam Ferrier: It’s a long-winded dance, but it’s coming back to your points before about really understanding your brand. [inaudible 00:18:13] your brand and how your brand’s different to other brands within the category, or even creating a category of its own, then you’re gonna have a more differentiated and potentially more special brand.
Mark Jones: I think it’s interesting to consider that in light of another sort of trend that’s playing into this, which is the integration of sales and marketing disciplines, and in particular, this idea of revenue-based marketing or I have to see the sales connected to the marketing tactics that I’m doing. And so there’s a tension there of obviously sales is numbers-driven, and time-driven. I need to see things done by a certain period of time and achieve my targets and so on. How is that changing that brand versus channel dynamic that you spoke about?
Adam Ferrier: Oh, gosh. I think that tension has always been there. The needs of short term sales with longterm results. Unfortunately, I think what it does is, again, if you pay too much attention to the short term data, then you start to do stuff that works better for the short term rather than doing longterm brand building, which, again, means you might operate on what’s going to work … What’s gonna help me shift my immediate sales tasks, irrespective of what’s the longterm brand I’m trying to build. And so you start to end up with inconsistent and ultimately incoherent communications.
Nicole Manktelow: You could work your name into it, Mark.
Mark Jones: Yes. Well, my name is already in marketing, just by the way.
Nicole Manktelow: Thank you.
Mark Jones: Carry on.
Mark Jones: … it’s sales and marketing together.
Adam Ferrier: Well, to be honest, I think it should play out where the two are interwoven, and I don’t think you can have one without the other. Would be hesitant to call it smarketing. But I think what’ll happen is we get more and more information that tells us the best way to build brands, we will just start to kind of pay attention to that. And what we’ll realise is to try to impact the consumer in and of the moment is actually much harder than we might think, and what tends to impact the consumer more is kind of a longer term approach and having a more stable and consistent kind of message to the consumer [inaudible 00:21:10] get to understand your brand and what it’s about. And then when there’s a need for that brand, then you’ve got a clear proposition that’s very easy for them to comprehend and get, and they find that useful, then you’re likely to consume that particular product. But it’s very hard to do all of that type of communications in the moment. You kind of need to invest in being always around.
Nicole Manktelow: Oh, gosh, it reminds me of what goes on in the share market where everybody’s focused on getting the next report out to keep the shareholders happy, and we wonder what goes on with the longer term vision. Sounds great, but what have you don’t for me lately is the rule that seems to roost there.
Adam Ferrier: Yeah. I think we talk a little bit about keeping things really, really simple and consistent and spiking that with moments of doing kind of wonderful and really interesting, engaging things, and just trying to get a balance between those two things happening seems like an interesting way to go.
Nicole Manktelow: Adam, you’re a co-founder for the Marketing Science Ideas Exchange. This is an umbrella conference that’s coming up. And part of that is looking at all of the new ideas. Artificial intelligence would seem to be the obvious one. How much are we going to be hearing about that?
Adam Ferrier: Well, one of the speakers we have speaking at M6 this year is a guy called Jamie Skella who has invented a blockchain enabled way to create voting platforms that are more secure and less hackable. And he’s rolling out that … And it’s called horizon state. And he’s rolling out that platform around the world to various democracies that exist, and it sounds kind of overly … It kind of sounds very ambitious, but he’s making lots of headway. And I think that’s kind of interesting to throw into the mix. But at the other end of the spectrum, we’re also doing a really interesting panel on the role of advertising pretesting. Is it worthwhile? And if it is worthwhile, what’s the best way to do that? And so with curating a conference such as this, it’s hard to get the balance between what’s gonna be useful today and what gives me a glimpse of where marketing science is heading in the future.
Adam Ferrier: … it’s a really … Yeah. It’s a really good idea. And one of the other speakers who is a guy called Julian Cress who’s the producer and creator of The Block, and The Block is probably the best … Probably the world, Australia’s expert on how to change behaviour, and they’ve created a whole renovation market. And just tapping into how they can create a platform like that that gets people’s so inspired to do home renovation is, I think, quite interesting, as well.
Mark Jones: Yeah.
Mark Jones: Oh, it’s huge, isn’t it?
Mark Jones: Yeah. But it’s like getting people really inspired to go to the dentist. I mean, no one really wants the process of renovating their house, but they’re happy with the outcome, right?
Mark Jones: Yeah. And your life.
Adam Ferrier: Imagine if the Dental Association of Australia created a reality TV show around dentists. I mean, I wonder what that would do for the industry? Would dentists become cool? Would people want to do more dental work? Probably.
Mark Jones: Yeah. Yeah, that’s right.
Mark Jones: Yeah.
Candice Witton: Hey, guys. It’s Candice, your producer here.
Jane Caro: Well, it was interesting, because on one level it was quite easy to get a job, because when I left university, I supposed it would’ve been like ’77, ’78, there was full employment because there were many more jobs than there were people looking for jobs, but it was still quite hard for women to get, and very unusual, for women to have jobs that had any kind of career path attached to them. I think at that time, jobs were still divided in the paper into men and boys, women and girls.
Candice Witton: How do you think that’s changed? Are people more marketing savvy these days?
Jane Caro: Well, I don’t know about being more savvy, but the real huge change is that when I started out, I think there was something like 30% of women were in the workforce. Now I think it’s like 65, 70% of women, so women at that time were still the biggest consumers. They still are now. They did the shopping, they did all of that. But at that time, most of them were spending their husband’s money. It wasn’t theirs. And that’s a huge change.
Jane Caro: To me, the big changes they’re not about people being more sophisticated about marketing or anything else. The huge changes are demographic, and also the enormous revolution in the way women live their lives, and the fact that my generation of women are the first women ever in the history of the world who have mostly earned their own money for most of their lives. That has changed the consumer landscape completely.
Jane Caro: I do think interestingly enough there are some marketers that are actually working out that governments have left an ethical vacuum. So, governments that used to in a way take the lead on the kind of ethical direction of a society, they’ve stepped right out of that. They’re almost incapable of it now. They’ve become almost farcical in their inability to rise above their own interest, or the interest of their cronies, and so what is interesting is that business is stepping into that ethical space. I mean, we’re watching business be like light years ahead of government in terms of renewable energy, and attitudes towards climate change, and what’s going to have to happen in the future. We’re looking at companies, for example, like Nike taking a really bold step to support Colin Kaepernick, I hope I’m pronouncing his name right, and the black athletes that are bending the knee to protest the treatment of African Americans. We’re actually seeing companies almost stepping into that ethical and moral vacuum that has been left by governments becoming increasingly extreme and neo-liberal, and therefore kind of breaking out of the space.
Jane Caro: what I see a lot of businesses doing is actually identifying themselves with ethical and moral issues, and being … it’s the same with the same-sex marriage debate. I mean, businesses, Qantas for example, and I think Telstra, and all sorts of businesses were very upfront about their support for same-sex marriage. Indeed, I think they infuriated the right of politics, because they were so aware that actually the pulse of the public has moved faster than governments. It almost feels to me as if governments are in opposition to their own voters at the moment, in terms of attitudes to things like progressive social issues, climate change, and stuff, but business knows that because business is better at staying in touch with the public mindset, it seems, than politicians.
Jane Caro: Well, we’re hungry for authenticity. We’re hungry for honesty. We’re hungry for noble shit. I mean, that’s why I think that the brands stepping into the moral and ethical space left by governments is an attempt to do something about that. The danger with that is you better be doing it because you believe it, not because you think it’s going to make you more money, because if you get found out that that’s your motivation, you’ll send all that investment down the toilet.
Jane Caro: I’m better at identifying things like … I mean, I watch the Emmy’s last night and Hannah Gadsby was on it. I think there is and that Hannah Gadsby is just exploded onto the international stage in the way that she has is she’s just so utterly genuine and authentic, and people are … that’s what they’re hungry for. They want to know who you are, whether you’re a person, a comedian, a brand, a politician. So, as soon as you start trying to do the marketing spin, the propaganda, they just turn their face away from you, absolutely turn their face away from you.
Jane Caro: Well, what brands have to remember is the thing that … [Hugh Mackay 00:10:41] said it really long time ago, which it’s never about the brands, it never has been. It’s always about the user. It’s always about the user. So, if you get too caught up with self-aggrandisement, brand boasting, the psychotic break with reality that a lot of clients in my experience have with those things, that their brand is as important to everybody else as it is to them, which it never is, you will get lost. You have to keep always concentrating on who are you talking to, what are you trying to say to them, what do they want to hear, how are they going to benefit from your product, how are they going to respond to your ad. They are the important people. The most important people in advertising have always been that people who are not in advertising. If you’re going to have a really strong story about your brand, it’s got be a really strong story about the consumer.
Jane Caro: I do think that we will move away from this obsession with data, and metrics, and all of that kind of thing, which has really overwhelmed the industry over the last decade or so, because my view has always been that it has always been stories, narration, and staying in touch with your customer that is the essence of good marketing, and that we will return, I think, to building real relationships with the people who buy products, [inaudible 00:12:34] provide services rather than turning them … because the problem with all this data and research that we’ve always done, and now we’ve honed it to an absolutely ridiculous level of supposed accuracy, is that in itself it creates a distance between the marketer and the consumer, because we forget that we’re the same.
Jane Caro: The trouble with the way we measure consumers is that we emphasise all the time what makes them different from us and different from one another. The thing about it is we are different a bit, but we’re much more similar than we’re different, and if we emphasise our similarities, that where you get connections, that’s where you get engagement, that’s where you get emotional impacts, that’s where you get people seeing your ad once and then remembering it forever, which is a much better way of doing it. But we’ve lost our way. We’ve forgotten the strength of story, we’ve forgotten the strength of emotion, we’ve forgotten the strength of humanity, and unexpected, and moving people, and gotten all caught up with dividing them into every smaller categories of people and measuring, measuring, measuring, measuring, measuring.
Candice Witton: Thanks so much, Jane. What an opportunity to hear from Jane, and to get a different perspective from Adam on the state of the marketing industry right now. Let’s head back to [Mark 00:17:13] and [Nicole 00:17:13].
Mark Jones: so The Advertising Effect was a book that you wrote back in 2014-
Mark Jones: There’s a chapter here … There’s the headline which said, “Advertising is about changing behaviour.” So this is an idea you’ve been thinking about, behaviour change, for quite a while. I just wanted to ask you with the whole science thing and where it’s all going, are we getting better at behaviour change? And by that, I mean with the application of sciences, is the speed at which we can change people’s behaviour increasing, or is there another metric by which we’re measuring what amounts to effective behaviour change?
Adam Ferrier: You’re good. Again, I don’t know, but what I do like about what I’ve done is raise the issue again … Or, not what I’ve done. What we’re doing now, about behaviour change, and that we are in the business of changing people’s behaviour. And I think marketers have been scared of that kind of concept because with that concept comes a whole lot of ethical questions, as well, as to whether we should be changing the behaviour, how we’re changing it, what the best way to do it, and so on. So I think it’s good to raise that as an industry we’re doing that. The same for psychologists, as well. Psychologists [inaudible 00:27:00] behaviour change business and have to come to grips with the fact that they’re there to change people’s behaviour, as well.
Adam Ferrier: Whether we’re getting better at it or not, I’m not sure how you would test that. In our industry, marketing, marketing’s always been effective and advertising’s always been effective. And it’s pretty hard to know overall whether we’re getting better or worse in it. But I would like to think that taking a more scientific approach to things means we’re gonna start to get better at our skills because we’ll start to know … We’ll start to have more confidence around what works and why. And therefore, we’ll start to practise that more often. In the same ways, can borrow from the scientist practitioner model in something like psychology.
Mark Jones: Yeah, or-
Mark Jones: Yeah.
Mark Jones: Well, I actually wonder whether it’s actually speeding up the research, the traditional research component of a pitch or a campaign development. I was speaking to a creative director at another agency a little while ago, and he was saying about he had to do research on a fast food chain, and the only way he could really do proper research, “was to run around to all these stores throughout Queensland” where certain demographic types of people bought from this particular fast food chain and see what they did and sort of talk to them on the ground. But if you think about that, I mean, he booked flights. He carved out multiple days of his time. He had to schlep around these stores and stay in crappy-
Mark Jones: … motels and all this kind of stuff, right.
Mark Jones: Of course. It’s totally fine. It’s research. I get it. But I’m wondering, in the science world, we’re looking for efficiencies. We’re looking for automation. We’re looking for ways of understanding and reading into the data from point of sale transactions, from behavioural stuff that’s going on in the community, from other input sources that speak to what’s going on in that state and that community and what can we infer, and can you give me that answer kind of now-
Mark Jones: … so I don’t have to schlep around outback Queensland. You know what I’m saying?
Adam Ferrier: A psychologist would be mortified by your mate’s example, because that means if he actually had a client and he came into their offices, he just had an affair, then to understand what a client to have an affair, that person would to go and have an affair and [inaudible 00:29:35]. If they’d have had a divorce, they’d have to go have a divorce, you know what I mean? So-
Adam Ferrier: … having to go and do the thing or practise the thing firsthand is incredibly inefficient way of learning about people and so on. So again, the way the psychologist would do it would be to read up on those particular issues and then learn about what the science says and what the researches have said. So I kind of feel like it … I hope that’s not the answer, having to run around and visit every fast food outlet for every brief you get, because it would be incredibly time consuming.
Mark Jones: Yeah.
Mark Jones: I don’t know.
Adam Ferrier: No, no. I agree. Look, I don’t want to rule it out because it’s good to get out there and go and do what people are doing and observe them in the real world and all that kind of stuff, and you can’t project that. But I just don’t like the idea of that being kind of the primary way of learning about something. I think it [inaudible 00:30:45]-
Mark Jones: Yeah.
Mark Jones: Look, just before we go, a couple of things. But I think as, if you like, a final thing, it’d be remiss of us not to speak about the media before we go. We’ve had two big things. Firstly, the Fairfax nine merger, and then secondly, most importantly, [Leland Chin 00:31:06] moving on-
Mark Jones: For crying out loud. The world has-
Mark Jones: … come to an end. Just what is happening in the world, Adam? Please, let us know what’s going on.
Adam Ferrier: Oh, I don’t know, but it scares … If I was a journalist, I think journalists and good journalism now, I’m starting to put on the same level as teachers and nurses. I mean, [inaudible 00:31:28] need a really good business model that can sustain really good journalism, and without it, the world will turn to shit, and that’s kind of what I’m worried about with these kind of changes is who’s gonna pay for the quality journalism to kind of keep on going?
Mark Jones: There is a connection to the marketing trends, right? So we’re … The platforms that we’re using for our news have changed so much, and the attitudes of the media buyers at a client level have changed so much. It’s an interesting one to sort of figure out where it’s going.
Adam Ferrier: Yeah. Look, just I guess all I can do is reiterate on that point around somebody come out with business models that can kind of sustain getting people to pay for good, objective information. I would love to see more people delving into that and trying to crack that.
Mark Jones: The comment I’d make, actually, is that what I’ve seen in trade media is just that the journalism is being subsidised by events. Human beings eyeballing each others, and people are prepared to pay for that as both coming to a conference, and advertisers paying for what amounts to billboard traffic kind of style advertising, right? Putting your logo in front of human beings that you can see. That’s the only thing perhaps on a niche level that I’ve seen as kind of a theme.
Mark Jones: What’s that?
Mark Jones: Yeah.
Mark Jones: Well, I don’t know. I mean, how many events can you go to, Adam?
Mark Jones: Yeah. Yeah, well, I mean, that’s the thing they’ve always done. I mean, this … The media was always symbolically the avatars is on one side and the readers, as it were, the consumers of the content on the other, and it was a forum in which you met over a bit of paper, obscurely. But that was the mindset. And so I think just kind of playing on that. But again, in this world of data, it’s just … We don’t know. So, but it’s a fascinating conversation. Adam-
Nicole Manktelow: In the movie of your life, who’d play you?
Mark Jones: Love it. What’s your greatest career fail?
Adam Ferrier: I’ve already changed my name, but my name by [inaudible 00:35:13] is actually Max Adam Eric Ferrier. I changed it in 1996 after reading a book called Existential Psychotherapy about not just accepting the boundaries put on you, but by creating your own kind of boundaries. I never liked my name Adam, so I changed it to Max, and it still is actually officially Max, but I’ve gone back to Adam.
Mark Jones: She’s still recovering.
Mark Jones: We are doing psychology at the same time, here. Carry one.
Mark Jones: Yeah.
Mark Jones: What was the last show you binge watched on Netflix?
Mark Jones: Oh, see? I knew I liked you. Bacon is always the answer. It’s a trick question, that one. Adam Ferrier, it has been our pleasure to have you on the CMO Show. Thank you for your insights and for your honesty, and-
Mark Jones: … maybe we’ll call you Max from now on. You heard-
Mark Jones: And the idea that we’re really just blending. Blending the … what is, you feel, like editorial, and advertising. This has been, you feel, like an age-old thing.
Mark Jones: So if you’re not seeing the distinction any more, then what’s the world coming to?
Mark Jones: Right? It’s all over.
Mark Jones: Yeah, it’s an interesting social reflection. And then, also on the brands side of things, that Adam’s point about remembering that we’re really brand-builders.
Nicole Manktelow: He is absolutely right, though. I mean, if you do just do the data, and have not your brand identity or personality front and centre, you will look like the next mob selling whatever it is you’re selling, because that’s the job.
Mark Jones: Right. And you’re also inclined to cycle through these one to two year campaigns, and you’re changing your identity all the time. It’s very confusing for long-term customers.
Mark Jones: I think so.
Mark Jones: Yeah, right. Just to sort of stay on message.
Mark Jones: Hey, before we go, it’s also worth saying that Candice Witton, who’s been our producer here for a little while now, is off on a grand adventure, so a quick shout-out to Candice. Thank you for all your help on the CMO show, making this podcast sparkle.
Mark Jones: That’s right.
Mark Jones: Yeah. So thank you, Candice. And thank you for joining us on the CMO show. We look forward to next episode. Until then, do all the usual things: share, tell your friends, subscribe, and we will see you on the flip-side.
Mark Jones: Back in 2013, Bill Gates appeared on ABC’s Q&A programme, talking about AI. Now, of course, we hear a lot about AI today, and it seems we’re almost at fever-pitch.
Mark Jones: It was interesting to hear what he said back then, some five years ago. He said, “We’re worried about the future.” And he said, “I do believe that when computers take over certain tasks, that will be tough for us. It will be a long time before you are matching the type of judgement that humans exercise in many different areas, but I do believe that is a solvable problem. Now, we’ll have to avoid climate change and other problems before we have this one to worry about.”
Mark Jones:And I think there’s a great insight from Bill there, because we spend so much time thinking about the ultimate outcomes of AI, and whether we’re all doomed or not, but I think we need to actually bring this a lot closer to home. How can AI improve your business this year? It’s been a long time coming. We’ve been talking about this for a long time, now, and it’s got a long time to go. Let’s put that on hold. What can you do this year, and this month?
Mark Jones: This episode of The CMO Show is brought to you by Filtered Media.
Nicole Manktelow: Telling your brand story brilliantly.
Mark Jones: If you’ve got a question you’d like us to answer on the show, just tweet us @CMOShow or use the hashtag #TheCMOShow. We’d love to hear from you.
Mark Jones: The CMO Show is a podcast produced by Filtered Media and a quick shoutout to our incredible team Candice Witton, Charlotte Goodwin.
Nicole Manktelow: And our engineering wizards: Tom Henderson and Daniel Marr.
Mark Jones: You guys are the best!