The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

People Are Not Rational …
June 2, 2009, 6:08 am
Filed under: Comment

There’s been all sorts of theories on how to get the economy back on the straight and narrow – and the funny thing is, most of the suggestions have come from the very people that put us in this mess in the first place.

I still think this is the best idea of them all … but I don’t think it’ll be allowed to happen.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is that I recently received an email from a mate of mine.

Whilst the subject matter was somewhat humouress, his attached personal comment was deadly serious and he banged on infinitum about how brilliant an idea this was to rid the World of terrorism.

In essence it was this …

Yes … his idea is putting naked women on bank notes.

His reasoning for why this would stop World terrorism is this …

Due to a more globally aligned approach to eradicating terrorism, many terrorist organisations have had their finances frozen.

Because of this they have resorted to counterfeiting … however the idea is that by placing naked women on all currency, radical Muslims would be unable to look at it, let alone touch it because it would breach their religious rules and before you could say “crock of shit” the World would be a happier and safer place.

Now as many of you know, I am quite a big fan of both lateral thinking and ideas that directly influence change rather than just broadcast the problem but this is obviously a load of rubbish.

Before I go on, I should point out that while my friend DOES work for The Sun ‘newspaper’ … he is very smart and articulate … though I have to say I was somewhat bothered by his view and told him so.

Of course he’s not very happy with me at the moment, but even he didn’t have much of a comeback when I pointed out 2 points that kinda dismissed his ‘theory’ …

1/ Terrorism has little to do with religion … that’s just a convenient association to justify unjustifiable actions.

2/ Even if it terrorism was a religious issue, the fact certain individuals can do many things that contravene/reinterpret their religious guidelines means they could easily justify touching a $10 note with some tits on it.

The problem with many of the ideas come up with – be it adland or business in general – is that they start on the assumption people will always act in rational terms and their attitudes/values will never change.

Now I am pretty sure anyone who reads that will agree it’s a silly attitude to have – and yet, day after day after day, we experience countless examples that are counter to that opinion.

I’ve written a lot about my work with the forensic profiler, Paul Britton and how it helped us develop what we call ‘forensic insight’.

Whilst we had to develop a particular process [yes, we do have some processes!!!] to ensure clarity of information, it’s nothing new – in essence is just acknowledges that when you look at the wider circle of societies actions, you can get a better idea of what is really driving them rather than if you just focused on their specific category habits.

[I should point out, we don’t ignore category or brand habits, we just broaden out where we get our information and learnings from]

However, once I moved to Asia, I really started to appreciate the role of culture in decision making and so spent an age looking for a way to link it with our forensic methodologies/philosophies – and whilst ‘culture’ is now becoming quite a buzz word in adland – I can’t help but feel many of them are just paying lip service to the whole thing because when you look at what they produce, you realise there doesn’t seem to be much difference to what they’ve always done.

Of course I’m not claiming we’re the only ones doing real culture based ideas, but I think we’re one of the best and I would point to our ‘mobile signal blocker’ for the Indian hotel chain, the moped designed around a country [Vietnam] and the good karma concrete concept to prove it.

[Please note when I say we’re one of the best, I’m talking about adland … there’s plenty of other industries who utilise this approach to brilliant effect.

Infact one of the best ideas I’ve heard recently is the CIA are sending tattoo removal machines to South America so gang members who want to leave their group, can have their facial tattoos removed and stand a better chance of [1] not suffering deadly recriminations from their ex-colleagues because they won’t be so easily recognisable and [2] have a better chance of leading a better and safer life]

The purpose of this rant is to remind us that people are not rational beings. Yes, I include even accountants.

Sure there may be certain commonalities in our irrationalities … but all too often, the ‘hidden side of life’ is never taken into account when dealing with insight and ideas.

I understand why … given many clients think anything other than a ‘Disneyland insight’ is like a dose of the clap … but I am a firm believer that anger has an inherent energy and if you can find out what people DON’T like or are fearful of or feel guilty about or is a deep and dark secret, you can develop ideas that have far more motivational appeal than the usual happy-clappy kinda stuff.

Oh, and if anyone thinks that leads to PROBLEM/SOLUTION advertising or simply FEAR DRIVEN comms, I’d say you’re very much mistaken and would point you to things like Blackcurrant Tango, SONY Robots and Virgin everything.

The reason we spent so much time developing the cultural and forensic models is that we know most of the time, people aren’t conscious of their irrationality and so would be hard pressed to express it.

By looking at what they really do rather than what they say – and identifying the triggers of influence in those actions – we believe you get to far more interesting and exciting insight and ideas, and that’s why I believe lateral thinking … when based on real insight and information … isn’t that lateral at all, it’s just powerful understanding and anything else is just an interesting thought with an inherent flaw, ala printing money with naked women on it.

17 Comments so far
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All that to justify a semi naked woman on your blog.

Comment by John

nice tits now whats the rest of this post about?

its about us? in that case ill write a bit fucking more.

i like this post. i like how youre defending our honour. seems more and more people are saying things like “culture beats everything” but when you ask the fuckers what it means you get some bland bollocks that is only surpassed in pointless comment by their fucking sad attempts to explain how you can pinpoint cultural behaviour and attitudes. and if one more researcher talks about “video evidence” ill fucking kill them. literally.

research is not something creatives hate. quite the fucking opposite even more so when it opens new directions for us which the frightened little client cant automatically say no to because the reasons are there in black and white (and grey) in front of them.

when campbell started talking about developing research based on fbi techniques i thought the fucker had watched one too many episodes of csi even though the show hadnt been invented yet but we let him have his fun and whatcha know, it works and is useful as fuck for us all. and with cultures influence the fuckers done it again and even though every ad man and his dog have jumped on the same bandwagon hes the only one whose doing real interesting things with it and thats why im glad hes on my side even if that means i have to deal with a planner who will never come up with money featuring birds with their double ds out for my enjoyment.

if people are rational they wouldnt waste their time on this blog so stick that in your fucking pipe j&j brand manager, singapore government, ac neilsen types.

Comment by andy@cynic

The problem with advertising and research is they try and create “rules” as this enables them to justify their subsequent actions.

The reason why I love the methodologies you developed with Paul is they constantly take into account how life is influencing their thoughts, attitudes and behavior which means we get a much more rounded view of how to engage and interest them. This is a great post and I have to say I enjoyed Andy’s comment as well.

There’s a trend in most industries to jump on any promoted thought leadership bandwagon even if they have little understanding of the real context of the view. I think you call these people corporate amoeba’s or something like that and even though I know you have a Bonoesque ego, I also know this forensic and cultural view is something you’ve supported for many, many years so I can relate to your annoyance when people have started shouting about it without any real depth of study or change in approach to work.

This is a great post and your work in this field, both input and output, stands for itself though that CIA idea is deviously brilliant too.

Comment by Pete

Putting John’s [probably accurate] comment aside, this is not about me seeking credit for banging on about this sort of thing for years.

As I mention in my post, this approach is not new – at least in the wider context of business – however to Andy’s point, I do get dismayed when I hear more and more ad/marketing folk going on about its power and potential and then not allowing it to have any influence in their one dimensional approach to anything to do with connecting with society – be it product development through to advertising.

I appreciate not everyone agrees with my ideas, approach, attitude or methodology but I never say the stuff I’ve developed with other guys is the be-all and end-all, I use more traditional methods as well … I just have the belief that for all the money being spent on understanding people and their behaviour, it’s funny that the amount of brands that actually mean something to people – something that means they continue to spend and stay loyal even if other factors [ie: distribution, price etc] are against them – is getting less and less.

Comment by Rob

can i remind someone that hitler was ethically opposed to religion, but still actively tried to counterfeit the dollar, which contains the scroll “in god we trust” all over it. genocide and currency are about power, not the fucking picture on the paper.

Comment by lauren

Good post. On another tack, I’m getting a little tired of work that strives to be culturally significant and forgets to have some relevance to what it’s trying to sell. Sure, advertising, communications and stuff should get talked about, but is it enough for people to talk about your advertising, rather than your brand?

Comment by northern

I thoroughly enjoyed this post and was all set to bestow a plethora of accolades upon the work you have done until I came across John’s comment which has totally disrupted my train of thought.

Comment by Lee Hill

And I thought you were immune from John’s childish behaviour Lee … ha!

I agree with your comment NP … however my view is that work that is ‘culturally relevant’ without being commerically relevant is total and utter bullshit.

We’re in the commercial creative business and that means ultimately finding ways that make our clients more money in some way … and whilst cultural relevance is vitally important – and will be increasingly so – if it’s not done in conjunction with a more direct business benefit, then its indulgence rather than intelligence.

Hopefully with the examples I’ve done and continue to do, this is the case – but it could also be that many people TALK about culture but don’t actually understand what it means, what it can do and what the implications are.

Comment by Rob

Wonder if those corporate fucktards at P&G ever open thier mind to new approaches apart from Millward Brown Persuasion and Awareness score. Sigh. And they keep shouting about Cultural and Thought Leadership. Is this my career limiting comment? F#@& cares. I love this post!!

Comment by pooR\

Is culture imposed, imitative or incremental? Or all of the above? And do any of those make it less than rational (in respect of societal rather than purchase behaviour that is)?

Comment by John

Thank you pooR\ … and I hope you have some good news soon, you know what I’m talking about.

As for you Mr Dodds … or should I say Professor Dodds [?] … I don’t think there is one answer that is applicable to all, but I do know that Asia’s cultural value system [which is different by country/region/province] dictates how people think/act/feel to a much greater degree than those in the West … and whilst things are changing/evolving – at its heart the ‘rules’ of life engagement are still quite similar in a lot of ways to what they were over thousands of years which is a bit of a mind fuck, but ultimately something you have to get a grip on – if only to try and seed attitudinal change as our French friend did for Nestle coffee brands in Japan.

Comment by Robert

We have a French friend? How did that happen?

Comment by John

I wasn’t expecting a definitive answer (which is good as you didnt give one ha!) just putting the idea out there that it’s very easy for people to read that behaviour is not in some sense “rational” and conclude that this means it’s “irrational” and all bets are off. There is always a reason, it’s just not necessarily, as you rightly imply, an easily predicted one i.e one that will happen again and again regardless of the evolution of the context.

Economics was predicated on that sort of over-simplified reductionsim and look where that got us.

Behaviour is complex.

Comment by John

Your last line is just you quoting what the judge said to you at your trial isn’t it.

In all seriousness, one of the big problems I have with research is their ability to talk in ‘definites’ when [dealing with people’s actions and behaviours] there is rarely any.

Sure there can be more expected outcomes – driven by a number of factors of which culture is one – however the whole thing is that opinions can change or be influenced to change and so what made sense yesterday may be different by tomorrow.

Saying that, I do believe when you understand culture and the effect it has on certain people’s actions and behaviour, you can make more calculated assumptions on how certain events will cause them to react … but then it is important to note that as much as from a macro level there are huge similiarities in what we do, when you get closer, you can tell a World of change.

If only adland didn’t deal in generalisations …

Comment by Rob

This is one my favorite posts from you Rob. It reads like a presentation, rounded off nicely even down to your last line. Thanks for the lesson 😉

Comment by Age

Yeah … yeah … you only like it because it has photos of breasts in the post!

Comment by Rob

and what mighty large breasts they are!

Comment by Age

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