Changing your Mind

Getting you to change your mind (and thus your behaviour) is the objective of most marketing. But what if it’s the marketers struggling to keep up with our changing minds?

As we multi-task more, we emerge with a weakened sense of identity, finding it hard to empathise with others or concentrate well, warns (Baroness) Susan Greenfield, Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology at Oxford University. She says that the amount of multi-tasking people carry out in daily life is dramatically affecting the human brain.

Neuromarketing author Martin Lindstrom agrees: “Our brains are rewiring themselves because of multi-tasking, so the new younger generation are in fact more able to multi-task than older generations. This isn’t because they have trained themselves to do it, it’s because the brain is literally redesigning itself around the fact they are multi-tasking from birth.”

Greenfield explains that the human brain and short-term memory can only cope with a limited amount of input: Advertising messages on TV and billboards have been replaced with multiple channels – social networks, email, websites and face-to-face communication. Everything is scrambling for our attention, but according to Greenfield we can only cope with so much.

For marketers, achieving cut-through in a multi-tasking, social media age will increasingly involve understanding the consumer’s sense of identity. Brands that feed consumers’ desire for individual acknowledgement will seem more interesting and thereby gain an unfair share of attention.

Individual interaction then becomes the key to being relevant to the younger generation. Back to Greenfield: “Brands will need to make you feel wanted, important and individual. Goods or services that help people be creative, do something that no one else has done, or join the dots up in a new way, will be very powerful as they give people a sense of uniqueness. Just as we adapt to the environment, the environment drives what’s happening to the brain and will create different needs and motivations.”

E-mail hits productivity more than smoking dope

E-mail was supposed to enhance productivity right? Well in fact the daily distractions of e-mails and instant messages cause a greater loss of IQ than smoking marijuana. Constant interruptions reduce productivity and leave people feeling tired and lethargic, according to a TNS Research survey of 1,100 Britons showing:

  • Almost two out of three people check their electronic messages out of office hours and when on holiday
  • Half of all workers respond to an e-mail within 60 minutes of receiving one
  • One in five will break off from a business or social engagement to respond to a message.
  • Three out of 10 people believed answering messages during face-to-face meetings was not only acceptable, but a sign of diligence and efficiency.
But Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King’s College London University, found the IQ of those who tried to juggle messages and work fell by 10 points — the equivalent to missing a whole night’s sleep and more than double the 4-point fall seen after smoking marijuana.

“This is a very real and widespread phenomenon,” Wilson said. “We have found that this obsession with looking at messages, if unchecked, will damage a worker’s performance by reducing their mental sharpness.”

Note – this is 2005 research but I happened across it today and it reinforces something I have blogged about here in the past. Surely the problem has got even greater in the last seven years? I would be delighted if anyone could point me to further academic research in this area.

If a picture’s worth a thousand words …

… what are 3.5 trillion photos worth? That’s how many photos have ever been taken, according to photo archive site 1000Memories. The company estimates that Facebook currently houses over 140 billion photos uploaded by users, with 6 billion per month being uploaded. The typical digital camera owner takes about 150 digital images per year and potentially uploads 20 percent of those to Facebook.

Of course the real driver of our snap-happiness is the convenience of digital. It currently takes two minutes for people to collectively snap the same amount of photos that were captured during the entire nineteenth century. Ten per cent of those 3.5 trillion photos were taken in the last 12 months alone. Analog photography hit its peak in the year 2000 when 85 billion physical photos were captured, a figure that translates to 2,500 photos per second.

The picture above is the first photo ever taken to feature a human being. The image shows a busy street, but due to exposure time of more than ten minutes, the traffic was moving too much to appear. The exception is the man at the bottom left getting his boots polished, who stood still long enough to show on the picture.

But are we becoming better photographers? Ealier this year I blogged about the greatest photo ever taken – and it was by a machine rather than a human being. Undoubtedly there are far more people who describe themselves as keen on photography now – what digital does allow us to do is to fail repeatedly until we get it right. I am reminded of a saying from Aristotle which points to repeated practice leading to excellence – in time we will all become better snappers.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Here’s to the Crazy Ones

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes.

The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They invent. They imagine. They heal. They explore. They create. They inspire. They push the human race forward.

Maybe they have to be crazy.

How else can you stare at an empty canvas and see a work of art? Or sit in silence and hear a song that’s never been written? Or gaze at a red planet and see a laboratory on wheels?

While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

The text is from the 1998 “Think Different” Apple ad that marked the beginning of Apple’s re-emergence as a technical giant thanks to the return of Steve Jobs. I don’t think it’s possible to over-estimate Steve Jobs’ impact on the worlds of technology and business. Not just in what he did, but in the way that what he did inspired or enabled so many others to make great things in whatever they did. The human body is fragile but the human spirit can, occasionally, soar to dizzying heights. RIP Steve Jobs.

Pigeon Post

To blog or to micro-blog – that is the question.

Yesterday, a very close friend said to me it was a shame I wasn’t updating my blog as much as I had been.  Then Jemima Kiss wrote in the Observer about compulsive digital behaviour and obsessive tweeting.

They might appear to share much in common, but there’s a huge difference between blogging and micro-blogging (updates on Twitter or facebook). The former is a chance to explore an idea, develop a theme, chronicle something of the modern world. The latter can be the simplicity of a single thought, or tend towards an addiction, an anxiety-inducing need to constantly chatter, corroding concentration and eating away at considered thought or action.

Snapping and uploading; Twitter; YouTube; Instagram: it seems that in reporting the moment, the Twitterati risk missing the full impact of the moment itself.  I’ve blogged here in the past about the effect multi-tasking is having on our brains. Now I am as concerned about the effect Twitter is having on our ability to savour the moments that makes life special.

As an early adopter, a self-confessed geek who loves his tech, I love playing with digital kit and the applications it supports. As someone who works in digital communications and social media in particular, I am not about to turn my back on tweeting altogether. And I remain convinced of the power of digital comms in education, business, culture and other walks of life.

So there’s still a place for brevity and immediacy, for news flashes and links to articles, for Twitter. But now, I want to redress the balance away from excessive tweeting and back towards celebrating and questioning life in a form longer than 140 characters.

Today I’ve renamed this blog. Pigeon Post is the wonderfully-named bolt hole we have in South Devon. It’s our place – a place where tweeting seems too, well, urban. A place where life moves at the kind of pace where you have time to consider.

Life on the Move

Tweet. Buy. Sell. Watch TV. Play games. Take pictures. Upload pictures. Read a book. Play chess. There was a time when your mobile phone was about voice calls and texts. Now it’s about every form of media in your pocket. And every form of marketing.

This week the great and good of the mobile world gathered for the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. During the week we heard that: smartphones had outsold PCs for the first time; the tectonic plates of Nokia and Microsoft moved together; and the facebook phone launched.

That last point is important because on mobile, as everywhere else, it’s all about social media. 50% of UK mobile internet traffic is for facebook. Stop – read again – that’s 50%! And this is where marketers will increasingly focus their thinking. The overlap between social and mobile.

It was only recently that mobile marketing moved out of the innovation labs. But today there are 75m mobile subscriptions in the UK – for just 60m people. Even today, 24% of those are smartphones, but by 2015, 75% will be smartphones – mobile computers capable of doing more than a 1980s supercomputer the size of a factory.

“Mobile will become a powerful advertising medium”, said Sir Martin Sorrell in Barcelona earlier this week, with the apps market alone tripling in size to $15bn in a year. I think we all recognize the immense power of the medium – now we need to find ways of engaging with the mood, mode and context of mobile users in a way which makes messages relevant. We need to do no less than re-invent marketing for a mobile world.

Here is the Forecast for 2011 – Part 2

And here’s the rest of the 11 predictions for 2011:

6. Mobile. Each of the last 10 years has been heralded the Year of Mobile. What makes 2011 different is not reach (the UK already has more mobile devices than people) or even smartphone uptake (although that will accelerate), it is usage by most people, increasingly using mobiles to search, shop, research brands and prices. Brands that don’t understand the small screen will suffer, those that make it easy to connect and buy on the move will thrive.

7. Social commerce – coming together to buy in groups – will start to take off. Get your Facebook friends to buy the same thing, and the price for all will come down. Or try Groupon’s successful deal-of-the-day model. Facebook has become the new shopping mall, e-commerce changes all over again.

8. In an ever more pressured society, simplicity will win in communications as much as elsewhere.

9. 4G. No this isn’t the comedy item on the list. The next generation of mobile broadband is already rolling out across Scandinavia, the USA and  Japan, with O2 already having test areas up and running in the UK. So will 4G change your life? If you need Coronation Street in HD live streamed to your mobile, then yes. Otherwise, set your Sky+ like the rest of us.

10. Google’s absolute dominance will start to wane. Now there’s a foolhardy prediction surely? But I am not alone in thinking time is ripe for competition. Social search will come to mean much more – as our friends’ recommendations mean much more to us than the Googleplex’s views. And new search options (and I don’t just mean Bing) will start to gain critical mass – try Blekko or Yandex for a glimpse of the future of search.

11. Lists will be bigger than ever. Need traffic? Want readers? Seek acclaim? Write it in a list  and people will read. Lists hold readers’ attention – as you’ve just proved….

Have a great start to the New Year and here’s to a prosperous one for all who sail in it.

Here is the forecast for 2011

11 predictions for 2011 in marketing – part 1:

1.  The end of digital marketing. Yes, the end, not the continued growth, nor the high point. Because we’ve moved from digital marketing to marketing for a digital age. Because now digital is everywhere, it no  longer makes sense to bracket digital spend from other “channels”. The AAR reported that last year the number of digital pitches decreased by 33%, which compared to 21% across the whole industry. From now on it’s just marketing….

2. …. Which is why Integrated is my next theme of the year. Integrated pitches, integrated campaigns and integrated strategic thinking will define 2011, filling the vacuum left by “digital marketing” and defining effective communications. Success this year will be about ideas that work across platforms, making best use of mobile, or consumers’ use of social media, or understanding how people use radio today. Call it transmedia, cross-platform, multi-channel – winning marketing will be what engages people in the mood, mode and context of their day.

3. Honeysuckle. That’s the colour of 2011. Don’t take my word for it – this is why the Pantone Colour Institute reckons honeysuckle is setting the tone for the year: “A Color for All Seasons. Courageous. Confident. Vital. A dynamic reddish pink, Honeysuckle is encouraging and uplifting. It elevates our psyche beyond escape, instilling the confidence, courage and spirit to meet the exhaustive challenges that have become part of everyday life.” My feelings exactly.

4. Social media marketing spend will finally start to catch up with social media use. P&G’s Pepto Bismol is the latest brand to take a tonic to get over indulgence in offline media – switching from 80% of its budget focused on offline marketing to 80% on social media marketing.

5. 3DTV will move from the ridiculous to the periphery in 2011. That’s a long way short of mainstream, but it’s on the path towards becoming normal. There’s nothing normal about those glasses of course, so wait until 2012 and glasses-free 3D before it really hits its stride.  But start trying 3D marketing in the meantime.

Part 2 follows tomorrow, including social commerce, 4G mobile networks and the importance of lists …

One at a time please

Check e-mail. Facebook. Read the paper. Tweet. Check voicemail. And all of that while watching TV.  We are increasingly becoming defined by connectivity.  Work and home life mingle as a result. Multi-tasking extends now into most of modern life.

Is that what we really want? Well, many people tell me that multi-tasking makes them more productive. Increasingly, scientists disagree. Even after the multi-tasking ends, Stanford University research shows fractured thinking and lack of focus persist.

“Nonstop interactivity is one of the most significant shifts ever in the human environment,” says Adam Gazzaley of the University of California, San Francisco.

“We are exposing our brains to an environment and asking them to do things we weren’t necessarily evolved to do,” he said. “We know already there are consequences.”

I see consequences in my own life. Only ten years ago I would read a novel a fortnight. Now I fill most of my reading hours with browser behaviour – the sort of material I can consume in seconds: Twitter, news alerts, blogs, e-mail.

Last summer Emily Yoffe convinced me in an article in Slate, drawing on more than 50 years of psychology experiments, to conclude that the internet feeds the “seeking” part of our brains, flooding them with dopamine, but never accessing the opioids to deliver pleasure to the brain.

Other research underlines that people interrupted by e-mail report increased stress compared to those left to focus.

Whether it’s reading a novel for pleasure, concentrating utterly on a work task or even just spending time just on a conversation with the children, it may be time to ask whether, for all our connectivity keeping us plugged in to what’s going on, we might do better to concentrate on the task in hand. For our own sake, one task at a time please.

Getting a Fix off the Internet

internet attention span deficitWhat is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

WH Davies’ opening lines of his poem Leisure came to me at the end of another hectic week in which I flitted from e-mail to tweet to blog, hooked on communication but managing to spend ever less time actually reading.

Only ten years ago I would read a novel a fortnight. Now I fill most of my reading hours with the sort of material I can consume in seconds: Twitter, Facebook, news alerts, blogs, e-mail and lots and lots of searches.

I am not alone. Nicholas Carr asked in the Atlantic this time last year “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”  In it he speculates that our constant Internet scrolling is remodeling our brains to make it nearly impossible for us to sustain attention.

Emily Yoffe followed up in Slate, drawing on more than 50 years of psychology experiments to conclude that the internet feeds the “seeking” part of our brains, flooding them with dopamine, but never accessing the opioids to deliver pleasure to the brain.

Our brains are designed to be more easily stimulated than satisfied. “The brain seems to be more stingy with mechanisms for pleasure than for desire,” according to University of Michigan research.

“The dopamine system does not have satiety built into it,” Michigan researcher Kent Berridge explains. “And under certain conditions it can lead us to irrational wants we’d be better off without.”

So one Google search leads to another, although the information is not vital. It becomes easier to write an e-mail than a long paper. And we keep hitting “enter” to get our next fix.

If you’re still reading this article, then we’re not altogether lost. But do mankind a favour. Consider walking away from the blog and go and read a good book for a change.