All posts tagged advertising

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The Secret of Neuromarketing: Go for the Pain

We all like to think we make buying decisions on a rational level, but neuroscientists tell us otherwise. While marketers have known this instinctively, brain mappers have shown that the smallest part of the brain, the amygdala, lights up like a Christmas tree when confronted with fight-or-flight or in this case buy-or-fly situations.

SalesBrain, is based in San Francisco and claims to be the world’s first neuromarketing agency. They believe that if a company wants someone to buy its products or services, it must seduce the reptilian brain — the part that controls fear and other emotions.

The company’s approach is to help marketers look at the frustrations and challenges consumers experience. “Humans are pain-avoiding machines, sometimes our pain points are conscious and sometimes unconscious.”

They offer six simple rules that small businesses can follow:

  1. Don’t use the word “we” or start off your pitch with a corporate overview that lasts 10 minutes. Focus instead on how to relieve your customers’ pain. Our brains are extremely self-centered, and we care most about our own survival.
  2. About 10,000 messages are sent to our brains daily, so get to the point. “When you sell to the lower brain structure, you must say, ‘This is your life with our product or service, this is your life without,’”. There was a successful campaign that helped a client that was selling home flood remediation services to major insurance companies. The campaign featured a traveling exhibit that showed a flooded home and how the company had mastered the art of drying home interiors. “The reptilian brain gets very stimulated by this kind of disruption. Stay away from, “We are one of the leading providers.” It’s the marketing equivalent of sugar — empty calories.
  3. Make your points visual. Remember the “See and Say” books from childhood? Don’t just tell; show. “We are visual people, and the eyes are directly connected to the reptilian brain,”
  4. Stay concrete and make it tangible. The primal brain isn’t able to understand complex language or metaphors. As much as we love word play, if it’s too complicated, it doesn’t get processed by the parts of us that make decisions. Creating ads with facial expressions is good. “Facial expressions help us decode what people’s intentions are,”
  5. Gain attention quickly in your advertising or marketing and make sure you have a strong close. The brain pays the most attention at the beginning and end of an event. It’s important because the brain needs to recap and store.
  6. Use emotion. It creates disruption, a contrast with what we expect — surprise, laughter, fear, disgust, anger, it really doesn’t matter. If there is emotion, we are more likely to remember the message. Nothing happens in the brain unless some chemical process has found a code to create memories. To create a memorable brand, therefore, you have to use emotional connectors in your advertising. Don’t just give your audience the facts, tell them how it will make their lives better and solve their pain.

All in all, they believe that if your target market has to kick your advertising up to their cortex, its not going to be as effective. At advertising agencies, clients should be encouraged to let us create advertising that makes that critical emotional connection. Reflect a moment on infomercials. While often considered the bottom feeders of the marketing food chain, infomercials can be effective because they follow these rules: show contrast, keep it simple and be visual.


In May, the Corporate Executive Board, shared research that suggested that brands that help consumers simplify the decision process have customers who are far more likely to purchase their products and recommend them to others. It is a fascinating study that is featured in the Harvard Business Review and states that many businesses are pushing customers away by bombarding them with messaging that is not relevant to how they make decisions.

There has also been much discussion lately about the rewiring that is happening to our brains because of our constant interaction with computers and smartphones. This interaction is further reducing our attention spans, which is pushing overworked and overcommitted consumers to make purchasing and other decisions more quickly. The upshot is that people want information but they want it baby style — pureed to its most basic and served simply.

Source: New York Times blog.

Neuromarketing 101

To start to understand the premise of Neuro CX, it’s worth giving you a quick overview of NeuroMarketing so you get a sense of how marketing and utilities are evolving.

The vast majority of advertising campaigns, media experiences, online content and political propaganda these days directly target the instinctive, reptilian part of the brain that handles ‘instinct’. Fight or Flight. I believe this is why a lot of modern marketing (and I’m sorry to say NeuroMarketing as a whole field) is flawed because it only creates short term bursts of engagement rather than long-term ongoing stimulus. You took the Pepsi Challenge once & after that there was no surprise, right?

Associating good feelings with a specific product makes us more likely to choose that brand over the competition’s. Neuromarketing is based on sensory stimulation, in the hopes of awakening good feelings about a product or image. It does so, however, with solid scientific evidence from brain studies. Harvard psychologists developed NeuroMarketing in 1990 based on the concept of “meme” created by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins.

Memes are beliefs or behaviors that spread from one person to the next naturally within a culture. With the concept of meme, the belief or behavior is self-replicating, at least while it lasts. Examples of memes are catchphrases people in a particular region use, conspiracy theories, urban legends, Internet slang and even fashions. Memes, or memetics, are used in viral marketing to hopefully catch on and spread from person to person or through the Web. An example is the current use of pink to represent breast cancer. Even if it didn’t start out with that intent, the use of pink in products now associates with advocacy for the disease. The smell of freshly baked bread usually equates to coziness and a loving home. It’s automatic in people’s brains, so marketers can use the smell or image of baked bread to sell a product they want people to associate with comfort and home.

The Zaltman metaphor elicitation technique (ZMET) is a neuromarketing technique designed to entice a response using neuromarketing. ZMET is about image-only ads. Absolut vodka, for example, has run a campaign for years using a picture of the product’s bottle disguised as something else. To understand the ad, viewers need to pause for at least a few seconds and look closely. This affects the reward center of your brain (more about this later!) as you think to yourself: “I solved the puzzle!” and it also forces you to pay attention to the product. A single image can transmit a number of emotions if used correctly. Images also can reach people of different ages and cultural backgrounds, because some pictures can mean different things to different groups. Words, on the other hand, would have to be modified for each group.

Neuromarketers have been using new techniques to measure what happens in the brain during marketing to test the effects of ZMET. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a type of MRI scan that analyzes the response of the brain to different stimuli by measuring minute metabolic changes that occur in active parts of the brain. An increase in heart rate or respiration intensity can also indicate a feeling of excitement, a positive response to the marketing ad.

It’s also been proven that people decide within the first second the ad airs, or more accurately, the first fraction of a second. This is why images are so important in neuromarketing. If marketers know what to show first in an ad, they can grab a potential customer’s attention and hold it. This is the first major difference

Humans are visual animals, and 65 percent of any message has visual cues as its basis. First impressions or opinions about a product are heavily connected to whether we like the “look” of the product. It’s also one of the reasons why a recognizable brand or logo is important.

NeuroMarketing is about a rush of blood to the head or the goose bumps we get when we are moved by great design and advertising… That’s NOT Neuro CXNeuro CX is something very very very different.


A neurological recipe for success

 Do something for me please – before you get too comfy, get out your iPod or go to your stereo and put on your FAVORITE song and listen to it while you read this post. You’ll find out why later. Cheers.

Done? Awesome. Read on then friends.

I believe that all clear-minded people should remain two things throughout their lifetimes: curious and teachable. ― Roger Ebert

In 2013 I went on a journey into human motivation. I set out to try and understand not just what a good experience is, but why a good experience is a good experience. It’s changed the way I look at creating services, tools, apps, marketing and stories. More than ever it’s important to make Customer Experience that stands out from the competition and I believe there is a basic recipe for success.

Welcome to the most powerful tool in digital… The Brain

It’s a busy little organ the brain. It’s tireless, it never takes a vacation and has work to do 24/7. A continuously evolving organ made up of lots of little compartments for doing lots of little things & is the most complex organ in the body. A three-pound mass of gray and white matter that sits at the center of all human activity – you need it to drive a car, to enjoy a meal, to breathe, to create an artistic masterpiece, and to enjoy everyday activities. In brief, the brain regulates your basic body functions; enables you to interpret and respond to everything you experience; and shapes your thoughts, emotions, and behavior. It’s fuelled by a combination of genetic based learnings – called fluid intelligence – and experiential based learnings – known as crystallised intelligence.

What is Neuro CX?

The beginning of wisdom, is the definition of terms – Socrates

It’s to do with NeuroMarketing, right? Nah… Not this one. A totally different thing. It’s got manipulating the brain in common, but Neuro CX is about longevity and teaching consumers to repeat behavior and start associating those repeated behaviors to good feelings, good experiences and the brands that supply them.

It’s about tapping into crystalilised intelligence and making people want to continuously open your app, or visit your website or engage with your product.

The challenge for any provider is creating continuous sustained usage with users. Remember, products used daily create a barrier to entry for competitors in their market. If your users are unable to imagine life without your product, you can safely say you’ve met your goal. So what makes a habit?

When a human encounters an experience (offline, online, good or bad) and it is deemed a ‘sensation‘ – i.e “that was amazing” or “that was terrible” – the brain releases the chemical dopamine which lets an areas of the brain called the ‘Reward Centre‘ know to deliver a sense of pleasure or pain, happiness or sadness and focus the attention of the individual so that he or she learns to repeat the behaviour (or not) again and again. When you think about some of the great technology solutions of the last 20 years, many share a common ground: they create a habit. When technology has created a habit in people, a person’s use of a product is automatic, without thought.

The reward center of the brain is critically involved in mediating the effects of reinforcement. A reward is an appetitive stimulus given to a person to alter behavior. Rewards typically serve as reinforcers. A reinforcer is something that, when presented after a behavior, causes the probability of that behavior’s occurrence to increase. It’s also how positive experiences remain engrained with an individual. We are literally genetically programmed to remember positive and negative things and if we like them, repeat them over and over until it becomes a habit.

The more you can get the user to do something without making a conscious decision, the stronger the habit becomes. Frequency of use leads to the creation of a habit in your users; so if your users are coming back regularly, it’s likely that habits are forming.

You can read a more in-depth overview of the biological bit here.

There are three major mechanisms we can use to manipulate the reward center. Put them together and we have Neuro CX;

  1. Expanding scenarios linked to sustained progress and instant gratification (Joygasms)
  2. Encouraged altruism (Kudos)
  3. Repeated, interrupted experiences (Commas)

A lot of tools, websites, social media and apps offer one or some of the above… But it’s the really really sticky (read ‘Addictive’) experiences that give the user a little hint of all three.

Expanding scenarios linked to sustained progress and instant gratification – Joygasms

Associate Conditioning

Associating good feelings with desire to repeat an action, task or activity is where things start to get interesting. We call this “associative conditioning” and it’s this response of learning that positive feeling is linked to certain experiences that we can bake into our work.

If we get really contrived with it, we may even be able to encourage addiction to a service or function. Scientists have long known that the release of dopamine is strongly associated with addictive behaviours. Addictions occur when the brain betrays the body, causing feelings of pleasure from activities.

By creating certain ‘ideal conditions’ that stimulate the Reward Centre we can create repeat behaviour. Similarly we can also introduce negative scenarios and teach people to avoid things too.

Researchers at the University of Iowa have observed that emotions persist in individuals even after they forget the cause, an important clue about how the brain stores different kinds of information and worth remembering when we plan our experiences. The act of doing might vanish from conscience thought, but the feeling whist doing could remain.

Even though emotions seem fused together with memories in our stream of consciousness, it turns out that this is not the case.

Here’s another random but interesting one: A recent study published in the journal of Neuropsychopharmacology suggests that despite the bitter taste, the chemicals in beer also trigger the brain’s reward system. This pleasurable effect might explain why we’re so willing to keep drinking past the first sip — until intoxication takes over, and we’ll drink just about anything after we’re drunk. It may also explain why some people can drink casually while others slip into alcoholism.

It’s the Reward System that these artificial stimulants fire up and why drugs & alcohol can be addictive & what we can recreate the conditions of using digital.

The trick to this is also capturing people in the moment of intent – at that point where they’re deciding to or not do something like going to lunch and looking for a place to eat, or deciding whether to walk or drive to work in the morning… hit them in the moments with a little nudge of generosity and repeat that behavior over and over at the same time until the behavior is changed; “Check your balance – POSITIVE REWARD” … “Check your balance – POSITIVE REWARD” … “Check your balance – POSITIVE REWARD” … “Check your balance – NEGATIVE NUMBER, BUT DON’T FEAR, YOU’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK, KEEP GOING YOU STUD” … “Check your balance – POSITIVE REWARD”.

These notifications need to be planned and intended to spur activity in the moment, deployed at just the right time. Built around a very important idea: Adding notifications to a service isn’t just good for letting us see what we’ve done. It’s also crucial for building services that can tell us what we should be doing.

Activity tracking is one thing; activity tweaking is something else entirely. That’s why real-life coaches are so great. They help you set goals that are relevant to your life, and they help push you to achieve them. They’re personal. This is the piece that most services have missed thus far and that we need to get better at to make Neuro CX a real possibility.

You have to create your service with the ability to constantly slurp up data from your world and sort notifications into two broad categories. The first are the notifications you get when things happen and reward you with a pat on the back when you hit a Streak or a Milestones.

There’s a dopamine response that happens when you get a digital pat on the back. Actually being able to connect that dopamine response to the behavior is very powerful to the feedback cycle.

Travis Bogard, VP of Product Management and Strategy at Jawbone

The other preemptive notifications need to come through a more structured goal feature which lets the user opt into day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, year-to-year goals. Telling you that you’re on track with the bigger things in life. The virtual equivalent of a beckoning spouse – Helping you at decision points born not out of a domestic routine but data, algorithms, and  connectivity.

Encouraged Altruism – Kudos

During this kind of highly structured, self-motivated hard work, we regularly achieve the greatest form of happiness available to human beings: intense, optimistic engagement with the world around us. We feel fully alive, full of potential and purpose–in other words, we are completely activated as human beings. – Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Another major factor that can effect and trigger the Reward Center is altruism. MRI studies have revealed that when we perform an act of kindness, the Reward Center is aroused and we experience feelings of pleasure. The brain is flooded with happiness-inducing dopamine whenever we share something we think other people might find useful or help out someone deemed to be in need, or worse off than ourselves. So getting people to pass things around (once you’ve rewarded them with it in the first place) could be another great way of getting people addicted or immersed in your content;

You earned 100 points, unlocked the best content yet – Why not share that content or how you got to it with your friends & earn an extra 50 points.

Stand back, possible dopamine explosion imminent. The ego has landed.

The oh-so-exciting “Frontiers in Human Neuroscience“, also shed new light on how the brain responds to reward and translates it into extraverted behaviour; “Rewards like food, sex and social interactions as well as more abstract goals such as earning money or getting positive peer recognition also trigger the release of dopamine in the brain, producing positive emotions and feelings of desire that motivate us to work toward obtaining those goals even more. In extroverts, this dopamine response to rewards is more robust so they experience more frequent activation of strong positive emotions,”.

This reinforces my belief that the mavens (a trusted expert in a particular field or someone who seeks to pass knowledge on to others) have to be the crucial first wave of people to be introduced into a new service or product before release to the general populous. Beta should not be a place fir everybody, it absolutely has to be a carefully targeted thing that finds and recruits the extroverts who are going to end up being the dopamine fuelled messengers and recruiters to your new service or product. Rewarding those mavens is also crucial because the Dopamine released facilitates memory of the circumstances that are associated with the reward moment which is a significant role in sustaining extroverted behaviour. Extroverts show a greater association of context with reward than introverts, which means that over time, extroverts will acquire a more extensive network of reward-context memories that activate their brain’s reward system.

If you think about the reward center in the context of an extrovert, it’s possible that something like posting on Facebook & the ‘Likes’ generated over time from the generosity of sharing, can literally become addictive to an extrovert & therefore encourage even more sharing in order to get more likes & so on & so on. It’s why some people share so much of their lives in such a sustained & open fashion. It taps right into the part of their psyche that gets joy & reward for the generosity of telling people they’ve just done something inept or found something kinda useful.

I myself am probably as I type getting high on the idea that the 2 people who read this post might share it. Bonus.

Repeated, interrupted pleasure points – commas

The Zeigarnik Effect

Let me go back to a previous post I’ve made about the ideals of gamification and in particular the Zeigarnik Effect. It covers a simple principle – People remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. Sounds a bit mad I know, but it’s true.

The “cliffhanger” just may be the oldest trick in the story-telling book, especially for television and there is a reason why it’s used to great affect… you want to tune back in!

Despite numerous exposures to this method, our brain just can’t “get over” suspenseful moments: it’s a relationship that just won’t die, we will always want to know what happens next!

In fact, suspense works so well that the Zeigarnik Effect would have you believe that it’s the best way to kill procrastination.

Research in that area seems to point to humans being much more inclined to finish something that has already been started (researchers interrupted people doing “brain buster” tasks before they could complete them… nearly 90% of people went on to finish the task anyway, despite being told they could stop).

A University of Maryland study of undergraduates found that after a physics lecture by a well-regarded professor, almost no students could provide a specific answer to the question, “What was the lecture you just heard about?”. Another study by Kansas State University found that after watching a video of a highly rated physics lecture, most students still incorrectly answered questions on the material. When students were quizzed about a fact presented only 15 minutes earlier, only 10 percent showed any sign of remembering it.

Suspense in stories really allows you to create addictive, memorable content, as long as the suspense appears early enough in the activity and is combined with a positive ending or reward – Now we’re getting into Neuro CX.

Consider the idea that lots of positive, but unfinished tasks, start to shape a formula for successful and sticky experiences that people will want to engage with and repeat over and over again.

This is of course nothing new – It’s just the old nudge strategy mapped back to some new thinking and neurological reasoning. But by breaking things down and mapping seemingly dispirit principles together, I’ve done is make us realise just how important it is to plan in a solid set of these functions in every single project I work on.

Nice work fella, you just read a piece of content about Investing… have 5 points. 10 bits of content read… have 100 points. But no more today, tomorrow is a better day to unlock your destiny.

Positive Distractions Help You Remember

The Zeigarnik effect also suggests that people who suspend their primary task and engage in totally unrelated activities such as playing games, will remember the primary material better than those who complete tasks without a break. We should literally be interrupting task flow with totally unrelated, positive experiences.

It’s possible that interrupting people mid-registration or an important application might be something for us to try. Literally going against what we’ve been preaching for over a decade now. Instead of making registration simple and quick, let’s make it longer but bite-sized. Lewin’s Field Theory states that a task or experience that has already been started, establishes a task-specific tension. This tension, once established is relieved upon completion of the task. In the case of task interruption the reduction of tension is being impeded. Through continuous tension the content can be more easily remembered.

It’s also great if the positive secondary experience is not directly linked to your primary, because we can teach consumers something totally random and they’ll begin to associate that with the brand or procedure that served it up + distract them from potentially dull or time consuming primary subject matter.

For alcoholics, research has found that even the sight or smell of beer is rewarding to the brain, pushing them to drink – A secondary experience linked back to the primary drive. In a related study published by neuroscientist Valorie Salimpoor at the Montreal Neurological Institute, it was discovered that music can also activate the same reward circuits in the brain as alcohol.

In 2005 Teresa Lesiuk studied “the effect of music listening on work performance” and found that music promotes a “positive mood change and enhanced perception on design while working.” Results showed that quality of work was lowest when no music was played, and that individuals actually spent longer on a task when there was no music. On the other hand, those who who did listen to music finished their assignments more quickly and proposed better ideas.

An article from Psychology Today adds that while listening to music may be productive for some, it can be a distraction to others; therefore, they offered several things to consider when choosing music for productivity:

  • Use music with no words to avoid interfering with language tasks.
  • Silence is a kind of music and can be just as effective as music. If music is a distraction, try nature sounds.
  • Listen to music you like because it helps you feel better.
  • Try different speeds, or tempos, of music as it alters the mood and can help with tasks that require a different pace or energy.
  • Take musical breaks. A change of environment, even sonically can make a big difference in work productivity.

So here’s a thought for you – why not start to introduce new, totally random elements into traditionally boring tasks. For example, what if the first question in a long, drawn out banking application process was “what’s your favourite song Bob?” which drags the tune out of iTunes & plays an instrumental version of it in the background while you fill in the boring bits. In theory dopamine would flood the reward system and you’d feel positive throughout the experience. The perfect distraction to the dull job at hand. Associate Conditioning also starts to link the happy feeling with the task and / or brand too. It might not be as random as it sounds.


I’ve also put together another post around applied application of NeuroCX here.

In theory if I was practicing what I’m preaching I would have stopped halfway through the article and offered you a game and then released the rest of the article tomorrow. Trust me, you’d have come back – You wouldn’t have been able to ‘not’ too!

Neuro CX is about by-passing the reptilian brain in order to THRIVE instead of SURVIVE. The reptilian brain is based in survival mode which elicits impulsive programmed responses (constant reaction to present triggers). Characteristics of the Reptilian brain include dominance (dominate or be dominated), aggression, sex and seeking a mate, rigidity, obsessiveness, compulsiveness, worship, fear, submission and greed. These are all constricting and limiting frequencies. Looking at the Limbic parts of the brain and tapping into the Reward Center start to open up huge possibilities in the field of UX and Experience Design.

A lot of people reading this might be thinking “gamification”, but NeuroCX is that thinking plus some more. The traditional explanation of ‘gamification’ would be something like; “Taking techniques from games and game design and applying them to non-gaming contexts”. But the biology behind good experience is far more complex and can be manipulated by more than just game thinking. The idea that badges (otherwise known as achievements or trophies, once you have completed a feat, challenge, or task) as a means to show your achievement are what makes something sticky is too simplistic, NeuroCX can be anything just as long as its sustained & continuous throughout a relationship with the product user. It’s the good vibe, not the little token.

I hope that by altering how digital is approached using NeuroCX we can improve motivation & change consciousness.

If consciousness is about awareness or how an individual perceives and interprets his or her environment, including beliefs, intentions, attitudes, emotions, and all aspects of his or her subjective experience, then in theory by creating experiences that make users neurologically addicted (how pompous does that sound!) and providing it to the widest possible audience, then we could change collective consciousness. Collective consciousness is essentially how a group (an institution, a society, a species) perceives and translates the world around them. Change a collective consciousness (Facebook anybody!?) and you create a fundamental shift in perspective or worldview that results in an expanded understanding of self and the nature of reality. The beliefs, attitudes, perceptions, and assumptions through which we filter our understanding of the world and our place in it also move.

It all sounds very complex and esoteric, but trust me when I say it’s not. In fact most of you are probably already doing bits of it by accident. However I do think it’s crucial that you use these facts of biology and behavior to actively guide clients and products towards better experiences. It should be inherently part of EVERY experience strategy, not just the ones you think need to be a bit gamey or kooky. Your project doesn’t have to be the next Nike Fuel to include Associative Conditioning – In fact it’s even better if it isn’t! Map it into your boring topics even more vigorously. Make them addictive. Make them pleasurable & make the user want to come back again and again.

Special thanks due to the Barclays Behavioural Finance team for inspiring me to explore the wider side of Experience Design outside of my normal box – Greg B Davis, Emily Haisley & Antonia Lim.

Why a #TAG made me switch banks

There’s been a fair bit of buzz around the agency (and agency-land) about #unexpectedtweet …that totally irreverent campaign from First Direct that instantly struck a note with a lot of people. It really did and here’s the proof – It made me switch my bank account to First Direct after being with my current bank for 18 years.

I saw the abstract advert that didn’t even tell the viewer it was First Direct (The one above with the Beatboxing Bird – I didn’t even catch the Platypus one till almost a week later!) and hit rewind on the TiVo about 4 times trying to work out what the hell it was and who the hell it was for (The wife was going spare – “what the hell are you doing, I want to finish watching Kirsty & Phil you moron!“). Nada. Nothing. I went on Twitter and got stuck into the conversation… I shared the advert on Facebook with my friends; “check it out, it’s brilliant… no idea who it’s for”. When I finally found out it was for First Direct I literally went straight to the website and applied for a new bank account. No bribe, no bung, no special offer and promise of a killer app. They bought me with entertainment.


The debate raged at work for a while too; “Oh, it’s because it’s showing that First Direct is a better bank, more in tune with the populous because they do this kind of advertising!” and rhetoric along those lines in various flavors.

Well in reality it’s nothing of the sort – It’s a lot more basic than that… and here’s my thinking;

Banks all do the exact same thing. They always have and they always will; You give them your money, they put it into a big virtual, intangible vault (where they profit from you) and they keep it safe for you. It’s always been that way;

“BANK”: An institution for receiving, lending, exchanging, and safeguarding money and, in some cases, issuing notes and transacting other financial business.

Money goes in. Money goes out. Your money.

The toughest decision you have to make when you start earning money is where to dump your hard earned wages & that’s usually somewhat dictated somewhat by who your parents bank with. Most banks are all reasonably competitive on product & benefits package (excluding credit & investments products, I’m just talking EVERYDAY BANKING here) and they all have a very similar channel strategy (bank with us and you’ll get access to Mobile, Online and Branch etc). Some are ahead in some areas and behind in others, but they’re all heading in the same sort direction. Virtual wallet. Banking on the move. New ways of moving your hard-earned virtual currency from one person or company to the next blah blah blah. It’s just banking & long may it continue to be that basic!

Lets have a look at a really simple experience model called Prochaska;


At the moment most financial institutions (and in fact most companies) have 2, 3, 4 & 5 in the prochaska model reasonably sown up. They advertise to make you contemplate at point 2 or you might have had a bad experience and you’re hunting for something new and the bank gives you offers on aggregators; it pulls you into 3 which then converts you & locks you into the cycle 4, 5 & 6. That’s the easy bit (in theory). It’s banking (and marketing) 101.

So here’s the kicker. Most institutions have totally forgotten about steps 1 & 6 (or in reality 6 and 1 in that order). Most people are apathetically floating around in 5 doing all they’ve ever known. They get reasonable service & utility, it does what it says on the tin, when you were robbed it took a couple of days and you got reimbursed yada yada. It’s all very banky. You’ve no real need to switch banks and it’s the devil you don’t know that alludes most people.

That’s where First Direct (well JWT the advertising agency) got it bang-on. They never really talk about ‘Banking’ in the adverts and they don’t really need to talk about it, because nobody cares. To get into peoples Pre-Contemplation at point 1 you need something really disruptive that makes you think “oh that’s different, who the hell would do something like that?” (Think Different – Apple anybody?). It’s as crude as that. I’d never even contemplated First Direct before because I figured they were just like the norm & I know the norm. They’re not the norm… they’ve got my attention. I’ve switched to them because MAYBE, just MAYBE they have the chops to do things a bit differently and I’ll be on the edge of innovation the whole time (where-as in reality it’ll be the same stuff – Look after my money in the same way!).

They got into point 6 (relapse) by making me think the bank I was currently with hasn’t done anything to make me notice them for 18 years, then they made me notice them by showing me something that I’d never seen before. That was it. No extra utility value and no app that sends money using blinking or toe-wriggles… just straight forward, old school disruptive marketing. I didn’t even get the £100 for switching offer. The rest as they say is history… in I go and there I’ll stay until the next wave of marketing from an equally disruptive bank comes along (or maybe it won’t even be a bank who get to keep my money safe next!). But be warned… I’m fickle enough to have a love affair with good advertising… My old account stays open & I can turn on a penny & switch back in a heartbeat!

Let me end with the out-takes… #LOVETHISCAMPAIGN

I.A is just a communications tool

There’s a lot of discussion around the office and the industry about I.A and it’s role… how it should be done… who should do it (clients and account staff have started handing me ‘wireframes’ and saying “I want that” which is just plain dumb & subjective!) and what level we should be producing it. I have a very straight-forward take on Information Architecture and that is “It’s JUST a communication tool” which could infuriate some people who think they’re more than that.

So let me quantify that train of thought. In 15 years of working in ‘The Big D’ I have had to continuously adapt and refine my style of I.A to the audience who are going to be working with it. I’ve also had the great privilege of working in so many different types of agency now that I’ve constantly had to swap and change the way I produce I.A work. I’ve worked in tactical advertising where we were churning out lots of rich, interactive micro-sites with short shelf-lives and even smaller budgets where I had to scrimp on the objectivity and use a bit of best luck & judgement + knock out rusty wireframes crudely in no time at all so the designer & the developer sitting next to me had a rough steer… All the way through to massive technology companies like Sapient Nitro where the rigor has had to be there because we’re building giant platforms that get developed off-shore. I’ve done a start-up where we had the luxury of being able to take a more Lean approach and most of the I.A was just drawn on the walls. Then there’s the agencies where we were doing more ‘Optimisation’ type work and we’d build detailed Axure Prototypes to do rigorous user-testing. But one thing unifies all those different approaches – whatever I was doing it was always about communicating back to the internal or client audience. It’s always been about showing people the way.

Advertising is a great analogy. You have a message that you need to tell the audience of consumers. You choose the media types best suited to that identified audience. I.A is the same. We have a message and we have to work out the best way to communicate that message and solution to the audience pre-public consumption.

If I meet another I.A who ‘only uses Axure’ or ‘only does Balsamiq’ because it’s their favorite tool then I’m going to explode. It doesn’t do you any favors being that one-dimensional. You have to choose the right tool for the particular job but more importantly you have to be an effective communicator. If you can show me how something needs to function on a wall with a pen then do that… if you can get across the detail using paper and pens then do that too. How it’s presented is secondary to the strategy, insight, research and thinking that’s gone into it.

I’ve tossed away CVs / Portfolios of IAs before because it’s jam-packed full of glossy wireframes… all in the same style, all Omnigraffled with such precision that they’re almost works of art on their own. Why? Because they might be brilliant, but they don’t show me that you’re adaptable and fluid. They show me you’re a great crafts-person with great thinking but they don’t show me that I can throw you into a multitude of scenarios and that you’ll be able to adapt your communication to the audience. Your I.A work is an interpretation of a brief, make people paying attention to it the reward.

A technique or look is no substitution for substance

So in summary – Just be mindful that I.A is a way of communicating the idea, solution, product, vision and function to an audience. That is all. Mastering the art of communication is more important than mastering the art of the wireframe. If it’s objective then it’s UX. If it’s subjective then it’s Design. But whatever it is you have to twist & mould.

The lines of experience

It’s been an exciting couple of years hasn’t it? The whole offline / online thing… the internet went from being a place you visited to ‘digital’ which exists in multiple places simultaneously and intrinsically woven into our lives. The Eco-System effect. How about this one, you’ll like this and be repelled at the implications in equal measures. There are some bars and clubs in the U.S using a novel technology to help partygoers decide where to party. SceneTap, an American start-up, uses cameras to scan the faces of those who enter and leave participating establishments. Its software then guesses each person’s age and sex. Aggregated data is streamed to a website and mobile app. This allows punters to see which bars are busy, the average age of revellers and the all-important male-to-female ratio. The bar owners gain publicity and intelligence about their customers. For instance, did a promotion aimed at women attract many?

It’s the phone angle. You can adapt your behavior in advance when things used to be essentially ‘pot-luck’. We’re almost cyborg in nature by virtue of having our lives augmented with mobile. We can see through walls now. Bye-bye FourSquare, I’m not going to ‘check-in’ because it already knows I’m there and tells people if I opt in to be auto-detected.

Many companies face the challenge of creating entirely new behaviours for new products. However, my thinking is that behaviour change is far more successful when it aligns with a habit we’ve already formed, which apparently shapes nearly half of the decisions we make every day.

Around 74.2% of the UK’s population, totalling 47m, will go online at least once a month this year on a range of devices including smartphones and tablets, according to eMarketer stats… and that number has almost quadrupled in 5 years because of the rise of the smartphone. We’re all getting smarter at astonishing rates.

I’m also loving the Nike Fuel Band and it’s bigger applications… At SXSW this year, to promote the Fuel Band, Nike essentially turned the inside of a venue into one huge Fuelband wristband with the same colored lights and ability to track energy level. Except in this case, Nike was tracking the energy level of the whole crowd.

Across town from the gig they had rigged up lighting in a building to react to the audience at the gig. The more energetic the crowd, the greener the building became, so that people outside the event could witness the level to which the crowd was going off. It helped that Nike picked two very high energy bands for this show: Diplo and Sleigh Bells. Nike measured the crowd’s energy level by placing Nike FuelBands on the wrists of a large number of attendees, then tracked the activity using customized wireless technology that functions similarly to the way the iOS app works. It’s an extreme example but think about it… using digital, people influenced the lighting at another location. I remember when I got my first feature phone in 1997 people said I was mad because the SMS thing would never take off!

What happens when all these new ways of doing things start converging and the lines start to blur? For instance… Online sales are expected to reach to a staggering $317 billion by 2016 in the U.S which is phenomenal, right… but I’ve always had this hypothesis that online sales aren’t just about convenience, they’re also about data. People love the fact that they can see something rated or reviewed, or find obscure things that are just too difficult to find on the high-street. It’s a demand thing. I’d be fascinated to see what starts to happen when those ratings and ‘easy to find’ influences start popping up in more Urban environments – “Hey Pete, there’s a huge footfall of people like you occurring at this place not too far from where you are right now & they’re all buying things you might like, let me lead you there“. Augmented behavior offline using online data. Could be huge.

Users understand the importance of the internet and a bad experience can go a long way; 44% of online shoppers will tell their friends about a bad experience online according to a report by KissMetrics. So take that sentiment offline and there is this whole “don’t go in there Pete, a lot of people like you had a rubbish time”…

Then there’s the growing behavior around tablets. Sure, it was bound to happen, we just needed Apple to lead the charge, but it’s the way they’ve altered and augmented behavior that I find astonishing. 69% of tablet owners make a purchase on their device every month, according to stats from inMobi and Mobext. 50% of tablet owners spend at least an hour a day accessing media content on their tablets, and 72% use it while watching TV. So it’s not a huge leap ahead of us to assume ‘shopping the adverts’ is just around the corner. The advertising they said was dead is just about to be supplemented by technology. My behavior doesn’t change, but the experience is augmented by the ability to just a button on my iPad & buy what I’m watching. Makes sense. Especially if there are “100 people like you all doing the same”.

According to an IAB/ValueClick study, 52% of consumers are happy to see online advertising because it allows them to view content or use services online at no cost – they’ve brought their offline viewing habits with them. But 55% said they would rather see advertising relevant to their interests and 59% would prefer a lower number of relevant ads than a higher volume of irrelevant ones. So how long before that mobile or tablet you use influences what adverts you see while you’re watching your favorite shows, so when you reach out and buy it instantly you’re actually just choosing to buy from things you’re really only interested in. I don’t have a dog, don’t show me adverts for dog food… Augmented advertising comes to the TV experience. It’s all totally feasible now.

Digital experience crossing over in the real world is becoming more and more a reality and the next few frontier years are going to be really exciting. The possibilities are endless and impact on our lives can only be positive.

The Crazies

Remember the Apple Think Different campaign? Seeing as how there’s been a few references to Steve Jobs and Jonny Ives (strategist / tactician and a designer working in harmony anyone?) recently I thought I’d just surface my favourite advert of all time:

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?

We make tools for these kinds of people.

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.”

It’s a beautiful piece of poetry by two incredibly talented wordsmiths Rob Siltanen and Ken Segall from Chiat Day. I was lucky enough to visit and work at Chiat Day in LA back in 2008 and it reminded me why I love what I do. Meeting someone as industry defining as Lee Clow was humbling and a grounding experience. These guys make things simple. They’re designers of words and thoughts and they make it approachable and elegant and I think we as UX tradesman and women can learn a lot from that.

Digital Wrap-Up 2011

Wendell Phillips said “revolutions never go backwards” so what a year of permanent change through great work in the ‘Big D’ 2011 was. From social to relaunches and updates of services like Twitter and that Face-thing. I’ve been in the industry for 15 years this year and it’s my own personal view that 2011 has genuinely been the best year of change since the inception of the commercial internet. I think it’s because everything has matured so much – especially in the UK – to the point where things are starting to gel… which I think is reflected in my digital wrap-up below. I’m a UX guy in theory, but actually I just love good solid tech and creative work above all the UX hyperbole. If it’s urban, mobile, unique, easy to use and instant-utility then THAT is awesome UX as far as I’m concerned. 2012 is going to be the year I upset a lot of my peers in the UX community by championing the end of all this chat that goes on about standards and patterns and familiar paradigms and so on and so on and so on… 2012 is the start of the age when we continue to marry great tech’ with amazing ideas and give the end consumer awesome experiences that change their lives in little ways.

I’ve hand-picked a couple of my highlights and it’s no surprise that they all span so many different pillars of the ‘Big D’ and also appear on pretty much every other list you’ll see summarizing 2011. So here we go in no particular order:

Tesco Homeplus – The QR Store in Korea

The objective was to make Tesco the No 1 seller in Korea… but the competition have way more stores… so what do you do? Take the ‘store’ to the people and let them shop with their phones. People should find Tesco Homeplus wherever they are without having to go to the brick and mortar store. Moreover they could make good use of the wasted times and enjoy their free time.

RESULTS: 76% of online members & +130% of online sales. Homeplus became N°1 in online grocery shopping and is a very close 2nd offline. Novelty? Or game-changing? I think a little of both… it certainly helped QR codes come of age a bit too…

New York – The World Park

The concept was simple… Create a museum in the park to create an entirely different experience using QR codes that gave access to other content integrated into the context (including History, pop culture, music & science). They also included elements of gamification.

Again – Another quality use of mobile (I see a pattern emerging) and QR codes… Marketers are sometimes nervous about or afraid of technology but nowadays, technology enables the possibility of amazing experiences. Note that you should be careful about sharing specific content with everyone.

IKEA 365

Create one simple creative campaign everyday including a new product to create a story and engage consumers. I always loved the concept brought to me by a colleague that digital is about a myriad of little ideas not ‘the big idea’ now and this campaign pretty much embodies that to the letter. IKEA proving they’re still one of the most innovative brands on the planet.

Volkwagen – Planeta Terra

Create awareness of VW’s sponsorship of the Planta music festival in Brasil… to an audience who are generally quite apathetic about VW. This was one of several awesome campaigns run using Twitter and Google Maps as the gaming platform. Pretty simple really… Tickets to the music festival were strategically placed around locations high-lighted using Google Maps… the first person to find the tickets wins them… But here’s the kicker… ‘Tweets’ made the map zoom… so the more the protagonists tweeted the closer the map zoomed to the location of the tickets. A beautiful self-fulfiling prophecy of a game.

Microsoft Bing

We’ve already seen a campaign using Google Maps and that was a lot of Microsofts challenge this year… how do you raise awareness of its own service ‘Bing’. In some ways a far more superior service in the same way that Vimeo is to YouTube, but displacing existing behavior is next to impossible (don’t get me started on Google+). So what they did was pretty clever… They placed each of the 320 pages of Jay Z’s book, Decode, in 600 unique traditional, nontraditional and digital advertising placements in 15 cities around the world.

The best of the ‘hide and seek’ games from the year for sure… results speak for themselves: 11 min per visit on the specific website. +11,7% of visits to bing. ~$1,1 B worth of media impressions.

Greys Anatomy Sync app for iPad

The best of the iPad offerings this year (for concept rather than longevity). The Grey’s Anatomy Sync app for iPad lets you experience Grey’s Anatomy in an entirely new way! You’ll get to interact with other fans and get exclusive episode-related content delivered to your iPad in real time while you watch Grey’s Anatomy live on your TV.

So what? It’s just back-channel stuff which we’ve all seen, right? But think about it a bit more. It actually used the coding baked into the show to talk to the app. I love that. Old media being used to control new platform. Awesomely powerful idea.

Empire Avenue

My big big digital addiction of 2011 is without a doubt the genius ‘Empire Avenue‘. I’ve spent more time working on my social share price this year than my actual shares! Fact. It’s a simple concept – Register. Hook-up all your various social media profiles, channels and wasted time interfaces and Empire Avenue gives you a shareprice. You buy other peoples shares and they buy yours. You make money, you lose money and you can’t help but go to that dreaded iPhone App every morning to see how well you’re doing. This is gamification of the highest order and I’m going to need some kind of therapy next year if I’m going to ditch the habit.


There were so many more too, but I just haven’t got time to highlight them all in any great detail… I will just highlight ‘World of Fourcraft‘ as the best gamification idea of the year… pure genius… and leave you with this round-up:

In 2011:

  • Multichannel became Multichannels
  • Point of Sale became Points of Sale (sell everywhere using mobile)
  • Using ‘Free Time’ became the big success currency
  • Gamification stopped being a fad and a buzz word and started being a genuine thing
  • Thinking outside of the box became acceptable and not just rubbish ATL buzz generation
  • Customer Experience became the new User Experience
  • The simple ideas still run the roost!
My predictions for 2012:
  • The mobile wallet will become a reality and we’ll all start to embrace the ‘idea’ of using our phones to pay for things
  • Facebook will announce that it’s Facebook Credits idea will become an offline currency too and try to take on PayPal using mobile as the payment device for the Facebook Credits
  • Apps will start to diminish in favour of fluid HTML 5 pages that can be used on all devices and give the same experience as an App
  • User Experience will be even more integral to the industry than before

Viral Loop – Pass the bucks

I’ve mentioned Viral Loops before in a couple of posts. Since I started talking about it a lot of people have been asking me to ‘do it for them’ like it’s some sort of silver bullet you can just load into any digital gun & fire at a target which makes me chuckle every time. In reality my theory is that sites and content that go viral are more a product of the ‘when’ and ‘where’ rather than the ‘what’. It’s about being in the right place at the right time – call it ‘fluke’ if you want. Most videos that go viral on YouTube were never designed to do so & the ones that were engineered by an agency and go ‘viral’ have spent money with a company like Rubber Republic to get people to view them and I don’t classify those as viral, I classify that as paid-for-media (old school advertising to you & me!). Most websites that go viral have a built in loop for sure, but there is also a lot of luck & right-time-right-place about them.

There are obviously some conditions you can promote within your agency or organisation or start-up that MIGHT have the desired effect… but don’t put all your eggs in these baskets because chances are if the time that you launch isn’t ripe for you product or content it won’t make any difference how potent your viral idea is or how rigorous your viral loop mechanics are:

  • Viral content has to be web based – It just belongs in the frictionless world of the internet. Too many people are asking me how they can create an offline viral idea… sure you can seed stuff offline to raise awareness (more paid-for-media / advertising!) but don’t bother trying to create an offline viral loop. It’s just silly. Use the internet – it’s what it’s there for!
  • It’s GOT to be FREE – Users need to consume your product or content at no charge; after aggregating a mass audience you may be able to overlay various revenue generators… but nothing that you had to initially pay for ever went viral. Fact.
  • Think about organizational technology – The kind of sites that don’t create content, their users do. They simply organise it, but facilitating can lead to a mass audience – just ask Google!
  • It’s almost always about the network effect – The more people who join, the more people there are to have an incentive to join… Every time I talk to clients or colleagues about viral loops I keep on hammering home the point that it’s NOT about the person you recruit to your website, it’s about the people that person knows.
  • Your site HAS to have built in virility – Users will spread a product purely out of their own self-interest and, in the process, offer a powerful word-of-mouth endorsement to each subsequent users… but without the thought about how that invisible virility works right up front you’ll probably lose the opportunity. Apple have recently done it to perfection with PING. I happen to think it’s growing into something of an interesting product is that PING thing (and with the looming downfall of Spotify it’s set to take the main social music crown) because for months now I’ve been sending out Tweets from Itunes and I didn’t even realise I was doing it… how crafty is that… It’s damn annoying but quite quite brilliant. I was telling my 600 odd followers on Twitter what I was buying on iTunes and I had no idea.
  • Remember that a point of non-displacement (or a tipping point to quote Gladwell) is that moment when it’s nearly impossible for a competitor to take a company down. Here’s the harsh facts of life amigos… if you’ve got this big bold viral idea (be it content or a new service) and someone is already out there and it’s got a million subscribers or it’s had a bajillion hits… then don’t bother wasting your time doing it yourself. I’m serious too! The point of non-displacement is a serious fact and reality. You cannot displace something that’s already ubiquitous in peoples lives even with an idea that is 100 times better.

There’s not much more to say really except give up on the idea of ‘planning a big viral event’. It just doesn’t work like that. You can’t BUY virility (well you can, but it’s not viral at all, it’s advertising – a rose by any other name blah blah) and you can’t spoof it. It won’t JUST HAPPEN and if it does it’ll probably happen by accident. So stop trying, sit back, do creative things & play by the rules… you never know, it might happen by accident and all that glory will be yours!

The Last Advertising Agency on Earth

You know me by now… so you get that I’m an advertising junkie. I actually see UX as a strand of advertising (call it marketing if you like!) and with that in mind I love finding things like this:

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