Come on, you know the form. Go here re-read the brief. Have a coffee with some interesting folk tomorrow (or a beer) and then write up your thoughts and send it in. Here is good But here and here and here also.
Let's be having you. Deadline has been extended til tomorrow (Friday)
Funny how easy it is to make people feel bad by excluding them. Have you ever thought why this might be?
For a HERD animal, the safest place - the healthiest place - is with other people. Some psychotherapists talk about separation anxieties developed in childhood being carried over into adulthood to explain this in chronic form, but isn't the truth often deeper and at the same time much more straightforward?
Have always been a big fan of stage magicians and illusionists like the great Harry Houdini (see picture), because I know it can't be Magic (but can't spot the "magic" trickery). Houdini actually spent a large part of the 1920s to reveal how the whole thing was mere stagecraft.
So much for stage illusions: New Scientist has a great piece this week (which amplifies chapter 2 of HERD) to demonstrate how illusory our experience of our own lives is.
Each of us imagines that our experience of the world is an accurate depiction of it. We have to - we'd be lost or go mad without it. We have to assume that how we experience things is accurate...
Even though this science tells us it's largely illusion.
It's really hard to get our heads around the fact the convincing accounts people give us of their lives - in market research or in therapy - are based on such fundamentally flawed data. These witness statements are flawed through and through.
Not in the way that Bishop Berkeley suggested (calling into question any knowledge we might have about the world and its existence but more importantly as accounts of our own lives and what shapes them.
But rather because social influence is the invisble key (and not how we experience things): Conformity researchers (like Aschand StanleyMilgram) have shown how the influence of other people on an individual is both very strong AND often invisible to the person affected.
Each individual human agent is part of a complex system of human agents (even when alone). He/she imagines that their experience of life is a true account of how things happen but the truth is their behaviour is shaped largely by their individual perception of those around them (real, imagined or remembered).
So next time you're asked to listen to an individual's account of their life, however convincing it seems (to them or you) please remember that account is...based on a series of illusions.
Amazing gig last night at the refurbed 02 centre (the old millenium dome) with Sair, Karen & Paul. The penultimate of Prince's 21 sellout nights here was extraordinary for a number of reasons
1. While the musicianship was extraordinary, the songlist inspired (from his own purple stuff to Led Zep and Gnarls Barclay covers) and the light show brilliant, the thing that he really gets is that a gig is a participative event: the audience is not a passive and inert mass but a lively participative and mutually influential player in the show.
2. So from the top, he and his beautiful assistants (including "the twins") spent a lot of energy encouraging us to stand up and dance. At one point, I thought I'd wandered into a revivalist meeting: several thousand people standing, swaying and clapping along and infecting others...One particularly memorable moment had the entire audience on their feet singing over and over and over the "Come together over me, yeah" while he riffed away...
3. The individual experience is so unthinking that it highlighted the unnatural nature of the stance of the few beard-stroking skeptics who held themselves back to pass judgement: his music of whatever genre and the performance of it is so enthusiastically unintellectual and behaviourally engaging that you have to make a really conscious effort to hold back. Which one is more common in human behaviour?
4. He got us to work the crowd for him: he and the band actively encouraged our singing and cheers and hands in the air by working the huge symbol shaped stage set - all of those things which priests and politicos have used since early history to get us losing our inhibitions together...and to infect each other with the Enthusiasmosvirus
5. On the way in, another copy of the latest album (I think) was given away (as with the Mail on Sunday) at the start of the show and afterwards the queue for the public aftershow went round the block...This made it clear to me that the collective experience is the thing (either the show, the prep for it, the aftershow or the subsequent interactions and storytelling about all of these) and what the music industry has traditionally regarded as the "product" (the recorded music) just part and parcel of fuels our interaction with each other at the event, before and after...
6. There is a looseness about the many ways in and out of participation in the purple crowd that brands and businesses could learn from; many ways in and out, many interactions and conversations that can be had. He seems happy (despite some youtube spats) to let people find their own way in and around his world rather than dictate what and how and where....
I don't know if this is part of some carefully planned strategy or not, but the Diminuitive Genius that is Prince Nile Rogers is a master of the Herd. As well as being one of the most interesting musicians alive today...Yes, Will, I know he's not Morrisey, but....
Fernanda Monti. The lady who gave her name to the prize that my paper on the Herd applications for market research won at this year's ESOMAR global conference.
"Best overall paper". Very pleased and very flattered that such an established professional body should think it worth it. Proud as punch, in fact, while clear that while it was my paper, I was trying to articulate what those of us in the field are up to and why...
Here's the citation:
”If 'We' not 'I'…Then what? From Anglo-Saxon to global world views of human behaviour”
This paper describes the practical and theoretical implications for marketing research practitioners of a disruptive new, emerging collection of models of mass behaviour described by the author as “Herd theory”. The paper reviews methodological and theoretical innovations in this space and identifies further areas for innovation and rethinking that practitioners should now explore. This is a seminal piece of thinking that convincingly challenges the prevailing 'individualistic' model of how humans make decisions & therefore also of market research.
I like "seminal". Will try to be and do more "seminal" stuff....
Not sure how or whether I can post it but let me know if you're interested in having a read...
A few excellent speakers here. Wendy and Caroline bringing human interaction and some simple but useful lessons in how to apply the learnings of neuropsychology to research. Good to see Caroline in top form again - Wendy looking and being as fabulous as ever. What a skirt!
Lou Marinoff did a great piece emphasising the importance of the Buddha (yes, really) in understanding ourselves and promoting happiness, stressing the interconnectedness that Aristotle forgot. It's his next book, out in a month or so in the US. Can;t wait loved the first two (and not just for their challenge to traditional therapy assumptions)....Also, fascinated to discover he's also done quite a bit of work on behavioural cascade modelling to check his assumptions...
Fortunate enough to meet him at dinner last night hosted by John Kearon - charming fella...AND...
James Surowiecki - Mr Wisdom of Crowds. Again, funny, interesting, smart and great company. Did a brilliant keynote this avo on the central themes of the book and was almost as good a speaker (no notes 45 minutes to a multilingual audience dying for a drink at the end of day 2) as he is a writer.
He told this great story to illustrate how crowds are really useful.
Next door to the conference hotel is the Berlin Zoo. Young Knut - a polar bear - has been drawing in the crowds for a while now so when JS popped next door to have a look, he just watched where folk were gather and that told him where to go.
Great comment from someone (George?) at Harris online: we've known how much better folk are at reporting on others' behaviour than they are on themselves for years but we haven't bothered to ask them questions this way...
Seems like there's a behaviour that'll get copied!
As I was wandering around Berlin in the lovely afternoon sunshine today, my thoughts turned to my folks who both travelled around post-war Germany as 1950s students - separately, as well. Bugger the gap-year, I say.
A lot of their photos of the time feature young German fellas in check (plaid) shirts.
I seem to remember that these were called "Douglashemder" (Douglas Shirts) at the time (mum still uses that word) and that this was rooted in the longstanding (centuries-old) German Romanticising of the Celtic Fringe...and some derring-do heroics of a fellow called Dougal(all very Master of Tannenbrae or somesuch)
Does anyone know the real story? And are they still called this?
We need to know: it's very on-trend for this season...
Been to too many social gatherings in recent years to say goodbye to folk who should still be around. But we all know it's the best way to do so - together. Some cultures are more effusive than others - I've heard the suggestion (from uptight Anglo-Saxons, mostly) that "they" (African or Arab) drive each other on to "hysterical" heights but the truth is we all need each other for the proper effect of such rituals performed together.
In the news today: Northern Rock - one of the UK's biggest homeloan players - had to go cap in hand to the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street for short term money as a result of the general squeeze on bank-bank lending (following on from the US subprime market).
What happened next we haven't seen in Britain in mylifetime: a rush by savers to take their money out of Northern Rock. Asked on R4 if this was panic, one saver (who'd just lifted £150k) readily agreed.
It;s worth bearing in mind that this kind of phenomenon is just another side of the coin which makes markets work in the first place...
And just as the rational agent wouldn't dream of paying above the odds because something is scarce (ok, they would, we all do), so the same (ir)rational agent can't help but follow other people's excitement and behaviour....
Really enjoyed my two little speechifying things this week, not the speaking so much as the conversations and the things other folk had to say...
Tuesday at NESTA I got to meet Howard Rheingold (as well as hear him talk). His project to develop the Cooperation Commons is the most gob-smacking research and KM resource I've yet come across. Go check it out here and re-read the man's books, please...
And to make things even better (not sure that's possible) I finally got to meet Doc Searls and JP as well as seeing a host of old faces - Roland, Johnnie and John who blogged the event (and Lloyd who twittd)
Some other folk had a blog of it, too so go here, and here if you want to get other povs...
Btw couldn't resist putting this pic in. Me and the great man...(c/o Jess)
And last night did a gig for the lovely folk at IDEO around Perception. Bronwyn Cosgravedid an intriguing speech about the historical relationship between Hollywood, celebrity and fashion based on research for her latest book. Want to know more about the early studio bosses and the rag trade. Here's a sample.
Tom Troscianko did a brilliant thing on how vision works by debunking our "whole picture" assumptions (that we see everything in the world around us). He talked a lot about "getting the gist" as opposed to the detail (and the errors that can lead to) which struck me very much like Daniel Kahnemann's 2-speed model of mind (the most efficient approach is not to think about much but to use shorthands, rules-of-thumb and heuristics...), which then led me onto ponder how it's a shame that more managers/marketers don't recognise that a. the gist is all they get b. the data can never you the "full picture" so why bother...Tom brought the house down with this Gorilla experiment from Dan Simons and Chabris. Go here for the video
And finally, Richard Wentworth the great sculptor and creative stimulant pulled the themes together in an amazing improvised talk around some found images of his of urban Italy (and Folkestone). His energy and authenticity (rather than the decoration on his specs) just stole our hearts. A great reminder that creativity is a life-time project and not just a tool.
If I'd have just heard one of these folk talk, I'm sure my week would have seemed one to note in the calendar, but as it is...I've had to go and throw my little hat in the air a number of times.
Following the hoo-hah around Mya's piece in AdAge, suggest you might want to go here to have your say.
Before the loonies pop round to see you with their electrodes...and their Jetson science fiction
VOTE IN THE 'AD AGE' WEEKLY ONLINE POLL BACKGROUND: Amid the many vagaries of marketing research, one thing is clear: Consumers lie. About what they want. About what they need. Sometimes they do it purposely. Most often they simply don't seem to realize what they're doing at all. But a number of consultants are claiming science can solve this problem. With options ranging from EEGs to MRI brain scans, some marketers are paying to see what happens in a consumer's body and brain while viewing ads. Detractors, however, claim that this is little more than junk science.
THIS WEEK'S POLL QUESTION: Do you think neuromarketing will be a standard practice for advertisers in the future?
Someone else I admire - Hugh's got a great post about developing his alter-ego, the cartoonist (as opposed to the blogger/marketing guru). Should be a cut-out-and-keep for everyone in and around the business, particularly those "trying to be" something or other.
As William James' advice has it:
"Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, "This is the real me," and when you have found that attitude, follow it.”
Very excited about meeting Howard Rheingold - thinker, journo and all-round guide to the future of connected humanity. His book Smart Mobs changed the way that a lot of folk (me included) see the changes that the new technologies were to bring.
We're sharing a platform at NESTA tonight. He's on first and am ever so slightly nervous about this, which is unusual...but I guess I can fix my gaze on his famous painted shoes
But will try to do a good job and ensure that John Dodds gets his money's worth...a different show from tomorrow night, well, mostly different
Hat tip to Johnnie: yawning is not just 'infectious' in that it affects those around you and stimulates them to yawn (and is likely to be triggered by yawning around you or the thought of yawning around you) but it is also an indicator of an individuals' empathetic skills. Apparently Engineers are less empathetic than Psychologists...
Just a word from someone much wiser than me, Gandhi, the founder of Modern India.
"Interdependence is and ought to be as much the ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social being."
Hindu and Bhuddist traditions have both reminded us of the importance of our interactions and interconnectedness with others. African ideas like Ubuntu likewise. Personally I find this a good sound counterblast to the Protestant North European cult of the individual and the egomania we are encouraged to treasure by our education.
Indeed, thanks to the work of the new Happiness economics, we now know that the best indicator for happiness is having strong successful relationships with others (as opposed to wealth or good looks...). Even if a number of economists challenge the extent to which we can legislate or otherwise 'operationalise' happiness optimisation for the nation as a whole, the truth in all our lives is that other people are a greater source of happiness and well-being than stuff or priests or even plain old cash...
If you want to be happy, focus on your interactions, relationships and interdependencies with others (not in terms of what you get but of how they are...); if you don't want to be happy, then neglect these connections and interdependencies. You can also use interdependence to alleviate the symptoms of depression (itself a social cognitive disorder with real phsyical causes and symptoms) for example through volunteering...
When you accept - as for example most of us bloggers do - that none of us has a unique access to wisdom or talent or fact, but that all of us develop whatever we have through interaction with others, life starts to become very different. Anxiety is much less a part of your experience. Letting go is part and parcel of surviving in this new digital world; linking and being linked to is perhaps the behaviour that best characterises this interdependent experience. Ambient intimacy is one way to describe what the social media revolution provides us with
There are many things wrong with the way we will be living today and tomorrow but this interconnectedness - if we can only embrace it - is definitely a good thing. It touches something deep - deep - inside us.
Have been pondering the Adage piece I blogged about earlier, in the light of two things:
1. Roger's post on the same subject
2. News today of a camera/computer assisted means to make early diagnosis in some important genetic disorders
First, the medical use of 3D cameras and analytics software currently used for maxillofacial surgery: a smart way to diagnose certain genetic disorders like Williams syndrome and Aspergers in children (without using genetic materials) because the condition also produces typical facial changes. Thus (if your hospital has the kit) this would be a much cheaper, quicker and more appropriate means to get the right treatment to the right patients at the right time.
Peter Hammond of the Institute of Child Health in London has collected a library of images of healthy children and those with such disorders. Each image has 25k points and can quickly be compared to several typical. Now, I suspect this is not foolproof but IF it can provide a good indication of such condition and thus get a child the early care and treatment now believed to make such a difference, it would be worth every penny.
Now this seems to me to be good, practical science with real and tangible benefits: it re-purposes existing equipment rather than requiring new stuff, it offers value for money rather than huge individual on-costs and it provides the means to reduce the lifelong suffering of a large minority of children.
By contrast, the neuromarketing gang are offering the early versions of fancy technology at huge costs with no real benefit to anyone but themselves. As Roger admits, the Adage piece highlights the gap between claimed and real precision and certainty to encourage caution from users of such techniques.
"To the extent that the article encourages marketers to adopt healthy skepticism when viewing the latest brain-based marketing panacea, she has performed a valuable service. However, we would have liked to see an acknowledgement that neuromarketing and neuroeconomics are still in their infancy, and that there is plenty of reason to be optimistic that more research and better equipment will result in new levels of both understanding and predicting consumer behavior."
(I naughtily suggested the following caveat: “This is based on a very naive and simplistic understanding of how brain activity, different stimuli and behaviour are connected. Indeed, their is precious little evidence linking specific brain activity and specific consumer-type behaviour as yet, but we haven’t really got time to explain that rather embarrassing gap in our approach. Please do not be misled by the high tech nature of our equipment into thinking this research will give you any greater certainty about what will happen if you do X or Y; we’re still very much guessing here.”
One more time then: we are nearing the end of the beginning for understanding the general principles of the relationship between brain activity and behaviour but no further.
And we're extremely unlikely to get where the neuromarketers would like us to get: understanding the precise relationship between stimulus, brain activity and behaviour.
The biggest problem is that ours is a social brain not an individual self-determining brain: it's the brain of a creature whose life consists largely of other people and interaction with them. Looking at it as if it were otherwise and the creature that owns it as an isolated agent is a pointless abstraction.
Mya's done a nice piece for AdAge on the credibility of Neuromarketing today - what's being done and what the basis of the pseudo science is. It's well researched and catches up with some leading US practitioners (coming to your client's reception lobby now) and the guy behind the original Brighthouse project that started the plague of half-arsed pseudo-science (but has now retreated to academe).
I particularly like the revelation that much of the early work so often cited by proponents was based on monitoring the difference between responses to different vegetables....and not brands or ads....
But most of all the piece makes clear how flawed it is to attempt to predict behaviour by looking inside someone's head:
Indeed, in the view of some neuroscientists and marketing researchers, the notion that the human brain should be studied in isolation is deeply flawed to begin with. Measuring the brain's reaction to a TV spot simply does not provide enough data to extrapolate future behavior. Studying how a person interacts within the larger culture is far more important.
'There are many other constraints outside the brain that make us act the way we do,' said John Winsor, VP-director of the cognitive and cultural radar department in Crispin Porter & Bogusky's Boulder, Colo., office.
For example, does it make a difference if a test subject's brain lights up while viewing a Hummer ad in Boulder, where 'you feel guilty if you don't drive a Prius, or where my parents live, in Cody, Wyo., where the norm is to drive a pickup truck?'
'There are other factors that control how we are going to interact, and culture is a big one,' he added.
Yup, Regular Herd Readers will have spotted the basic argument I've advanced here is laid out again...the major influence on human behaviour is other people (real or virtual, perceived or imagined) and not the volition of the individual agent.
Hope this is the beginning of the end of this nonsense. Seems as if it's running out of steam from what folk are telling me.
Or is the lull before the storm? Are Neuromarketers like Daleks - seeking soom loophole in the space time continuum to survive and fight another day? Will they come back with Gastromarketing TM as their latest evil plot?
Watched the French team freeze and go down to the Pumas tonight in the opening match of the Rugby World Cup 07. Very poor, like a Spurs team on a bad day at Highbury..
Made me think about how participative being a rugby fan is: from the conviviality of the bars and the car parks to the joshing and singing - above all, the singing - in the stand (think we'll do well at the singing at this world cup again...if nothing else). And the delicious feeling of doing it with other folk.
Reminded me of the Polyphonic Spree* and (more recently) the Arcade Fire - their mad army of a band and the singalong "let's do the whole show right here" thing and not to forget that ol' ol' enthusiasmos schtick either.
Why can't we see this truth about ourselves as human beings?
Why can't we embrace how good this feels - for all the dangers?
Why do we insist on prioritising the other side of ourselves....?
Lloyd has a really nice post about a certain AK who seems to be blaming the internet for the decline of Western civilisation. Sounds a bit like my Dad on a particularly bad Telegraph day...
Lloyd is terrifically honest about his own reactions to the unrelenting negativity but is best when he talks about the internet being like a mirror: it reflects you and your concerns, your fears and your hopes. It's neither good nor bad (you can use it for good, remember?), but it just is...
It's your reaction that speaks volumes about you. A thought to bear in mind when we get a bit overexcited about things 2.0 and above, maybe.
Ok, finally got the first week's work out of the way and time to get back to the blog again.
The first and most important thing I want to write about is this fantastic initiative: Planning for Good.
Too much of my working life has been spent on less than rewarding stuff - as my old boss, Les "madam" Stern used to call it, variants of "resegmenting the pickle market".
Even in my current incarnation, if find myself trying to keep in mind the fact that "it's only brand stuff" and that what really matters is the real life of real people "out there" (apologies if you've heard me rant about this on a conference stage near you).
So PfG is an inspired initiative.
The idea is this: a community of planning volunteers give their time for free to answer a pro-bono brief in a mass collaboration. Ed says,
"The basic idea is to use social networks to reach out to planners. Every month a new brief would be sent out to solve a specific communication problem for a non-profit. Planners could then work individually or in teams to attack the problem. A collection of this thinking would then be presented back to the non-profit and planners who want to get more involved in helping implement the ideas would be given the opportunity to do so."
The first brief is for the Idea Village - an engine for the cultural and economic regeneration of New Orleans.
Go join the Facebook group, read it and get working (on something useful)....
God bless you, Ed for having the idea and to Piers, Jason, Aki and Gareth for making it happen. It's great to be involved.
Even if we missed out on Summer in England this year, old seasonal rituals - like the blackberry picking that we did this morning together in the field behind Nicky and Hugo's house marked the turn to Autumn in fine Herd style.
Yes, the tangible reward was dark and juicy, but the real reward came from doing it all together...
1. how much it enhances your experience of the movies if it's a shared experience (not that I mind going on my own, it's just your experience is broader and deeper if you are experiencing the thing in the company of others. Just like a rollercoaster or other fun-fair ride might be great on your own, it's miles better always with other folk)
2. How strong the tension between individualism and social identities are in US culture (the plot turns on an epiphany for Homer that it's the "Other People" that makes life worth living...and its the absence of these that drive Homer to the heroics that resolve the storylines neatly).
Depending on your taste, you can look back to Capra and Wonderful Life and so on with glee or disdain. Whatever, my point is this: for the great Land of Individualism (twas written into the original documentation by the founding fathers...)and it's 250pound yellow skinned balding Everyman, the call of the collective and social is still mighty strong...