The Attitude Problem

Many advertising and marketing people have a mistaken belief that attitude change causes behaviour change.

But when it comes to consumer products and services, getting people to feel positively about your brand does not mean they’ll then buy your product.

This notion is not only mistaken, it’s leading to increasing amounts of vacuous advertising – bland and egocentric ‘brand films’, or brainless dancing baby or cute animal ads that do nothing but waste money and patronise customers.

Those advertising folk and marketers obsessed  with the idea of people ‘loving’ their brand need to realise that the most successful way to get someone to love your brand is to get them to buy and use your product or service.

That’s because, in reality, behaviour change comes before attitude change – people like the brands they use.

That means to make most effective use of your advertising, you should stop trying to get people to like your brand, and use it instead to bring people closer to choosing your product.
“We don’t get them to try our product by convincing them to love our brand. We get them to love our brand  by convincing them to try our product.” Bob Hoffman.

Our new book ‘How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better – The Manifesto for a New Creative Revolution’ – is available exclusively at the Design Museum.

I've Told You A Million Times... Stop Exaggerating*

Many advertising and marketing people have unrealistic notions of how people relate to brands.

Some believe their brand is different to other brandspeople really do love it. Crazier still are those who expect people to fall in love with their brand before they’ve even bought or used their product.

This fashionable idea of ‘brand love’ doesn’t reflect the real relationship that most people have with brands. Selecting most products and services is not a massive deal to most people, and certainly not a life-defining moment as sometimes depicted by deluded advertising agencies and ‘brand gurus’. The idea of ‘emotional relationships’ with brands driving buying behaviour has largely been proved to be a myth.
“Most of a brand’s customers think and care little about the brand, but the brand manager should care about these people because they represent most of the brand’s sales.” Professor Byron Sharp, How Brands Grow (Oxford University Press).
Even those customers who repeatedly buy from your brand most likely do so out of simple habit and the product delivering on their needs. Contrary to the moonshine widely peddled by many branding and advertising ‘experts’, it’s not because of some strong emotional bond.

When we exaggerate the role that the brand plays in people’s lives, it leads to self-important and phoney advertising. People are smart enough to realise this and know when they’re being patronised.

This is an excerpt from our new book ‘How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better – The Manifesto for a New Creative Revolution’ – available exclusively at the Design Museum.

*With apologies to The Young Ones 


“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act,” George Orwell.

Strong advertising needs to have truth at its heart. Ads are quite rightly regulated to make sure they are honest, but we live in a time when advertisers increasingly appear to be avoiding saying anything of real substance or worth, and this lack of any substance is in itself an act of deceit.

But people know when you’re trying to pull the wool over their eyes, and they can see when you’re using the old look at the cute animal trick.

Honest and truthful advertising stands out and hits home harder. Potential customers are far more likely to relate to what you’re saying when it has a point and is genuinely relevant to them (and there’s a chance it may become that rare advertising that people actually appreciate or find useful).

Clearly, it’s sometimes difficult to find worthwhile and truthful things to say about a product or brand, and it’s even harder to distil them into something pithy, memorable or entertaining.

Advertising people have got out of the habit or worse, in some cases, lack the ability or even the will to do it. They either give up too early or fail to even try in the first place. There isn’t anything worthwhile to say, so let’s just make a funny cat video and hope people like it... appears to be an increasingly common response.

The ability to seek out and distil honest and worthwhile things to communicate is extremely valuable.

In fact, it’s one of the most valuable skills that advertising agencies can bring to business.

Our new book ‘How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better – The Manifesto for a New Creative Revolution’ is available exclusively at the Design Museum.

I Was Avoiding It

This is why you have to love Private Eye (that and the fact that one of our Timothy Taylor's ads is in the back)...

chortle, etc...

What's In It For Them?

Sometimes it seems advertisers and marketers need to remind themselves that advertising isn't for them.

Advertising is for the customer.

It is they who ultimately determine whether advertising is good or not – in that they vote with their purses or wallets.

Advertising people and marketers have become too self-obsessed, too inward-looking, too focused on their advertising playing well and feeling good in the boardroom or among their peers.

This often ends up with advertising that is egotistical and centred around what people in the company would like to say about themselves.

The priority should really be how the advertising fares out in the real world.

That means making advertising less self-centred and concentrating more on what the customer will get out of it.

Less this is how we’d like you to think of us.

And more this is what’s in it for you.

Our new book ‘How To Make Better Advertising and Advertising Better – The Manifesto for a New Creative Revolution’ is available exclusively at the Design Museum.

The First Cruyff Turn

The very first Cruyff turn by Johan Cruyff, who sadly passed away today.

From the BBC: Cruyff, who made his name as a forward with Ajax and Barcelona, won the Ballon d'Or three times. He won three consecutive European Cups with Ajax and went on to manage Barcelona to their first European Cup win in 1992. Cruyff helped his country reach the World Cup final in 1974, where they lost to West Germany. In February, Cruyff said he felt he was "2-0 up in a match" against lung cancer and he was "sure I will end up winning". Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Cruyff had double heart bypass surgery in 1991. Barcelona won four consecutive La Liga titles from 1990-91 to 1993-94 under his guidance.

Skills For Advertising: Maintaining Healthy Skepticism

Skepticism is not to be confused with cynicism. And healthy skepticism has nothing to do with optimism or pessimism. Healthy skepticism is a great quality in life, it means you don't take everything at face-value.

Same is true in advertising. Most of the very best people I've met in advertising have a healthy skepticism. The people who, when someone tells them some supposed fact or claim, say 'Really?' and then proceed to investigate further. This road often leads you towards new thinking, or at least uncovering the real problem behind something.

One of the most powerful forces in advertising and marketing over the last few years has been the influence of popular psychology. Famous scientists have published popular books particularly about human behaviour and the way our brains work.

This of course is extremely interesting and relevant to people working in advertising and marketing, given that we are competing day-by-day for a slice of someone's brain.

So any new revelation or theory is devoured and pored-over by ad folk and marketers for how it may help or influence what we do. This is all good so far.

The problems start when people adopt some of these findings wholesale, and base entire advertising and marketing approaches on them. You can see how it happens, because often these books or findings are telling the advertising people what they wanted to hear.

Highly ironically, they are suffering from confirmation bias.

Interestingly, what many observers have noted is that a lot of these finding and theories tally with what a lot of people in advertising have always kind of thought.

This shouldn't come a big surprise to us, as the best advertising people tend to have a strong grasp of 'what makes people tick' – just a basic, human instinct for understanding people.

It's always important for us in advertising and marketing to remember to not take the latest pop science best-seller or exciting study as absolute, dogmatic gospel. Don't just lift it wholesale and base everything on it, just because it might tally with your own desire to do a certain kind of advertising.

It's important because within the scientific community these theories and studies are constantly being questioned and peer-reviewed, and people are attempting to replicate the results (not always successfully).
"The true heroes of science are not the technicians who are able to run an experiment on 50 people and squeeze out statistical significance, a book contract, and a TED talk. Rather, they are the people who refuse to take Yes for an answer, who test out their theories on hard problems and are willing to admit failure." Andrew Gelman, Professor of statistics and political science at Columbia University.
Whilst scientists are rightly maintaining a healthy, balanced reaction to new findings, it's pretty bonkers that ad people are adopting them wholesale, and basing entire, multimillion pound advertising pushes on them.

It's like advertising people are taking morsels of science and forming religions out them.

So what's the answer? Well that's the interesting bit, isn't it? As Professor Brian Cox said recently (paraphrasing now) we never have 'the answer', we have a set of 'best theories at the moment'.

I reckon the best bet is to read everything you can, arm yourself with all available information, definitely read Byron Sharp's How Brands Grow, for some actual marketing science (if you haven't already), and on top of it all, maintain that healthy skepticism.

And don't forget your basic human understanding of what makes people tick.

This article in Wired by Professor Andrew Gelman, inspired this post, and is well worth a read.

Our book How To Make Better Advertising And Advertising Better – The Manifesto For A New Creative Revolution (alt. title The Most Grandly Named Book In Advertising) is out now, and available exclusively at the Design Museum. It is suitably chock-full of healthy skepticism. Bob Ad Contrarian Hoffman says "It might be just the reset button we all need."
Find out more here.