As the world around us changes at an incredible pace, you don't need to be a marketing genius to see that the relationships between people and brands are, changing. There has been an explosion in digital messaging, which has led to reduced attention, recall and emotional engagement. Where people once leant in to brand stories, it's now increasingly a case of talk to the hand.
At HeyHuman, we believe that this mind-set requires us to embrace science to a greater to degree as per the recent WARC article 'Creative Agencies Need to Tap Science'. But how can we do this?
Since the rise of the Creative Writing MA, a debate has raged on: can creativity be taught? As a student of creative writing I don't believe literary genius - creative brilliance – can be taught. However, you can teach students about narrative, voice, character and the power of the simple sentence. The tools of the trade can be refined and informed, these simply improve our chances of connecting with people.
As new media forces us to learn new conventions, the techniques of connecting have never been more relevant. Technology has complicated as much as it's simplified. The abundance of messaging has led to a poverty of attention. Many ventures, young and old, aim to make our lives easier, but the sheer quantity has created nothing but noise. So the challenge is to distinguish your service while easing the life of the consumer.
At HeyHuman, we're focused on Life in Flow™, a way of thinking about how to make people's lives easier while also bringing in meaningful friction. Within this concept, our practice accesses the solution along three strands: relationships, behaviours, and brain-friendly creative.
Our research has led us to think about a new mind-set: 'Generation Tinder.' They prize ease, accessibility, and value over loyalty. People, after all, love the simplicity of deciding whether to swipe left, or swipe right.
Brand love matters much less than marketers think, and in any case, loyalty does not mean love. Brands need to understand that unless they prove their value, ease, and swiftness, a left-swipe awaits.
We think commercial challenges are not perceptual. People are not buying your brand because something is stopping them: the issue is behavioural. Apple's competitors cite the behavioural challenge of making people switch, because the real challenge is making people feel comfortable being different. Shout about functional benefits all you want; but we think the challenge lies in tackling the social barriers.
Behavioural economists term this a 'social proof' behavioural bias: the fact that humans are more likely to do something if they can see that other people do it too. More accurately: other people with whom they identify, and respect.
Social nudges and barriers are present across the marketing ecosystem, but not always in your category. If, for instance, you're selling in a saturated market such as cider and you want to stand out, look across the aisle. In the world of eggs, choices are more social than gastronomical; 'free-range' is conspicuous in both its altruism and its extravagance. Would a 'free-range' cider awaken similar behaviours?
Now that we know where we stand: people spread their attention wide and often don't have the bandwidth to process brand messages. Communications must 'overclock' on the attention of an overloaded audience.
Visual cognition is the essence of fast thinking. Following the work of Byron Sharp, we agree that brands are successful because of their 'mental availability'. Intelligent use of distinctive visual assets will reinforce the brand at an unconscious level.
We also feel our words. MRI studies have shown that 'textural' language – such as saying you've had a 'rough day' vs. had a 'bad day – activate more of the brain and trigger innate memories of the sensation of roughness. These sensory cues will make copy work much harder on the brain.
The final element we focus on is context. Working with the mind-set of the audience, and delivering messages that can be accommodated within behaviour in a specific medium e.g. YouTube pre-rolls, marketers will achieve more salient messages that communicate with maximum effectiveness.
We believe that brands need to behave as 'human brands'. By capitalising on new relationships and maximising fleeting connections, brands can give people the relationships they want, rather than the relationships brands want with people. As marketers, our value derives from connecting with people. Techniques informed by science help us to ease that connection, allowing us to understand our opportunity and keep lives in flow.