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Wendy Gordon on Liking

Wendy Gordon on Liking


Just finished reading Wendy Gordon’s chapter on liking in her latest book Mindframes.

I thought there was some really useful insight in there about understanding liking, its importance and how to unpick it via good questions, good interpretation and the ability to ‘read’ what’s going on when you are questioning people about their reaction to what you’ve just shown them. (Most of this chapter is really about understanding liking in the context of communication and I wanted to note down her thoughts so I could remind myself of them before doing comms work…)

Some key take outs

First the key thought

The two most effective marketing strategies, long term, are fame and emotional engagement.

Fame can be about ubiquity (forcing yourself on the population by just being everywhere – weight of advertising). BUT it might be about catching the mood of the moment, organic fame because you are doing a good job, people like what you are doing and want to talk about it… (remembering the human urge to recommend, to pass on good stuff, to get some status from knowing something and sharing it)…

Emotional engagement is often a response to creativity. Gordon mentions the idea of ‘co-authorship’developed by people who know and understand how advertising works… where you enjoy a piece of communication so much that you you connect with it, it becomes meaningful to you, part of your story.

It’s therefore worth trying to understand ‘how famous could this be?’ and what would drive the fame… Also, ‘how emotionally engaging might this be?’ and where would those emotional connections come from? Qualitative researchers are clue-gatherers, and these are important clues for creatives, authors, communicators, what might our audience be connecting with – of where’s the disconnect?

At the end of her chapter on liking Wendy G highlights key things to remember about liking. Here are five out of six:

  1. It’s always comparative… so we need to remember to ask – what are you comparing it with, what’s the anchor point, the ‘world’ in which this lives
  2. Liking is a composite and a complex concept… according to Biel (who she cites throughout) liking is a composite of five factors ingenuity (imaginative/ clever) ; meaningful (useful/ credible); energetic; warmth; not annoying – although of course there’s plenty of effective advertising which is really irritating (and famous)…
  3. asking people how much they liked something can be fraught because ‘wanting’ is part of the story – the kind of wanting that’s driven by temptation/ addiction
  4. liking can be measured (in qual for example by doing ‘quickies’ – lots of short, sharp interviews that essentially just focus on spontaneous responses) but I think her point is more broadly about quantitative research
  5. avoid basing judgements of potential effectiveness of marketing activity on ‘interim measures’ (like recall, communication, comprehension…) I think here’s she’s taking us back to the thought – is this emotionally engaging or will it be famous?

What I like about liking… That statement “I like it…” “I don’t like it.” They are the ways people flag up a whole range of feelings around a response to what we are looking at. It’s our job to unpick those feelings in way that’s authentic, true for them… what are you comparing it to, what other things does it remind you of, how’s it relevant to you, how does it fit with the way you are, which bits of this idea get you thinking, feeling more, which bits are you connecting with…? These questions all spring out of liking or not liking.

And more… if people don’t know what they think about the idea, there’s a clue there too – a clue we need to grapple with – because when people don’t know what they think or feel about something, they use social proof (what other people say and do) to help guide them to their conclusions… so it’s always worth asking – who do you know who would like this/ not like this…?

Wendy Gordon’s Mindframes is definitely worth reading!


Kath Rhodes, Qual Street Owner

I love love learning and so I invest time and resources with Ambreen and Claire into exploring social psychology, neuro science, creativity and new techniques in research. Read all about it and help yourself to the ideas that will deliver your business the insight it needs

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