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This month I’ve been thinking about advertising, non-conscious influences on our behaviour and Design Thinking… I’ve noticed too that the MRS are running a course on Design Thinking if you want to learn even more.
Design Thinking is an approach to concept development that follows some key business principles:
  • Understand human experience in order to build good design ideas (which puts research back at the heart of the process, hurrah!)
  • Understand and identify business constraints before you build solutions (constraints = creativity)
  • Prototype ideas with consumers and build on failure: fail quickly, fail often in order to succeed…
If you want a guide about how to do Design Thinking, you can't do better than The Designing for Growth Field Book by Ledirka, Ogilvie and Brozenske. This book gives you a toolkit for ‘doing’ design thinking and I’m sure lots of businesses will find it really useful.
The Anatomy of Humbug by Paul Feldwick is my book of the month, maybe even the year. It offers an historical perspective on how thinking about advertising has evolved over the years as well as different models for looking at what advertising is. Feldwick’s historical perspective is great at challenging the ‘rules’ about advertising that we unknowingly sign up to. For example I’d always thought that good advertising needed a single minded proposition. I’d just assumed that was pretty much a fact. But not necessarily – it’s a position on advertising developed by one ad man to support his agency’s approach to advertising.

Feldwick’s six different ways to think about advertising are:
  1. Advertising as Salesmanship (think how Direct Mail works, it employs this a lot.)
  2. Advertising as Seduction (this idea is about the magic and creativity of advertising – so seductive it compels you to ‘want’)
  3. Advertising as Salience (helping the brand to cut through, knowing = buying)
  4. Advertising as Social Connection (brands can have  conversations with us about who we want to be… this builds from the idea that ‘everything is communication’ I found this fascinating.)
  5. Advertising as Spin… advertising can create a new shared reality, helping people reframe their understanding/ relationship with a brand/ service.
  6. Advertising as Showbiz (bringing ‘humbug’ into our lives, making us feel, react, amazing us.)
Read on if you want to get some perspective on advertising – this really is a good book.

The Rational Animal by Kendrick and Griskevecius is definitely worth looking at – but I left the book feeling sceptical that their arguments were too simplistic/ incomplete.  They are social anthropologists who aim to explain the non-conscious (irrational) motivations that drive our behaviours. Here are some of their key arguments:

Our Seven Sub-selves
Our brains evolved (when we were primitive beings) to cope with different challenges – like dealing with disease, needing to pro-create, gain and maintain status within the group (in order to survive and prosper) and so on. 

There are, K&G argue seven sub-selves designed to help us with evolutionary challenges they are:
  1. Evading physical harm
  2. Avoiding disease
  3. Making friends
  4. Gaining status
  5. Attracting a mate
  6. Keeping that mate
  7. Caring for family
Kendrick & Griskevecious’ position is that these different selves within us can be primed or triggered, and our behaviours will change according to which one of our sub-selves is in the driving seat. Our disease avoidance self is highly cautious, and rejects new experiences, new tastes, new people (these all put us at risk of disease). If, however we (particularly men) are in ‘attracting a mate’ mode, we are more likely to be more adventurous and risk-taking. 

Some of the experiments they have done to support/ develop their thinking feel compelling. My problem with them is that their arguments seem to assume we are all married, heterosexual and with children. They may have made their book simple in order to be accessible, but they didn’t tackle ‘difference’ which left me frustrated. 

However, I did really buy the priming different selves argument, and the whole book reminded me of another interesting read: Who am I by Steven Reis – he identifies 16 drivers that affect our behaviour/ personality… and his arguments are, perhaps, more flexible because he believes we all have different personality characteristics.
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