Food for Thoughts-
Strategies and Insights for Business
In this monthly thought piece SevenOne AdFactory CEO Tom Schwarz and Vice President Concept & Strategic Planning of ProSiebenSat.1 TV Germany Bernhard Oberlechner offer a perspective on human behavior, and what these insights could mean for new brands and their marketing strategies.
In addition, they share their personal experience in marketing, product development, and market entry in their roles as senior executives in the creative and marketing industry.
Hansel and Gretel and the best recipes for little roasted boys
Or: how transmedia storytelling works
by Bernhard Oberlechner
Entertainment is the new marketing. The saying isn’t new but in my opinion is more relevant today than ever before. In a time in which huge amounts of input on increasing numbers of channels are struggling for people's attention, marketing has to entertain. And the key to this is good storytelling. In the digital world, this means transmedia storytelling. In particular companies that market entertainment or content as a product will need to spearhead this revolution going forward.
But what exactly does the term "transmedia storytelling" mean? Let's try to explain it using a very simple and well-known example: the story of Hansel and Gretel. Imagine we wanted to film and market this story.
Of course we would tell the central story of the two children and the evil witch on our most important medium, let's say TV, filmed as an elaborate production. But instead of replaying the identical core story via other media (that would be classic multimedia storytelling), we would open up the story, explore the whole universe behind it, create new narrative strands and content around the main story and play them out on all possible channels in a way that is appropriate for both the media and the target group.
There are no limits to the possibilities here. Maybe the witch has her own Instagram account, shares photos and recipes for gingerbread and "little roasted boys" with us. Maybe these recipes - of course only those for gingerbread - will also be used in our successful cooking shows. Maybe we orientate ourselves on one of the most successful (and first) transmedia formats, the Blair Witch Project, and create the impression online that there is a true story behind the old fairy tale. Maybe a side character (a girl in a conspicuous red hood, perhaps?) appears in the story who turns out to be the main character of the next fairy tale. We would offer the fans the possibility to discover the full background to the story, for example with documentaries on the origin of the Grimms fairy tales, on modern day witches and the like via Youtube.
All these ideas function as independent, entertaining content - but also as a marketing instrument for the actual main production. One could say therefore, the new marketing… is entertaining.
For every buck you get 14 back
by Tom Schwarz
Brave and meaningful deeds are mostly born out of necessity. If there is no necessity – If people are content, for example - they generally don’t see the need to change anything. Their willingness to take risks is low anyway and heroic acts are a scarce commodity. External pressures such as military or economic crises are what move us to action. They make people rise beyond their abilities, accomplish the unimaginable and give birth to heroes, legends and cult brands.
Why do we find it so hard to innovate and develop? Henry Ford once said: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” On the subject of horse power, Porsche almost had to go bankrupt in the 90s to raise itself like phoenix from the ashes through courageous management decisions, consulting support from Toyota and a financial injection from VW. But many overlook the point of no return and only react when it’s too late. And then often incorrectly: To drag themselves into the next quarter, they simply sell the most profitable division. And thus their future is revealed. Companies that are not constantly reinventing themselves threaten to disappear from sight.
There are of course exceptions. The legendary moon landing is one. People searched deep within themselves for a challenge, defying any risk, without knowing how it would end, where it would lead or even what the ROI would be. They just wanted to get better, defend their position as “market leader”, and do as much as possible for human advancement. Exactly because it was difficult, perhaps almost impossible. Space travel is a triumph of the mind and at the same time a failure of reason. What can we learn from it? Pioneering spirit, intuition, courage, determination, teamwork and a good dose of curiosity.
In spite of this, people still ask what space travel actually achieved and whether this huge amount of money couldn’t have been spent more usefully elsewhere. To answer these people: if you are happy to live without calculators, wireless networks, mobile communications, fuel cells, ceramic brake discs, cordless drills and weather forecasts, then sure. Aerospace apparel inspired protective suits for firefighters and motorcyclists, and a method of predicting the location of black holes developed into a method for the early detection of skin cancer. The ESA has compiled a list of over 850 examples of how space exploration has impacted our everyday lives.
Today, since we can do complex calculations, we know that for every dollar paid in, the US taxpayer has received $14 back.
When power becomes powerless
by Valeria Witsch
For a person to be able to exercise as much choice as possible is a good thing. We like the idea of going into a shop or going online and finding a good selection of products. It gives us a feeling of power. But there is a downside: he who has choice can also be spoilt for choice.
The addition of only four letters turns power into powerless, and so it is when more options are added to a selection. A choice between two comparable products is simple and contributes to a feeling of self-determination, but not necessarily a choice between 47 products. When shopping offline for everyday products, where there is limited space on shop shelves, brands help us make that decision. Brands are in a sense a short cut to the trade-off. But online, this help often isn’t there. The shop itself is the brand and the "shelf space" is unlimited. Our purchase decision is a choice between an infinite number of comparable products. For example, search for black dress in an online fashion store, the search often returns up to 1,500 items – and that’s only in one shop.
Fascinating is that while everyone knows the saying „spoilt for choice“, few marketing managers actually apply it to their own product range. Rather, they think that if they only offer the customers as many products as possible, the probability increases that they will find something suitable for themselves and buy. But this is not true.
Too many options can quickly overwhelm us and thus make a (purchase) decision more difficult. We feel paralysed and the probability that we buy anything at all takes a nose dive.
While many options can inspire our imagination, so can the extent to which we can easily imagine all the possibilities that through our decision have slipped through our fingers. Result? Disappointment and buyer’s remorse. Who hasn’t looked longingly at their neighbour’s food in a restaurant and secretly imagined a meal swap? A larger selection also automatically raises our expectations and increases the pressure to succeed. The marketing manager thinks to himself: "With so much choice, there must be something there for everybody." Meanwhile, the individual customer ponders: "With so much choice, the right thing for me must be there! And if not, what on earth am I doing wrong?”Naturally, higher expectations are more easily dashed and the customer is less satisfied, whether he buys something or not. Finally there is the scapegoat question. If there is no choice and something goes wrong, the person responsible is quickly found: literally anyone else but me. However, if you have the choice of 12,753 options and you make the wrong decision, there is no excuse for your own failure.
Unfortunately there is no exact formula which tells us at what point choice becomes too much choice and when power becomes powerless.But the following advice remains: As students we were all encouraged to focus on our strengths. It’s time that (online) shops learned this lesson too.
The collaboration between marketing and product development or:
The fish has to like the bait…..but more importantly the hook has to catch
by Bernhard Oberlechner
It’s obvious: Not only should your marketing attract, appeal to and interest customers, but also your product. The role of marketing is to make promises that your product needs to live up to. And woe betide it doesn’t! One thing is clear: “A great campaign will make a bad product fail faster. It will get more people to know it's bad.” (Bill Bernbach, agency founder, DDB.)
Essentially that means nothing more than doing the classic marketing work – identifying target groups, gathering insights, milieus, needs, environments of the people you are looking to reach – not only as a product goes to market. Rather much earlier. Right at the start of the product development process. Or in an ideal world even earlier, when it’s valid to record worthwhile themes, social needs and trends which can then be used in the process of developing relevant products.
Many sectors are much further than others in this regard. A clear frontrunner is the toy industry. Already in the second half of the last century, it was marketing that decided which new action figure Mattel should develop and which new worlds Barbie would inhabit. In recent years Lego has gone one step further. They realised that they are much better at developing worlds, stories and universes like "Ninjago" and rolling them out into children’s bedrooms via films, series and comics, particularly digitally and on demand, in order to vigorously sell their core product – toys (in addition to school bags, clothing and other licensed products). This step was only possible because they went about it differently from the beginning and used all the insights that marketing brings to the table far too late in other sectors. Not because these other sectors couldn’t do it sooner. Rather they have never been required to. That is a serious mistake. But also an opportunity to do better. And a duty to do better.
Ergo: If the hook doesn’t catch, then you can fish without it. But even those non-fishers among us can imagine how successful that will be.
I see the world the way I want to
by Valeria Witsch
“I see the world the way I want to”: Hidden behind this peppy Pippi Longstocking lyric is a relevant message for marketing executives. People do not see things how they objectively are, rather than how they choose to subjectively perceive them. In other words: subjective interpretation, rather than objective reality, is key.
Human perception is to blame: that is, the unconscious process of filtering and merging pieces of information into subjective impressions. And so it happens that identical products, services or situations, depending on their presentation and context, appear attractive or not. This effect was first explored in 1979 by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky as part of their famous "Prospect Theory" and is commonly referred to as the "framing effect". Let's take the wait at a red light as an example. As long as the light is red, we do not know how long we have to wait. We generally find this state of uncertainty unsatisfactory. However, if we see a countdown at the traffic lights, the end is in sight. The uncertainty is resolved and the wait becomes more bearable. In Korea, for example, such countdowns at traffic lights are commonplace. Less frustration among motorists has also helped to reduce the accident rate.
Another example comes from adman Rory Sutherland, who states: Anyone standing alone in the corner with a glass of wine at a party and staring out the window is an anti-social oddball. Someone doing the exact same thing while smoking a cigarette, on the other hand, is a philosopher.
The "framing effect" can have many different faces. It may be that a decision between two alternatives is formulated as loss or profit. Or that a particular product is perceived as relatively cheap or expensive by its position in an arrangement of products. After all, it can be individual attributes, like the cigarette in the above example, that lead us to completely different conclusions. It is not the big things, but often the very small things, which make for successful marketing.
650 vs 1
by Tom Schwarz
Fear of change (metathesiophobia) is one of the most common causes of failure. Followed closely by the fear of making mistakes (atychiphobia) and the fear of anything new (neophobia). These fears are to a certain extent perfectly healthy, as they protect us from serious mistakes and dangers and allowed us to survive in primitive times. We are all a bit shy about coming out of our comfort zone and getting involved in something new. The unknown scares us and prevents progress and renewal. There are 650 scientifically recognised fears and phobias. But only one form of courage. And without the courage to fail, there is no real innovation. Unfortunately, in large corporations this is far too rarely called upon and encouraged, because there is a culture of avoiding mistakes. Today, the one that excels in his career is the one that makes the least mistakes.
It is scientifically proven that the fear of losing is much greater than the joy of winning. This explains why sports teams playing against relegation appear particularly unlucky. The first thing that top athletes learn is to turn this around. Jürgen Klopp summed it up well when he said: "The lust for victory must be 10 times higher than the fear of defeat." It is the people who do not fear change who write history and move us forward. People who are not afraid to be ridiculed (catagelophobia).
And if they had never existed, we would still be sitting in our caves today (agoraphobia), just as our ancestors once did. In complete safety, of course.
Innovation, not organisation
by Valeria Witsch
Innovation is a cultural issue which begins with a willingness to try something new. But what sounds straightforward is really anything but because it goes against everything culturally anchored in our organisations. Organisations are designed for self-preservation and change is often seen as a threat. These roots go so deep that it even comes across in our language. Words like “maverick” hold negative connotations, also meaning a troublemaker, someone who does not fit into existing structures. Successful innovation starts with using the right language which, while not always easy, helps to better integrate things and give them their proper value.
The creative input of each employee is more important than his physical effort or sheer presence in the workplace. We need to learn to let these things go. Firm office structures and times are not optimal conditions for an innovative corporate culture: the more complex these become, the more space they occupy - especially in the minds of employees. This leads to a situation where everyone only moves inside the staked playing field; knowledge no longer circulates freely.
We need the confidence that beyond the already defined horizons exciting possibilities await us. "Whoever pinches at the small flickering point fixed in the sky sees little. We see best at the pupil edge. There lie the surprises." (Wolf Lotter)
The World Wild West
by Valeria Witsch
The Internet has catapulted our society from an industrial to a knowledge culture. Everyone has access to information, long-distance communication has become commonplace and potential consumers are just a few clicks away. However, while market entry for brands has become easier, long-term survival has become much more difficult. Like in the Wild West, online it’s about the survival of the fittest, the winner takes all and paradoxically, in spite of the democratization of possibilities mentioned above, online power is concentrated in the hands of a few. These winners have one thing in common: they are aware of the cognitive bias that drives consumers.
Amazon is the master of this. Their 1-click economy is the perfect answer to our laziness and owes its success to this extremely strong consumer insight. As Daniel Kahneman puts it: “A general “law of least effort” applies to cognitive as well as physical exertion. […] if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action. […] Laziness is built deep into our nature.” What seems extremely functional to the outside is in truth a very instinctive, emotional customer experience. Another strong consumer insight, for example, is that too much content and clicks can overwhelm the consumer and, as a consequence, affect the motivation to purchase (choice overload). When it comes to ecommerce, it's the small things which make the big difference. The order in which different purchase options are displayed also affects our choice (framing).
An understanding of cognitive bias is also relevant for offline businesses. In creating their successful model IKEA recognized that, despite the extra effort required, the consumer actually values self-assembled furniture more than they do pre-manufactured goods. This cognitive bias is therefore known as the IKEA-effect.
Google & Amazon = NASA
by Tom Schwarz
The Romans built and perfected the roads system and became a world power. The British did the same with the sea routes and built an empire. During the Cold War the thinking was: he who rules space, rules the world. And it all began with the race to the moon. The internet, a project designed to enable disturbance-free communication in the event of nuclear war, also emerged during this time.
How is it today? He who rules the internet rules society. Today the world is mastered by he (or she) who can influence it. Trump (unfortunately) knows how to work this to his advantage as much as the digital giants. There are no boundaries, dictatorships or limitations that can stop this development. The digital giants are more powerful than ever weapon and are spreading more quickly than any epidemic. Today 140 characters can cause a landslide.
Thousands of scientists were researching rockets, nuclear bombs and killer satellites without knowing that the solution was actually hidden in a minor “spin off”. The key to world domination lay in the communication that these people had developed among themselves in case of emergencies. Ergo: everyone sees big things with eyes wide shut. But, it is the seemingly small things that mark the dividing line between success and failure.
A VISIONARY, VISION IS SCARY
by Valeria Witsch
Of word play and love of the status quo
„A visionary, vision is scary”, is a statement that is many things to many people: a play-on-words, an Eminem quote and a description of a conflict we as people often experience.
Openness to change is enormously important and yet we as people find it extremely hard. Habit promises security. We are comfortable with the status quo, or at the very least we make our peace with it – anything is better than putting the (scaredy) cat among the pigeons. Nobody wants to be responsible if a change makes a situation worse.
But herein lies the crux of the problem: He who takes a chance on the new is not the one who risks worsening a situation, but he who always continues on the same path. This is truer than ever in today's fast-moving world. Brands and the people behind them need to remain adaptable and maintain an ability to learn. This requires a culture that allows for mistakes and wiggle room which, in the age of optimized time and budget planning, has to be fought harder and harder for. As Simon Sinek so rightly puts it: "The goal in business is not to win, but to stay in the game."
The perceived unique
by Valeria Witsch
Advertising in the era of the individual
People of today are desperate to assert their individualism but deep rooted in all of us is the need to belong to a wider movement. Successful international brands succeed in meeting both needs with products which feel like true one-offs but also offer mass appeal. Apple puts their users at the centre of their advertising, for example, while at the same time selling products which mean membership to an exclusive worldwide club. Brands flourishing in today’s society should show this higher purpose and also offer their users space to identify.
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