Earlier this week, one of our LinkedIn connections posted about a video from SAP about experience management. Agency folks were all over it, how moving and motivating it was, how it should be nominated for a Cannes Lion (puppy?), and so on. This reminded me about how I learned when I first studied copy-writing, that desperate marketers who couldn’t find anything distinctive to say about their product just had to use a photo with girls in bikinis, or a puppy. Yes, sorry, that’s what we learned, and yes, they called us girls, and, well, none of that really matters so much as the fact that these tired tactics still persist, and I got annoyed. Sigh. Stay with me. There’s more to the story.
On the advice of someone I know, I have been re-reading Ann Handley & C.C. Chapman’s Content Rules. So here I am at lunchtime, reading along, and I come to a part where the book talks about Eloqua’s “The Conversation” series, and how the video begins after a visitor indicates that she works in marketing. “Obviously I’m not going to be able to use any of the typical marketing tricks on you (sex!), so allow me to just be direct (puppies!).” The version of “The Conversation” that’s online now isn’t quite the same, but it is still a great example of interactively drawing someone into a conversation about your product with engaging humour, even if you have a serious B2B product.
That’s a useful thing to learn, for sure. But the lesson is not, “use a puppy”.
There’s a bigger and more useful lesson here. And here it is: when we see something that excites us, makes us laugh, or riles us up (have you guessed which one applies to me, when I see a puppy ad that isn’t actually selling something directly related to puppies?), the emotion sticks with us. And then, we may start seeing that thing that excited, amused, or enraged us, wherever we look. It’s a bit like the “frequency illusion” – our heightened awareness of that thing means that the frequency with which we see it seems to go up, even though in reality, this type of confirmation bias may be causing our brains to just confirm what we want to believe – that we are seeing those puppies everywhere. We unconsciously start looking for them, so we can prove to our brain that our theory is right.
So the next time your team gets a great idea about what your customers want, and you start seeing evidence everywhere, take a step back. Try using one or all of these tools to check your bias:
1. Ask the customers directly how they feel about your platform (or puppies).
2. Look at the data – have they ever shown an interest in puppies before?
3. Run a test to validate (or invalidate) your hypothesis.
I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions – using better data, a better approach, or better metrics. If you need help deciding which metrics will work best for you and your team, so that you can find, serve, and keep more customers, we can help. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. For more news you can use to help you or your team to make better decisions, click the handy button, below.
2 thoughts on “Down with Puppies!”
What a great headline! haha A few years ago I wrote a blog post along similar lines as this (not nearly as eloquent) and a friend quickly pointed out that Telus would disagree. At the time, their photos of colourful animals were very popular! But there’s a difference between an advertising campaign and one article with a gratuitous cute puppy, of course. (I solved my own urge by finding a client who has a legitimate reason for cute puppy and kitty photos – the local SPCA 😉
It’s true, people did love those animals. But they didn’t know what the CTA was, a lot of the time. They often weren’t even sure whether the company was Telus.
This is always a risk – that prospects recognize the campaign, but don’t know what they’re supposed to do.
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