Hacking the Unconscious by Rory Sutherland

Summary

  1. The author discusses some legendary marketing events and how to think about why they were successful

Key Takeaways

  1. What are the product’s higher order benefits? tap into that in an aspirational way. Coke is just a drink but it can help build bonds and strong bonds can prevent war. This might only be available to the global leader. Coke can do this, RC Cola, maybe not
  2. The allure of altruism – those who do public demonstrations of helping others actually end up donating less or doing less than those who help quietly
  3. Campaigning for real women – the first rule of advertising is to get the audience’s attention and generally nothing does that better than sex. Dove overturned this with their real beauty campaign. They were real and vulnerable and it worked. Give people permission to be themselves
  4. Diamonds and the peacocks tail – signaling theory is everywhere and it is a supremely useful lens to view the world. Organisms are a marketing machine for their genes. When you see life as a series of signals, a whole bunch of things that didn’t make sense of a sudden do. Who is advertising what to whom?
  5. From ads to art – breaking the rules creates the best art and the best ads (Guinness the best things come to those who wait)
  6. Selling a philosophy – Nike’s now famous slogan – just do it – helped them move from an aspirational company to an inspirational company. The words were never spoken so it is up to the watcher to interpret it as a command a statement or whatever else speaks to them. Nike is selling their philosophy that they can do anything
  7. Designated driver – giving something a name, makes it feel more legitimate and real. Those who didn’t drink were party poopers before, but now they’re designated drivers which is a perfectly acceptable reason to not drink
  8. Marketing is so love / hate because it holds up a mirror to who we truly are. It works because it taps into things deep in our nature, whether we like it or not
  9. People are incredible at self deception. Don’t underestimate this ability
  10. If you’re given a budget for one car you’re choose a very boring and conventional car that isn’t too fast or too big or too small. However if you’re given a budget for two cars your criteria totally changed. You may choose one big SUV and one more fun car or a normal car and a moped. The same could be happening with diversity efforts where the safe and boring candidate is most often chosen
  11. Market research get people to say what they think they want you to say and this leads us astray. The logical and rational will not help us innovate. We need the absurd sounding and crazy people to take risks
  12. Showing investment in effort is as important as the product or service itself. Think of the knowledge test London cabbies have to take or the whole engagement and marriage process. Value derived from commitment. However, commitment signaling must be swept under the rug or all else goes haywire. Be aware of then, but don’t verbalize or expose them 

What I got out of it

  1. So fascinating to hear Sutherland talk about some of the all-time great ads and some of the psychology behind what made them successful. Selling a philosophy, understanding signaling and self-deception, investment in effort will stand out to me