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Efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right thing: lessons from the AME Festival.

by Nextness published May 23, 2011 posted in STW Group

Shanghai | Flash-ScreenLast week, a group of STWers went to Shanghai to attend the Asian Marketing Effectiveness (AME) Festival. It celebrates marketing work that works. It featured some great speakers talking about effectiveness. Here, Alex Campbell, strategist at Lawrence Creative Strategy, outlines the three biggest lessons from the festival.

1. The difference between efficiency and effectiveness.

Ogilvy Public Relations worldwide CEO Christopher Graves was the charismatic MC for the festival. He opened with a brilliant talk that set the scene for everything that would follow with simple and clear definitions: efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right thing.

This difference is not academic. Chris made the very astute observation that “all of our problems come out of doing the wrong things righter”. As marketing becomes more and more complex, making sure we’re solving the “right things right” is becoming ever more important.

AMEFestival | AMEFestival Flickr

2. The rise of behavioural economics.

The one and only Rory Sutherland (@rorysutherland) spoke about the rise of behavioural economics in advertising (if you’re not familiar with Rory’s TED talks then you are in for a treat: here and here).

Rory argued that agencies need to rethink what they see as their job. Rather than just shifting perception and attitude, Rory argues that “our job is to turn human understanding into business advantage for our clients”. In other words, use behavioural economics to change what people do -- not just what they think.

This understanding of human behaviour is invaluable in creating advertising that truly works. It is grounded in the idea that humans are not rational. In fact, we live lives full of irrationalities that marketers can exploit for their own purposes. “The human brain is not the Oval Office, making authoritative decisions,” he says. “It’s the press office -- issuing post-rationalisations after the fact.”

Even framing, or what we compare something to, has a major effect on how we perceive it. Take Rolls Royce. They don’t sell their cars at car shows -- they look too expensive. They sell them at jet and yacht shows, where they look cheap.

3. Humans are copying machines.

“Independent thinking is to humans as swimming is to cats. We can do it if we really       want but most of the time we will do anything we can do avoid it.”

Mark Earls argued that “humans are copying machines”. He says that we are fundamentally wired to follow those around us rather than to make our own independent choices.

This has interesting implications for marketers. While we mostly focus on trying to influence individual choice, Earls argued convincingly brand behaviour is a social choice rather than an individual choice. Therefore we can have far more impact by instead finding ways to influence group behaviour.

Earles argues that this means we need to shift our focus away from the one big insight and the one big idea. Because we are at the mercy of the whims of groups, we instead need to take to a much more scattered approach where we “light lots of fires” by putting many ideas in front of our audience and see what takes off.

For more on Mark Earles and what ‘herd’ behaviour means for marketers, see Mark’s blog, follow him on Twitter, buy his book or watch this excellent talk:

Bonus treat.

One of the highlights of the festival was watching some wonderful film work from Singapore-based WPP agency 10AM Communications. Here’s one of their beautiful short films.

Alex Campbell is a strategist at STW agency Lawrence Creative Strategy. You can follow him on Twitter (@alexjcampbell) or his blog. Alex got to interview Rory Sutherland for Nextness while he was over in Shanghai. The results of their fascinating, wide-ranging chat will be posted soon.


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