Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Decision Making

People who have followed this blog over the last years know my passion for understanding of how consumers make decision. That’s why it’s nice to see that Stuart Elliott from the New York Times shows interest and respect for some of the work that I am part. Read his comments in today’s New York Times.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Cannes 2010

This year’s largest Marketing and Advertising festival in Cannes was once again well visited and showed the largest amounts of submissions from all over the world than ever before. The Cannes festival demonstrated an interesting mix of the usual stereotypical behaviors of people in the industry - young marketers partying hard until the early mornings, scam ads that will never die, and huge egos that can barely walk- with inspiring moments of dialog and presentations from people like Spike Jones who said when asked how much he would need to be paid for a trip to New Zealand: “If you have a good idea, I will sleep on your couch”.

The event allowed for a few interesting observations:

  • Marketers are hungry to learn: Every single seminar was packed with a minimum numbers of 800 visitors. Marketers, young and old, really come to Cannes to see what their peers have to say and hopefully go back to your respective work areas with some true insights and learning. The hunger for structural solutions of how to deal with our complex marketing world and the interest in big personalities ensured that the seminars were the center piece of Cannes, not necessarily the award shows.
  • The majority of agencies are still confused: I saw a few agency presentations; most of them have not developed their unique point of view on the industry over the last years. Worse, quite a few agencies seem to be totally lost in a mixture of thought fragments like “Technology is great”, “The consumer wants immediate gratification”, to “The idea still wins” without a comprehensive world view of how their agency is attacking today’s challenges. If I were a client, I would be worried.
  • The creative quality is very strong: Walking around on the lower level of the palais and studying the different lion’s winner, one has to admit that there is a lot of outstanding, smart, and well produced work, independent of category. It’s exiting and sometimes humbling to see the wealth of great ideas and concepts from all over the world.

The largest gathering of marketers anywhere in the world is always a special, weird, and relevant place to experience. Cannes is definitely an event that one can make jokes about with a lot of good reasons but it remains a powerful and important experience that everyone in our industry should witness at least once.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Cognitive surplus

This months WIRED magazine has a short but enlightening discussion between Daniel Pink (WIRED contributing editor and author of “Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us”) and Clay Shirky (author of the upcoming book “Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a connected Age”). They discuss the concept of “Cognitive Surplus” that occurs when people stop being passive media consumer and start creating things that benefit the community and/or their personal lives. Both believe that the ever rising TV consumption hinders people on expressing themselves in any kind of creative form that would beneficial for their communities and themselves. While their arguments and thinking is not necessarily new, their framing of the opportunity is fascinating.

Shirky builds the connection between the positively used free time (when people stop watching as much TV) as a vast reservoir of life changing power and people’s intrinsic motivation of creating things. He claims that most people are not motivated by external factors (e.g. money) but by internal factors that drive their own personal satisfaction. People like putting puzzles together in their free time but if you start paying them, they quickly loose interest.

The cognitive surplus exists if one connects the creatively usable free time of lots of people and put them to use for either something valuable or just enjoyable. Pink and Shirky like to use Wikipedia or Linux as one of the best examples that used cognitive surplus in a positive manner. All of Wikipedia’s work represents over 100 million hours of human labor which seems at first glance a lot but not if you consider that someone born in 1960 will have watched already 50,000 hours of TV alone.

I am not as optimistic as Pink and Shirky in regards to a perceived trends of people moving from passively absorbing to actively engaging but the opportunities to not just create more cognitive surplus but using it, too, is a demanding and challenging one. Every for profit organization has latent “cognitive surplus” that could be utilized, not only for the company’s benefit but for the employees benefit, too. Successful companies in the future will rely strongly on allowing for “cognitive surplus” by providing space and connecting people’s individual “cognitive surplus”. This is not a zero sum game, it’s a one plus game.