Why marketing needs to dig deeper

8 August 2022
By David O'Loughlin

I like space. Not personal space – I’ve had enough of that recently thanks to COVID – but deep space, I love. The images NASA publishes. The theories of physicists grappling with black holes and dark matter. The complexity of what’s out there, and the way in which humans steadfastly work through tedious data to reveal powerful new insights into our existence in the ever-expanding universe. I love it.
But then along comes astronomer royal Martin Rees and his book On the Future: Prospects for Humanity bringing me back to Earth. Among many brilliant insights, one stood out. Rees writes that for thousands of years humans have been able to predict – with a degree of precision – solar and lunar eclipses. But despite our advances in science and technology we still cannot predict whether cloud cover will stop us from being able to see an eclipse on the day. Rees’ point is that things get simpler and more predictable the further away from Earth you get and that this planet and its biology is by far the most complex system known to mankind. I still love space, but as a strategist and CEO of a marketing company who has monitored, attempted to predict, and even change human behaviour over the past 30 years, I can confirm: predictable this world is not.And yet the machines are trying. Big tech and media companies are using complex maths to try and simplify the world and everyone in it into predictable groups with standard behaviours and easily identifiable consumer patterns.
I’m not going to hide the fact our business has a couple of brilliant staff who dedicate their day to working with Google’s 70+ Million “signals” it tracks and traces on your internet usage to try and put the most relevant products in front of you at the most opportune time. It’s incredible what we can do today with technology, but it’s far from perfect. At the world’s most famous and influential festival of advertising in Cannes this year, three “effectiveness in advertising” gurus got on stage and announced that marketing – en masse – was failing to connect and influence people.Karen Nelson-Field revealed statistics from 130,000 ads her study tested for memorability and impact.“15 per cent of ads get 2.5 seconds of attention. The rest are just not noticed,” she said.The algorithms that run huge chunks of the Internet might seek to simplify our lives and predict our next move, but humans are more disconnected than ever.

“Relying on data that says an ad has been seen for 10 seconds is foolish,” says Karen when talking about the problem brands and businesses are having when trying to connect with people online. “The truth of that 10 seconds may be that the person is doing 10 different things on that platform at the same time.”

We didn’t necessarily need Karen to put 130,000 ads through the wringer to tell us this. You can feel it, can’t you?

The world of communication feels like a shallow place. Robotic ads follow us from our shopping cart through to our social media, stupidly showing us products we’ve already purchased, while the platforms feed us sponsored posts and recommended videos that are perfectly irrelevant to everything about me.

The problem with this robotic approach to content and communication is, quite simple – humans aren’t robots.

We’re deep.

Our curiosity, our motivation, our loyalty – all come from somewhere deep inside us. Pestering us with automated and repetitious advertising and content only builds contempt for brands and businesses who think their customers are everyone, everywhere, all at once.

We can all agree with Rees that biology is complicated but, after 30 years in advertising, I’d argue there’s one thing that’s utterly predictable about humankind; we respond well to empathy.

Humans respond well to being considered, and assisted, and empowered.

You don’t need a study of 130,000 ads to tell you that we like being shown respect. And yet so much of my world of communication shows nothing of the sort. Just more of the same shallow, and salacious content, click-bait, and robotic marketing.

So, I’ve decided to go to war with shallow.

Our company will fight apathy with empathy and build deeper, more meaningful connections between businesses and their customers with considerate digital experiences and inspiring ideas.

The business formerly known as KWP has been reborn as kwpx.

X marks the spot and we’re digging in.


David O’Loughlin // CEO, kwpx

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