A snowball on the tip of an iceberg

I’ve just started reading a new book and already six pages into it, I’m delighted:

“According to the modern perspective, Freud’s view of the unconscious was far too limited. When he said (following Gustav Fechner, an early experimental psychologist) that consciousness is the tip of the mental iceberg, he was short of the mark by quite a bit – it may be more the size of a snowball on top of that iceberg. The mind operates most efficiently by relegating a good deal of high-level, sophisticated thinking to the unconscious, just as a modern jumbo jetliner is able to fly on automatic pilot with little or no input from the human, ‘conscious’ pilot. The adaptive unconsciousness does an excellent job of sizing up the world, warning people of danger, setting goals, and initiating action in a sophisticated and efficient manner. It is a necessary and extensive part of a highly efficient mind and not just the demanding child of the mental family and the defenses that have developed to keep this child in check.”

The book is “Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious” by Timothy D. Wilson. More to come, I’m sure.


Happiness is to learn something new every day

And this is what I learned today, starting at 26:30 into this speech:

So…dopamine isn’t about reward, it’s about the anticipation of reward. And if you block the dopamine rise from occurring you won’t get the work done, which means that dopamine isn’t only about the anticipation of reward, it’s also about goal-directed behavior. Perhaps most interesting of all: if a “maybe” is introduced into the equation, i.e. if you don’t get the reward 100% of the time, your dopamine will increase even more. So there you have it, the reason we are suckers for playing lotteries, slot machines and other games of chance.

Do watch the whole clip and just bask in the genius of Robert Sapolsky. And, not the least, in the fact that someone who is one of the most outstanding professors at the second best university in the world can look this cool.

Advertising, Observations

Why do you sales people think you’re bloody neuroscientists?


Bloody news flash: you’re not. Yes, I fully respect the fact that you’ve been in a gazillion sales meetings with clients and therefore (hopefully) know something about what makes them tick and how to get them to buy what you want to sell. But no, you don’t have the full picture. Far from it. Far, far from it. You seem to have no bloody idea that people make all their decisions – small, large, B2C, B2B, private, corporate – using emotion, not fact, as a starting point. In essence, we are feeling animals who think rather than thinking animals who feel. Or as Tim Ambler put it: “When nothing else works, we think”. And Daniel Kahneman even won a Nobel Prize showing just that, for heaven’s sake.

And since you got all this backwards you also have no idea what the role of advertising or other forms of market communication actually is in the context of the sales process. You either hold one of two cosmic misconceptions: you think that a) clients are bloody robots and advertising’s role is to program that robot by means of facts, figures and rational benefits, or that b) clients are bloody robots that can’t be influenced by advertising, base all their decisions on price and personal relationships and for whom advertising is therefore pointless. You seem to think that theirs is an existence taking place in a bloody vacuum, cut off from the rest of the world. You just don’t get that advertising is about tilting people your way by creating familiarity, associations and brand relationships.

You do great work in the field, I’m sure, but if you ever want your job made easier by advertising, here’s my advice to you: Read a bloody book.


Holy cow, I must be a genius!


Image: tim caynes

I came across something today called the Zeigarnik effect and it goes a little something like this: If you are half way through learning something and are then interrupted, you will remember what you were doing better than if you had completed the learning task.

I knew it. I knew that never finishing those mountains of half-read books was a smart strategy move on my part and not an expression of laziness or restlessness.

Long live the procrastinators, the masters of tomorrow!

(Source: HolyCow)


Ah, those Hollywood PR geniuses

“Disney has more than a dozen 3D movies in preparation while Twentieth Century Fox is reportedly spending $200m (£133m) on James Cameron’s Avatar, which uses new 3D techniques and around which incredible hype is building. The New York Times quoted a behavioural neurologist as saying that it was possible that Avatar, about a troop using technology to control an alien body, could possibly tap brain systems left undisturbed by conventional films.”

Cannes film festival gets 3D fever – without the red and blue specs

Observations, Planning

And you thought it was just a commercial when it is, in fact, a lesson in communication

As a matter of fact, it is the whole hierarchy of communications condensed into thirty seconds of film. Here they are:

In other words, when communicating, the likelihood of people listening to what you have to say depends on the following three things, in order of importance:

1. Who you are
2. How you communicate
3. What you communicate

This is, of course, in stark contrast to how most communications planning is done. It is a process dedicated almost invariably to trying to figure out what we want to communicate and then, only then, we treat the how part as some sort of creative add-on. As for the who bit, we don’t disect the brand’s current relationship with the target/audience/tribe nearly as much as we should.

Time for a reversal, right?

Right on the nose.

Advertising, Observations



Photo by cmh0150

“You know, there really is no such thing as bad publicity,” says Keller. “People like to say it, but you have to believe it, because it really comes down to the fact that [if you want] to generate energy around something, [it] can’t be harnessed for a positive outcome. Unfortunately it’s not the nature of culture to generate a lot of excitement and energy around really positive things. But our goal is to be positive, it’s not to be cynical…. We know that we have to generate a conversation and to have a conversation there has to be two sides. If you’re not willing to have the negative side, then you’re not willing to have a conversation, and if you’re not willing to [do that], you’re not going to create anything.

CP+B: Loved, Loathed But Never Ignored


Funny what you can find in your pocket


Like this ripped out notepad page. On it are random notes from a talk by Swedish neurophysiology professor Martin Ingvar and this is what they say, from top to bottom, left to right:

“The best senders are the ones who also have the best receivers” (r/t thought: applicable to both people and brands)

“Our reward system is still the same, with the same demand for instant rewards even when we don’t get them => anxiety, frustration”

“Choosing is always about cutting stuff out, never about adding it”

“Mirror neurons… We are hard coded to sync our mood with that of our environment”

“Motivation = the difference between how things are and how they should be”

“The brain’s social system (=observing other people) => How things should be”

There seems to be a lot of wisdom in there and I guess my plan at the time was to develop some thinking around it.

Ah…plans. Bless ’em.