Why Marketing Needs to Dig Deeper

David O’Loughlin, CEO of KWP, explains why modern marketing’s reliance on algorithms isn’t the way to make friends and influence people and why his agency is rebranding to reflect this new thinking.

I like space. No personal space – I’ve had enough recently thanks to COVID – but deep space, I love it.

Images released by NASA. The theories of physicists grappling with black holes and dark matter. The complexity of what exists and how humans work steadily through tedious data to reveal powerful new information about our existence in an ever-expanding universe. I love it.

But then comes Astronomer Royal Martin Rees and his book On the Future: Prospects for Humanity bringing me back to Earth.

Among many brilliant ideas, one stood out. Rees writes that for thousands of years humans have been able to predict. – with some precision – solar and lunar eclipses. But despite our advances in science and technology, we still can’t predict whether cloud cover will prevent us from seeing an eclipse on the day.

Rees’ view is that things get simpler and more predictable the further you get from Earth, 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 that has monitored, attempted to predict, and even altered human behavior for the past 30 years, I can confirm that this world is not is not predictable.

And yet the machines try. Big tech and media companies use complex math to try to simplify the world and all of its members into predictable groups with standard behaviors and easily identifiable consumption patterns.

I’m not going to hide the fact that our company has a few brilliant employees who spend their day working with Google’s over 70 million “signals”, it tracks and traces your internet usage to try to put the most relevant in front of you at the most opportune time. It’s amazing what we can do today with technology, but it’s far from perfect.

At the world’s most famous and influential advertising festival in Cannes this year, three “effectiveness in advertising” gurus took the stage and announced that marketing – en masse – was failing to connect and to influence people.

Karen Nelson-Field revealed the statistics of 130,000 advertisements which her study tested for memorability and impact.

“15% of ads get 2.5 seconds of attention. The others just go unnoticed,” she said.

The algorithms that run huge swaths of the internet might seek to simplify our lives and predict our next move, but humans are more disconnected than ever.

“It’s nonsense to rely on data that an ad was seen for 10 seconds,” Karen says of the issues brands and businesses face when trying to connect with people online. “The truth of those 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 putting 130,000 ads through the wringer to tell us that. You can feel it, can’t you?

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

The problem with this robotic approach to content and communication is quite simple: humans are not robots.

We are deep.

Our curiosity, our drive, our loyalty all come from somewhere deep within us. Harassing us with automated, repetitive advertising and content only serves to despise brands and companies that 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 would say there is one thing that is quite predictable about humanity; we respond well to empathy.

Humans respond well to being considered, helped and empowered.

No need for a study of 130,000 advertisements to tell you that we like to be respected. And yet, much of my world of communication shows no such thing. Just more of the same superficial and salacious content, click-bait and robotic marketing.

So I decided to go to war with the superficial.

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

The company formerly known as KWP is reborn as kwpx.

X marks the spot and we dig.

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