Christopher Demetrakos

Christopher Demetrakos

Cognition, BeSci, and the next evolution in adcomms

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Banging the Same Drum

Marketing advice columns, marketing courses, marketing magazines — it seems the message is on repeat, the chords are always the same, what was music in the 20th Century is now like listening to a garbage disposal try to chew up a fork. “CMOs agree that this year’s focus is on creative strategy.” Even that lauded institution (somewhere to the North and the West) where the marketing MBA is bestowed, the Isengard of advertising orcs, is sending its graduates into the world with outmoded skill sets. To be fair, our century-old methods are all we have had until now, so no harm, no foul. 

“But these are good fundamentals,” the devout will say, teeth bared.

Once upon a time ago, they were. I’ll show you why they no longer are. 


What Was Right Yesterday Isn’t Today

“You need to know your objective, it will determine your strategy.” 

OK, let’s see. Awareness, let’s focus on that. 

If we raise awareness, then consumers will somehow not only remember, but find their way to a distribution channel. Right? That is a sizable leap of faith in an era when we cannot look up from our phones, an affliction called nomophobia. These people agree about the folly of focusing on awareness. 

How many brands are you aware of versus the number you actually consume and use? If you put the second number over the first number, you’ll see the emergence of a tiny fraction. Are you aware of every auto maker? Probably. Will you buy them all, even in your lifetime? No. You won’t, not even close. What is it that causes you to buy one versus another? The legacy ad clergy would say: “Advertising,” as if it’s like H2O, just add some anywhere and magic happens. Or maybe even: “An idea.” The italics mean that there is an idea, and there is an idea. If you are not an acolyte of the creative faith, then you don’t really know what an idea is. Or so goes the mythos perpetuated over decades. 

What is it really that causes people to buy one thing and not another? Advances in psych and data science have allowed me to add advertising to these two, flip the switch on the Vitamix, and solve this conundrum once and for all. Dear Legacy Advertising, cult of creative replete with expensive eyewear, summer scarves, and strategically ripped jeans, welcome to disruption. You, the smart and beautiful one reading this, welcome to the new era of cause-and-effect marketing, a glorious future in which we know exactly what we are doing and leave nothing to chance. Have you ever seen your CFO smile? You will, have your camera ready. 


First, the Point: Decision

There is a common denominator to every marketing objective. Each step in your carefully crafted funnel has that same common denominator: consumer decision. Consumers must decide in our favor. They must choose to consider us, choose to try us out, choose to come back for more, choose to tell others. In fact, even “seeing” our ads is a choice. “See” is in quotes because an ad can pass before their eyes, but unless it meets very specific requirements, it will not register in the brain. It will be filtered out. The Invisible Gorilla is a great example. So much for intuition-based creative…

The point of all of our work as marketing professionals is to get decision. We need to understand our consumers. Why? Decision. We need to create an idea that moves them. Why? Decision. We need to get in the channels that matter. Why? You know the answer. 

Decision is the one objective to rule them all. If you can master triggering consumer decision, it will satisfy every marketing objective — business objectives, too. And it’s a ton of fun. 

This is nothing new in the world of advertising. In fact, we have been striving for this particular nirvana for over a century, just in that old school, analog kinda way. “Data-driven” goes back to the Mad Men era. My former boss, an executive VP of Dentsu Tokyo, used to rib us about how they collected, collated, and analyzed data on paper, and bellowed, “Don’t think you’re doing anything new just because you’re using computers!” His generation discovered the connection to emotions, and George Lois introduced “the big idea” based on the growing complexity of advertising. What is new is that we have unlocked the cognitive mechanism of human decision, and we know how to meet the requirements to trigger it. 


Enter PsyCom

Welcome to PsyCom, the new lingua franca of advertising. PsyCom is a portmanteau of psychometric communications. In other words, cognitively resonant ads that people see and act on, absolutely. It’s measured, engineered, and executed entirely based on the science of the irrational human mind, and…it gets decision.

Can you hear the legacy faithful grumbling? Adam Grant spoke some words of wisdom (h/t Shane Parrish):

“You’re entitled to your own opinion if you keep your opinion to yourself. If you decide to say it out loud, then I think you have a responsibility to be open to changing your mind in the face of better logic or stronger data. I think if you’re willing to voice an opinion, you should also be willing to change that opinion.”

The elegance of PsyCom is that it operates on hypotheses. No more opinions, hard selling, decision by committee, or “we are sure this is going to work.” Read the traits of various clusters of audience, know how to trigger them to action via PsyCom, validate resonance, and execute. All hypotheses welcome (just be ready to be proved wrong). Marketing how it is supposed to be.