Nappers rejoice! A recent study links regular naps with better heart health (though it figures that the six-year study involved 24, 000 Greek men!).
People have a hard time keeping a straight face when I tell them about my daytime nap habits. I can nap on a dime, wake back up in 10 or 15 minutes, and feel totally refreshed.
Do you think the HR person is being besieged with resumes this very moment?
(But the man on the left can. That's Jeremy Bullmore, more on him below).
Can there be anything more refreshing than a group of experienced, veteran professionals explore something as seemingly basic as what an insight is? You would think that The Insight is the basic starting point of what they do, and I'm sure that new(ish) planners assume that the pros have a firm grasp on what that is. But this modesty (and honesty) is testament to what the "plannersphere" is all about: smart people putting ego aside, and just talking about stuff, exchanging ideas. In my book, that's very cool.
OK, to get back to the question of insights. I'm in no position to provide anything more illuminating than what I've read from the folks above, at least not when it comes to advertising and account planning.TThey're pros, I'm not. But insights are not exclusive to marketing, or account planners. Communicating ideas, and, more importantly, hoping to influence people in a way so that they may change their behaviour, is something that others do as well. Anyone that communicates or expresses ideas to others relies on insights if they hope to say, or make,something that resonates with an audience. This is the crucial thing, in my opinion: anyone that hopes to affect behaviour in some way by relying on insights can teach us something important.
I'm very biased when it comes to thinking about insights. I've spent years communicating through music, and a big part of that has been looking for insights into what works. This can mean anything and everything from: what do people notice? what makes them react? what makes them remember? how do you make something stand out? what makes them move, literally?! (Sorry if you get sick reading about DJ'ing and music hear at Chroma, but really, it's the only think I really know). These may seem trivial, but I think that it's a mistake to think that they are. Music provides some important clues when thinking about the relationship between insights, communication, perception, and behaviour.
A few weeks ago I mentioned a truly brilliant talk by University of Toronto professor Jordan Peterson, who posits that music is unique in that it communicates something that is more meaningful and powerful and universal than other art forms, yet the meaning is something that we are unable to put into words. According to Peterson, the critical part of art is "behavioural output", the degree to which it directs us toward action. Our perception is directed toward building meaning, and meaning in its most powerful form moves us to act in a certain way (great fiction does this through the moral messages inherent in the story-a strong story suggests ways that we should act).
Music is uniquely powerful in its ability to do this. It presents us with something incredibly strong: we know that it means something, yet we cannot put that meaning into words and rationally explain it. We can't rationalize what the message and meaning of music is, it's unique language can never really be interpreted. Professor Peterson refers to this feature of music as the ability to present us with the "unrevealed complexity of the world". We build meaning via our perception, and our perception looks for and constructs patterns (based on culture, for one). These patterns produce meaning. Music, built on nothing but patterns, presents us with something immediately meaningful, yet not explainable. Peterson asks: "what do you look for, when you don't know what you see?".
Our minds are engineered to construct meaning, and music presents us with fragments that our brain instinctively tries its best to put together, yet can never really do this, at least in a way that satisfies the rational part of our mind. This unresolved structure of our thought is what makes music so powerful. In this sense, music is, according to Peterson, an "analogue of the world itself", which is really a complex place of patterns, rather than a world of concrete objects. The world, like the mind itself, is comprised of patterns, hence the distinct way that it maps meaning to fundamental way we perceive things. Music is vague, and is yet the most universal form of communication that corresponds most closely to the world itself.
So why on earth is this relevant to insights? If I were to take a stab at it, I'd say:
Insights, if they are to relate to communication, are most relevant when they evoke action. This is what I find most compelling about Jeremy Bullmore's essay:
For an insight to have real potency, literal accuracy is less important than its power to evoke.
Music is a great example of this in action; by concealing the most important part from us (meaning itself) it compels us like nothing else can. Similarly, great insights don't connect all the dots in a literal way. Like music, they compel the imagination, intimate meaning, and invite participation. I may not be an experienced planner, but roughly two decades expressing myself with music and influencing people has convinced me that this is how communication works. Again, Bullmore hits the nail squarely on the head in the following (to me, the most succint explanation of what communication is about, and the role of insight in the process):
In business, we seem to want to follow the linguistic philosophers; to believe that the rigorous researcher or the business professional deals only in matters of fact; always defines terms; and aims for the total elimination of ambiguity. In fact, of course, if every word employed is underpinned by definition, it follows that every definition employed needs to be underpinned by definition - and so on into what is called infinite regression. In the pursuit of economy and precision, we achieve instead circumlocution, opacity and chaos.
Instead, when searching for high-potency expression of sometimes complex insights, it's a great deal more fruitful to accept the limitations of language; and to agree with Arthur Koestler when he says that "Words in themselves are never completely explicit; they are merely stepping stones for thought." (It's a wonderful sentence that; not only an important insight, but an elegant example, in itself, of the very truth it contains.)
(Leland had posted some thoughts regarding thinking/action as well).
I added the emphasis, because this way of looking at insights struck me as remarkably similar to how Professor Peterson, a cognitive psychologist, thinks about music. Both views start with the basic way in which our mind creates meaning, and the kinds of things that compel it to do so.
Bullmore goes on to say:
Metaphors, analogies and similes invite the receivers' participation, as in a joke; so that the point is not rifled relentlessly home but is "seen".
Again, this echoes Peterson's belief that the mind is compelled (to act) by that which is inherently meaningful, yet concealed ("What do you look at, when you don't know what you see?"). Jeffre neatly sums it up here (though I wonder if he meant elusive, rather than allusive?).
An insight is creatively generative, it leads people to think in a new way about something, to see a whole new field of effective possibilities that had been invisible. And in order to be evocative in this way, it has to be kind of allusive. It must "avoid the direct and the explicit".
But still, there is one thing that I have to add: even after many years of expressing myself and communicating through music, even after thousands of times assuming the puppet-master role as a DJ playing for crowd and evoking reactions, or as a producer making music, I'd be the first one to admit that the mystery of what music is saying remains as mysterious and elusive as ever. How it does what it does is always beyond grasp, taunting us to comprehend with our limited (and language-oriented brain) what is being said. I find that incredibly compelling, and, when done right, it's a powerful force that motivates me, and my crowd, like nothing else.
Much like a great insight, I suspect.
(The photo is of Jeremy Bullmore)
Yes, I know there have been a million posts elsewhere about Super Bowl consumer-generated ads, but I found this report on MediaPost telling:
While most respondents--63%--thought the professional ads were equally as entertaining as the consumer-created ones, a sizable 21% thought the user-created ads were better. Just 10% said the professional ads were more entertaining than the consumer-created spots. Doritos, Chevrolet and the NFL were among the advertisers that harnessed consumer-created spots.
When comScore asked respondents which Super Bowl ads they wanted to see again, the professionally created spots topped the list, but the consumer-generated ones trailed closely. The most popular choices were the professional Anheuser-Busch spots for Budweiser (selected by 35% of respondents), but 31% chose the consumer-created Doritos ad.
I liked the Doritos ad (the one that cost 12 bucks).
Rob Walker's articles are always great, a must-read for anyone interested in the interplay of culture and brands.
His latest Consumed piece is a profile of Pizza Patron, a rapidly growing pizza chain that "learned to sell pizza to Hispanics, but not Hispanic pizza". How it did this is a fascinating case study in modern American consumer culture. The brand successfully build a new context for what they were selling, a key strategy for any brand.
Swad overhauled the graphic design of the menu boards, added contemporary Latino background music and Mexican Saltillo tiles to the stores and cooked up a new brand icon (el Patrón, a mustachioed man in a fedora), all aimed to communicate the goal of being “the premier Latino pizza brand,” as Gamm puts it. That didn’t mean a new kind of pizza, but a new context for pizza.
Anna Nicole Smith.
Her sad story is an example of how things can go horribly wrong for celebrities. Sex, greed, drugs, fame, media, money, class, all coming together to end in tragedy.
The media vultures and bloggers adding insult to injury has been pathetic. Four fathers now claiming paternity for her little baby girl. How sick.
RIP Anna Nicole.
Does this have to be a real physical space? I don't know, I'm making this up as I go along.
Since no place really stood out, the virtual place of the week is You Tube, which is fast approaching a very pivotal time in it's growth. Viacom is putting the pressure on them to pull their clips, while cleverly adding slick embedding features to their in-demand videos from Comedy Central. Rupert Murdoch is joining the chorus of You Tube bashers, as might be expected. You Tube is also becoming hot with nasty terrorists.
Whatever happens, the next few weeks and months will be very interesting for You Tube. (Even though it's not really a place).
Astronaut adult diapers.
It's almost a joke that tells itself.
Thanks to astronaut-turned-stalker Lisa Nowak, the adult diaper became one of those things that would not go away this past week. Put it to the Heath brothers' "Made to Stick" "SUCCESS" test and it passes with flying colours: simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and story.
I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but I love Twitter. The mini-blog within a blog allows me to keep feeding little blurbs of info, and provides an addictive level of intimacy with others (one friend's week-long work week was fun to keep up with, and I felt his pain at the train delays).
Over the last couple of days I've been thinking about what the balance is between providing enough frequently updated information and content, but not too much so as to become a burden on readers, fans (and I use that term loosely) or followers (ditto). For instance, when running a weblog, one or two posts a day seems fairly reasonable. 15 or 20 is entirely different, requiring a much bigger level of commitment. It may just be asking for too much. Here at Chroma, I try to post roughly once a day, sometimes a bit more, and, like everyone, I often go a few days without posting at all.
Twitter changes this equation. It adds a parallel, but quicker, tempo to the info-pulse. It demands so much less, both from the reader and the Twitterer. In some ways t is a natural fit for the way that I, at least, find myself scanning feeds, aggregators and other information: the headline is often as far as I get; I get the gist, then move on. If it sounds interesting, I'll dig deeper and read on, but for a lot of stuff, the headline is as far as it gets.
Media and brands in general need to also get a handle on this, and figure out what the balance looks like for them. The constant one sentence feed on CNN is an obvious example, and the main trend with newspapers is to use their digital presence as the hub for all the continually updated pulses of information, while the print edition is where more long-form article will reside. But more is not always better. The Economist, The New Yorker and other publications have been maintained a less-is-more approach. It works for them, they avoid being diluted. (Last week the New York Times had a great article on how the NFL-and to a certain extent American Idol- have protected their brand by maintaining scarcity. By not overdoing it, the game, and show, remains an event).
I know that all brands needs to figure out how much is too much as far as diluting goes. That's nothing new. But reading the excellent article ("Say Anything" by Emily Nussbaum in New York magazine) reminded me that for digital natives (under 30s in her view), how much to divulge is closely related to how often to reveal those intimate details. In Facebook, for instance, that private info-stream is fed via the popular News Feed. The genius of Twitter is that it is the perfect widget for revealing the tiny bits of private information, which inevitably helps to slowly chip away at the public/private divide of our lives. In just a few short weeks, I realize that I know a lot more about folks on Twitter than my own family and friends.
As Nussbaum's article argues, living life in public online spaces has redefined privacy, memory, transparency and the very definition of identity.It may be the most significant generation gap since the birth of rock 'n roll. If brands are to be in sync with that mindset, how do they address expectations of being as open as the kids growing up this way? Do they even need to do so? Will they have to rethink not only how much they open themselves up, but also how often, from a communications perspective. As media has been democratized, flattened and blurred, how will brands choose to modulate the tone, tenor and tempo of their voice, or voices?
There's always talk of many little ideas being better than one big 30-second-mass-media idea, but who knows what the equation really is to look like as far as frequency and openess goes of these littel ideas? How much would be too much? Diluting the brand vs. protecting it, yapping along with the conversation vs. maintaining mystery: there probably aren't obvious answers here, only because we're not sure what this really means at the place where media/culture/brands meet. Clay Shirky, describing the generational shift (and "vast psychological experiment")that we are currently witnessing refers to the difference in pidgin versus Creole to explain what is going on.
“Do you know that distinction? Pidgin is what gets spoken when people patch things together from different languages, so it serves well enough to communicate. But Creole is what the children speak, the children of pidgin speakers. They impose rules and structure, which makes the Creole language completely coherent and expressive, on par with any language. What we are witnessing is the Creolization of media.”
That’s a cool metaphor, I respond. “I actually don’t think it’s a metaphor,” he says. “I think there may actually be real neurological changes involved.”