Explaining The Rise Of Donald Trump

Orlando Wood reviews the results of our latest self-funded project – predicting the US election results and understanding the deeper dynamics at play.

Psychology tells us that humans are fast and frugal in our decision-making, that we ‘think much less than we think we think’. Instead, we are guided by impressions, associations, past experience, stories and feelings. We use mental shortcuts or rules of thumb to help us decide between options, products, brands – and indeed politicians. This is what psychologists refer to as ‘fast’ or ‘System 1’ thinking.

Back in late January, before the very first Caucus or Primary vote was cast – when the prediction markets and polls were in a state of flux (and indeed you might say they still are!) – we conducted research in the US to understand how well the US candidates had established the important mental shortcuts of Fame, Feeling and Fluency. Continue reading

Election ’16: Who Wins?

It’s no secret that opinion polling has had a rough time of it lately. Gallup have stopped even running their polls in the USA. All the major polling firms had a nightmare predicting the outcome of the UK’s 2015 general election. And in Michigan a couple of weeks ago, a 20-point Primary lead for Hillary Clinton turned into a 1-point win for Bernie Sanders – the single worst polling performance in a US Primary since the 1980s.

trump clinton

It got us wondering. What would happen if instead of directly asking about political outcomes, we tried to make predictions using the same tools we use for brand research? Our webinar talks you through the results of these experiments.

Our branding model – brand growth based on Fame, Feeling and Fluency – rests on one key truth. People don’t make brand decisions based on complex considerations,  but on rapid, unconscious shortcuts. And that’s probably how they make political decisions too. Continue reading

The Future Of Insights Project is HERE

We’ve been looking forward to posting this one! Last year we did some work with the World Federation of Advertisers on a very juicy topic – the future of the insights business. With 2016 being the 100th birthday of market research (don’t believe us? read the report!) we thought it was time to take a look at what’s coming up NEXT. Today the Future Of Insights Project releases its core report. And it’s fascinating.

WFA report photo

Chief Juicer John Kearon launches the report in Kuala Lumpur.

There are a few “research on research” studies knocking around and most of them have interesting things to say. What makes the WFA one particularly exciting? Continue reading

Ad Skipping And How To Avoid It

New online behaviour brings new challenges for advertisers. How to get seen – how to get shared – and increasingly, how not to get skipped. Ad skipping has always been with us, of course. If you flipped the TV channel when an ad you hated came on, or got up off the couch at the commercial break, you were skipping as surely as you are when you frantically hunt for that tiny ‘X’ to click. But like a lot of behaviours in the digital age, skipping is now easier and quicker. What can be done about it?

skip ad

It’s worth clarifying what we mean here. We aren’t talking about ad blocking, where people never see the ads in the first place. Skipping ads is a different thing: it’s when someone starts watching an ad but doesn’t finish. At some point, usually very quickly, they stop it.

So if you want to tackle skipping a lot rests on the first few seconds. This poses a particular challenge if you believe – as we do, with plenty of evidence – that what makes advertising effective is its emotional impact. If you feel nothing, you do nothing – but someone who skips an ad is never going to get the chance to feel anything! How should an ad use its opening seconds to make an emotional promise that takes you through to the rest of it? Continue reading

Top Gear: Fame vs Fluency?

As you might remember, motoring series Top Gear ran off the road last year, after star Jeremy Clarkson hit a producer and the BBC pulled the plug on his contract. Now Clarkson and his co-stars (James May and Richard Hammond) are making an Amazon-exclusive car show (in a deal reportedly worth $150m) and the BBC are relaunching the series, with cheeky 90s star Chris Evans in the driving seat.


Which version is set to succeed? There have been claims and concerns on both sides. Netflix, a power player in the streaming market Amazon is targeting, reportedly passed up the new Clarkson show, suggesting Amazon had way over-valued it. Meanwhile the new Top Gear has been dogged by speculation about unhappy stars, even if initial footage has reportedly excited overseas buyers.

The division makes for a plentiful supply of gossip. But it also illuminates something about modern branding. Top Gear and the Amazon show are competing brands. And like any competing brands their eventual fate will rest on how well they trigger the three shortcuts to decision-making: Fame, Feeling and Fluency. Continue reading

Modern Marketing – The Cartoon Version

For a long time now we’ve been massive fans of Tom Fishburne, the Marketoonist. Humour is one of the best ways of tickling the emotions and getting System 1 onside, and Tom has an amazing knack for skewering the buzzwords and lazy thinking around marketing and research. His cartoons put things as pithily and wittily as possible.


Wouldn’t it be great, we thought, if we could team up with the Marketoonist, and boil down the absolute fundamentals of Modern Marketing into five rules – with, of course, five cartoons.

So we did. And here it is. Five things every modern marketer knows about famous, 5-star Marketing.

Continue reading

Once Upon An Election: Research, Politics and Stories

Study the current US election for a week or two and you’ll notice one word turn up again and again in the commentary: narrative. Politicians control the narrative, they reinforce the narrative, they seize the narrative, they reshape the narrative, they build the narrative, and that’s before the voters get their say, at which point they might defy the narrative, overturn the narrative, confirm the narrative, or perhaps just get heartily sick of the narrative and stay home. They might have the sympathy of Washington Post writer Erik Wemple, who last week wrote a heartfelt column: “A Plea To Pundits: Stop Saying ‘Narrative’”


Narrative is one of those words that starts off sounding smart and ends up sounding clichéd. Marketing has those kind of words too – “engagement”, or “insight”, or “disruption”. Such words gradually begin to lose much of their specific meaning. But that doesn’t mean they never had any. All these overused words have kernels of something useful inside them. In the case of narrative, what the word intuits is a truth the psychologist Jonathan Haidt has succinctly expressed. Human beings are not logic processors. We are story processors. Continue reading