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

Codebreakers and Golden Hares: Finding The Feeling In Social Media

In insecure times, codes and codebreakers matter more than ever. So military and intelligence services worldwide face a problem – how to recruit people with the very specialist skills and interests required to become cryptologists and break high-level codes? In 2014 the US Navy launched Project Architeuthis, its innovative stab at cracking this particular conundrum.

Architeuthis was a recruiting program with a difference. It centred on an augmented reality game, where players, alone or in teams, followed a trail of clues around the web to solve extremely hard cryptology puzzles. The prize was an unusual one – encouragement to apply to become a Navy cryptologist.

The game was a massive success. Fuelled by a bubble of media attention from Mashable to the Daily Telegraph, wannabe code-crackers from around the world took part, and the US Navy found enough people to fill its recruiting quota.

Project Architeuthis won enormous acclaim among marketers and the media for its sheer cleverness and its elegant solution to a tough recruiting challenge. It carried off the WARC Social Strategy prize this year, and it’s a deserved winner.

But the very things that make it such a great project also point to one of the biggest challenges for using social media effectively as a marketer. How do you get lightning to strike, not just twice, but repeatedly? Continue reading

Branding: A Shift In Perspective

Last week I was lucky enough to go to the annual Polish Market Research Congress, to talk about branding and behavioural sciences. The organisers were friendly and incredibly helpful, even providing me with a simultaneous translation device: I felt like a UN delegate! Through it, I learned that the issues affecting Polish marketers are universal – what to do about new data sources, new media channels, new competitors, and the ever-changing relationship between brand owners and research buyers?


By devoting a session to behavioural science, the Congress acknowledged that shifting perspectives on branding aren’t all to do with screens, devices or generations. Understanding what happens in the mind of a decision-maker can be just as revolutionary. And since I was presenting in Poland, there was an obvious comparison to make: Copernicus. Continue reading

Fame, Feeling And Fluency – The Only Brand Metrics You Will Ever Need

Orlando Wood, MD, BrainJuicer Labs, takes a look into our new BrainJuicer Brand Tracking model – and explains why we developed it.

There has been a growing awareness in the marketing community that traditional Brand Tracking doesn’t really help much to guide and predict brand growth, and there is desire to see it reinvented from the bottom-up. Why not start with Behavioural Sciences as a guide, because the great thing about science is that it simplifies and clarifies things? And if there’s one area of consumer research that needs cleaning up, it’s brand tracking.

tesco extra

What the Behavioural Sciences tell us is that we humans are fast and frugal in our decision-making. The truth is that people think much less about brands than we, as an industry, previously believed. People don’t evaluate options carefully, but instead rely on mental shortcuts – rules of thumb – to help them decide between options quickly and effortlessly.

There are three key mental shortcuts that help people decide between brands. We call them Fame, Feeling and Fluency. To our fast-thinking, System 1 minds:

  • If a brand comes readily to mind, it’s a good choice (Fame).
  • If a brand feels good, it’s a good choice (Feeling).
  • If a brand is recognisable, it’s a good choice (Fluency).

These rules of thumb are what behavioural scientists call the ‘availability heuristic, the ‘affect heuristic’ and the ‘processing fluency heuristic’. Continue reading

Fame, Feeling And Fluency: A VW Case Study

Volkswagen, as you just may have heard, is in a spot of trouble at the moment. The kind of trouble that wipes a quarter or more off a company’s share price and removes CEOs. Whether the legal fallout from their emissions-test-fixing scandal, and the fines the company face, will cripple or even destroy VW is an open question. But there’s another question to answer too – what are consumers making of all this? How likely are they to forgive VW, or didn’t they care much in the first place?

Image (C) Telegraph Newspapers

Image (C) Telegraph Newspapers

Predicting consumer reaction in the wake of a scandal is a tricky business. It’s easy to overestimate the effects of news stories on people’s perceptions – particularly as the common ways of gauging that effect are often flawed. Asking people to predict future behaviour, for instance, is very unreliable, particularly when a single negative news story is dominating perceptions and making certain future behaviour seem more socially acceptable. Looking at social media data is just as problematic: social media is a performative medium with a high degree of norming. Or to put it more plainly, mob mentality today is no guide to brand strength tomorrow.

So what can you do? Keep an eye on the fundamentals. Decisions about brands are like decisions about anything: most of them are made quickly and without much conscious thought. As Gerd Gigerenzer puts it, we are “fast and frugal” decision makers, and we rely on certain broad heuristics to make choices that are good enough.

We rely on Fame – if a brand comes quickly to mind, it’s a good enough choice.

We rely on Feeling – if we feel positively towards a brand, it’s a good enough choice.

We rely on Fluency – if we recognise a brand easily, it’s a good enough choice. Continue reading

Branding Reality Bites: The Strange Tale Of OK Soda

2015 brings us a little-heralded marketing anniversary – it’s been 20 years since Coca-Cola pulled OK Soda from the market. If you’ve not heard of OK, or you’ve forgotten it, that’s more than forgivable. The drink – meant to appeal to the ironic, cynical, Nirvana-loving teens of Generation X – was launched in 1993 but never made it to general release. OK Soda survives now as an occasional case study and minor cult – like the Ford Edsel, it haunts the graveyard of global brands that never were.

But can OK Soda hold any lessons for modern marketers? I think it can. Let’s start with the name…



The origin of OK Soda’s name is one of the most interesting things about it. Supposedly, it drew on market research suggesting that while the word “Coke” was globally recognised, it was beaten by the word “OK”. Hence, OK Soda – a brand waiting to happen. Continue reading

Long Live The King

If you’ve listened to our recent webinar, or seen us present lately, you’ll have heard us talk a lot about branding. Specifically, about distinctive assets – a term coined by marketing science guru Byron Sharp to describe the little, sometimes even meaningless details that let a brand stand out and live in the memory. A colour, a sound, a logo, a particular brand character or instant association – these things give a brand fluency, making it rapidly recognisable. Marketing science shows that it’s distinction, not differentiation, that really helps a brand grow.

That can feel a bit abstract, though. It doesn’t necessarily help with knotty questions like – how, and when, do you change a brand’s assets? How does refreshing a brand fit in? Continue reading