In the last week or so, something has happened. It is pretty confusing and if like Tim Peake you’ve been in space, here’s a quick summary:
Camp A, Camp B and Camp C live in the same place.
Camp D lives nearby and they all kind of hang out and share stuff.
Camp A&B live in a part of the place called ‘Fancyland’.
Camp C lives in a place called ‘Normal’.
Some of A & B decided that they weren’t sure about hanging with Camp D anymore so they decided to have a vote on whether to ditch D and they invited C to be the deciding voter.
Camp A thought D was a bit of a dick occasionally but on the whole pretty sound.
Camp B strongly disliked D (maybe he nicked B’s girlfriend in the past, we can’t really be sure).
Both camps spent a lot of time and money trying to work out how to persuade Camp C that their position was the better idea.
Camp A recognized that if he were in Camp C’s situation then the one thing that would worry him the most would be money. Without D hanging out, maybe they wouldn’t be able to trade so well? In their view, Camp B’s plan was risky and would most likely lose them money, which they had quite a lot of, so this seemed like the worst idea.
So that is what Camp A decided to use to persuade Camp C to ditch Camp D. Money. Fear of losing it more to the point.
Camp B didn’t try and put himself in Camp C’s shoes.
They were different so it didn’t matter.
He did listen to a few voices they kept hearing coming from Camp C, and he decided that Camp C weren’t that bothered about money, it didn’t look like they had much of that to lose anyway.
It looked like they were most worried about other ‘unspecified camps’ who hung out with Camp D, coming over to their camp.
So that is what Camp B decided to use to persuade Camp C.
No more other camps.
Lets make no mistake.
Both camps were using fear here.
Confused? You should be.
It is classic loss aversion.
One of the most simple premises of behavioural economics.
I will strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains.
Avoiding a £10 surprise charge is much more motivating than gaining a £10 voucher.
Work out what the loss is and which is the bigger loss and you can predict the result.
Loss A: Money
Loss B: Being overwhelmed by others
Camp A – the remain camp made a bad bet based on misunderstanding human behaviour.
You can’t lose what you don’t have.
In many ways I view the referendum as being not dissimilar to what happens a lot of time in marketing and communication.
A bunch of people trying to pre-empt what a bunch of other people will do, without really understanding at all what the other people are thinking or in fact what it is like to be them.
For the record I’m really sad about the result.
But I get it.
I see a lot of this type of human behavioural blindness.
I watched a focus group for the first time in a long time last week. Every now and again I have to take a foray back into this world.
I guess it keeps me real.
We had a bunch of the advertising people behind the mirror, who were less than complimentary about the mums and dads they were watching.
‘Urgh how appalling.”
Well to be honest I don’t know what is more appalling now.
The idea that we can try and sell something or communicate with another group of individuals for whom we have no interest in or respect for is deeply troubling.
Both camps in the referendum were guilty of this.
Camp A & B both used fear.
Camp B just chose the right brand of fear to nudge the behaviour of Camp C.
I saw some of the suggestions for alternative ad campaigns that the Remain camp could have used and whilst they were punchy, for me, they still missed the point.
Every one of them is written by someone in London talking about what someone in London is worried about.
This is so often the case with advertising. If the ASA were right in 2012 when they said that 87% of all marketing goes unnoticed every year then this has to be the root of it all.
If any good can come of this absolute bloody mess perhaps it can be this.
For the love of god can we stop all talking to ourselves and violently agreeing with each other and write some ads which persuade actual people?
Real life doesn’t happen in zone 1 in London.
And it doesn’t happen in a focus group.
Real life happens out there. So that’s where we need to be.