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Now That’s What I Call…Planning Books

I get the occasional email from grads keen to get into planning. Rather than telling them what I think (well, I can’t resist doing a bit of that), I usually point them in the direction of the books and blogs that have had the most impact on my understanding of people, brands and advertising.

If you’re new to Planning I’d start with ‘How Brands Grow’, ‘Truth, Lies & Advertising’ and ‘Thinking, Fast and Slow’. If you’re not, read on and hopefully you’ll find something newish nestled alongside the Greatest Hits.

Marketing Fundamentals

How Brands Grow – Byron Sharp

This book has had more impact on my understanding of marketing and the way I approach my job than anything else. Before you start talking about planning or advertising, you first need to understand the fundamentals of marketing and consumer behaviour and what it is that really makes brands grow. This book draws on decades of empirical data to bust many common myths about loyalty, targeting, ‘engagement’ and persuasion. Dr Byron Sharp’s cynical tone also manages to make potentially dry subjects feel quasi-revolutionary. Essential.

Planning Fundamentals

A Master Class in Brand Planning – The Timeless Works of Stephen King

No, not the Stephen King that ruined clowns for a generation of children. This Stephen King was one of the founding fathers of Planning, introducing the discipline to JWT in the 1960s. An essential look back at where planning came from, outlining the fundamental principles and advice that is still as relevant today as it was. Intros from today’s heavy hitters keep things feeling contemporary.

Truth, Lies & Advertising: The Art of Account Planning – Jon Steel

If Stephen King laid the foundation, Jon Steel is the one who showed many aspiring Planners how these principals should be applied in a real world setting. Steel manages to make topics as seemingly dry as research, creative briefing and copy testing entertaining, using famous campaign examples such as ‘Got Milk?’. Don’t be put off by the rather dated cover. Essential.

Creative Effectiveness & How Advertising Works

Exploding The Message Myth – Paul Feldwick

An article rather than a book, the good news is this one is free to access on the Thinkbox website. This is the best analysis I’ve read of how advertising actually works, and how our understanding of advertising has evolved over the last century or so. Feldwick questions a lot of conventional wisdom on the subject, reinforcing the importance of context and emotion above rational persuasion. Famous examples like the PG Tips Chimps and Rowan Aktinson’s Barclaycard classic ads bring things to life.

Marketing In The Era of Accountability – Les Binet & Peter Field

Along with Paul Feldwick, Binet & Field have been very influential on my understanding of advertising effectiveness and are a must-read for anyone working in the industry. The pair analysed nearly 1,000 effectiveness case studies from the IPA databank to prove a clear link between creativity and effectiveness and the power of emotionally-driven ‘fame’ campaigns above rational, message-driven advertising. This video on the Thinkbox website offers a good taster if you don’t want to shell out a hundred-odd quid for the book.

The Long And Short Of It – Les Binet & Peter Field

A recent update to the IPA databank analysis found in ‘Marketing In The Era of Accountability’, this time with more of a focus on the difference between short and long term effects of advertising. A wake-up call to those obsessing over big data and ‘real-time’ marketing, this analysis shows the importance of taking a longer term view and the enduring role of ‘fame’ media like TV. I wrote more about this here. Again, if you can’t get your boss to pay for the book, check out the free Thinkbox video instead.

Approaches to Planning

Eating The Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders – Adam Morgan

An analysis of what made challengers like Avis, Absolut and Swatch successful. Not just for people working on challenger brands – rather an inspiration to think and behave differently from the competition.

Cultural Strategy: Using Innovative Ideologies To Build Breakthrough Brands – Douglas Holt & Douglas Cameron

The central point is that brand success has more to do with perception and cultural context than functional product innovation (what they call ‘better mousetraps’) or redefining the category (so-called ‘blue ocean strategy’). While some of the examples might feel a little post-rationalised, on the whole it’s a thought provoking book that chimes with a lot of the creative effectiveness stuff above. I wrote more about ‘Cultural Strategy’ here.

Good/Bad Strategy: The Difference & Why It Matters – Richard Rumelt

The focus here isn’t marketing or advertising, rather how to approach strategic thinking generally. Former NASA-engineer turned business strategy guru Richard Rumelt highlights some of the typical mistakes people make when trying to develop strategy and offers some good pointers and examples on how to put things right. His cutting tone and refreshing disregard for the usual business bullshit keeps things interesting.

 Psychology & Behavioural Economics

Thinking, Fast & Slow – Daniel Kahneman

Along with ‘How Brands Grow’, this provides the scientific foundation for effective advertising. Kahneman was the first psychologist to win the Nobel Prize for Economics and this book draws on a lifetime of research in behavioural economics. It explains how, while we like to think of ourselves as rational beings, in fact much of our decision making is emotionally driven and prone to relying on heuristics and bias. It might not be beach reading, but interesting from both a personal and professional point of view. Essential.

Herd: How to Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature – Mark Earls 

While I don’t necessarily agree with all the ideas in the book (namely the suggestion that all brands need to become ‘passion brands’), the central premise at the heart of ‘Herd’ is sound. Mark Earls argues that ‘social proof’, or the people around us are the primary influence on how we behave. That might not sound like news, but the book raises some major question marks over marketers’ obsession with one-to-one marketing and data-driven personalisation.


What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and China’s Modern Consumer – Tom Doctoroff

I read this when I first moved from Sydney to Hong Kong. Tom Doctoroff has been running JWT in China for over a decade and while I’m sure some people will argue that China is too big and diverse to make these sort of generalisations, I found this a helpful introduction to doing business in the region. The observations and anecdotes are probably more interesting than the marketing recommendations though, which can seem a little prosaic.

Hope you enjoy some of the above – let me know what you think?

Effectiveness: the long and short of it

Thanks to @Allan_Blair I was lucky enough to stumble across yesterday’s live stream of the Thinkbox / IPA event: ’Advertising Effectiveness: the long and the short of it’.

The keynote was by Les Binet and Peter Field, two guys who are obviously much smarter than most of us, but still manage to talk about marketing in a compelling and straight-forward way. A few years ago they mined nearly a thousand IPA effectiveness case studies for their ‘Marketing in the Era of Accountability’ study, providing hard evidence in support of emotionally-driven fame campaigns over rational persuasion and lazy ‘loyalty’ thinking.

Yesterday’s presentation seemed to be more of an evolution than a revolution in their thinking, however, it was still packed full of great observations and recommendations based on updated analysis of the IPA effectiveness databank.

The Power of Emotion in Advertising 

It shouldn’t be news to anyone by now that emotionally-driven campaigns are consistently more effective, especially over the longer term. However, there seem to be many clients that still don’t believe this so above is some more evidence for the sceptics, based on Binet & Field’s long-term analysis of the IPA databank.

I’m greatly enjoying Daniel Kahneman’s ‘Thinking Fast and Slow’ at the moment so was particularly interested in how the guys applied Kahneman’s thinking to campaign strategy. For those not familiar with the book, Kahneman uses ‘System 1′ to refer to fast, intuitive, emotionally driven decision making, while ‘System 2′ is in charge of the slower, more taxing, rational thought processes. Kahneman’s work gives context Binet & Field’s findings: contrary to our desire to be perceived as rational beings, in fact the majority of our decision-making is emotionally-driven, a product of ‘System 1′.

While rational messaging is important at an activation level, without prior emotional priming we’re much less likely to even consider what it’s got to say – the so-called ‘halo’ effect. In fact, in many cases these rational messages actually work by helping us post-rationalise an emotionally-driven decision: “I know the Porsche wasn’t your first choice for a family car, but with a top speed of 200mph it will be handy for getting to hospital in time if the baby comes early”.


The Importance of Long-Term Thinking on Short-Term Objectives

While the above slide distinguishes between short and long term responses, one of the other key points of the session was the relationship between these objectives. One area where this is particularly important is around price sensitivity.

In line with Byron Sharp’s findings, Binet & Field’s research showed that while price promotions can have a short-term positive impact on sales, they have been shown to have a significant negative impact on price sensitivity and brand value over the long term. Instead, Binet & Field propose value-added ‘consumer promotions’ such as gift with purchase or competitions as an alternative to discounting.

Furthermore, even where the objective is short-term sales, ‘brand response’ campaigns – ie involve a brand-building component as well as an activation component – were shown to be significantly more effective in driving salience, market share and profit than traditional direct response ideas, e.g. rational direct response messages.

This seems particularly important in categories like cars where the buying cycle is quite long – just because I’m not in the market for a car now, doesn’t mean I might not buy one in a year’s time. However if the sole focus of advertising is activating those who are ready to buy now with a rational message, it’s wasting the opportunity to influence longer term prospects.


Today’s Wastage Might Be Next Year’s Target Consumer

One of the most interesting parts of the presentation for digital agencies was around the implications for targeting and measurement. What is clear from the findings is that the most powerful effects of advertising (and I use this in the broadest sense) are only visible over the long term. Furthermore, achieving these large, long-term effects requires broad reach and appeal – a direct challenge to conventional wisdom that obsessive targeting brings greater efficiency. As we saw with ‘brand response’ campaigns, the long-term benefits of building broader brand equity – and ideally fame – significantly outweighs any perceived media wastage. In fact, today’s wastage might be next year’s target consumer, or failing that, an influencer.

This poses a challenge for digital agencies, many of whom peddle ‘real-time data’ as the answer to everything and focus on immediately measurable intermediate measures (click-throughs, shares, likes, tweets, direct conversions etc) over long-term brand equity and profit.

The Implications:

  1. We need to take a much longer term view of campaign objectives and ensure that even where we have short-term goals, we are still contributing to long-term brand success – often this will mean refreshing rather than reinventing existing brand assets and developing ‘brand response’ campaigns, not just ‘direct response’ ads
  2. We stop the simplistic ‘TV bad, digital good’ rhetoric –  TV is still the most effective tool in brand building and trashing it continually just undermines the credibility of the digital industry
  3. We make an effort to better understand the role of digital in the mix, how it is used to complement other channels like TV, where is it used best for activation (e.g search, direct response media) and where it is more effective over the long term (e.g. online video, social media – when used as a way of building and broadening influence, not just preaching to the converted)
  4. We take a longer term view of measurement and put digital metrics in context. The first thing to do is acknowledge that ‘real-time’ data and today’s online media attribution models fail to take account of some of the most important effects of advertising activity – long term brand building. If we continue to obsessively optimise against short-term intermediate measures, we risk damaging long-term brand equity. The second, more challenging part is that we need to build measurement frameworks that balance short-term, digital behavioural metrics with long-term, offline equity and sales measurement

I’ve touched on a few of the bits I found interesting at the time but this is just a fraction of what was discussed. I strongly suggest checking out the full presentation at Brand Republic.

Note: The slides above are all the work of Les Binet and Peter Field so please credit them as required.