Tag: strategy

28 Jun 2016

Can You Hear Me Now?

I saw an ad that made me do a double-take the other day.

Since I work at bloomfield knoble, a premier strategic marketing and advertising agency, I’m generally not prone to paying much attention to ads or being surprised by them, but this one caught me off guard. The ad was Paul Marcarelli pitching Sprint.

The name may not mean much to you, but the face should – Marcarelli was the long-time spokesperson for Verizon and known for the catch phrase, “Can you hear me now?” I’ll be honest – the ad isn’t that great creatively, but it caught my attention because I was stunned that Verizon had let Marcarelli’s non-compete expire. I know Verizon has long since moved on from the “Can you hear me now?” slogan, but letting something go isn’t the same as letting some one take it.

It’s always a challenge identifying a face with a brand – be it celebrity or recurring spokesperson. The inherent upside is that the brand literally has a face, name and personality that immediately projects an image of a living, breathing, credible person, as opposed to a faceless corporate entity. The downside is that individuals are not as stable or as easily controllable as corporate entities. Even imaginary characters that represent the brand can create issues. Consider the image of Betty Crocker and how it has evolved over time. A portrait of Betty Crocker was first introduced in the 1930s. Since then, Betty’s image has been refined to reflect the changing image of women. Other companies use real people, a celebrity, to represent a brand. The inherent downside to using real people is that when the celebrity encounters personal problems or scandals, the brand may suffer too. The company cannot simply redraw the celebrity’s face – they must convince the public that the celebrity’s current problems do not reflect on the brand itself. Looking at you, Jared from Subway.

Thus, brands, in some cases, can be golden straightjackets. They are “golden” because they build product knowledge and profits, but they can also be “straightjackets” (limiting or restrictive) because to be valuable they must be narrowly defined. As an agency, it’s our job at bloomfield knoble to carefully evaluate the associations clients are trying to attach to their brand and consider both the upside and the potential downside with the brand elements. One of the fundamental principles of using a brand element is making sure that it is “protectable” in both a legal and competitive sense. Clearly, Verizon (or their agency) had a 5-year agreement in place, but once that expired Marcarelli was fair game.

The question to me isn’t the effectiveness of the ad, but more about the steps that agencies should take to protect any brand element they use. It’s fine to let “Can you hear me now?” expire, but don’t let Sprint take it. Just enough people will remember it and do the same thing I did – pay attention to the ad. I can’t imagine that Flo will be allowed to do an Allstate commercial anytime soon. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if a bunch of agencies are pulling out old talent contracts and hoping to avoid something like this.

In any event, the simple truth is that I stopped to watch the ad, and in an era when consumers are inundated with a ton of messages, any action that creates pause and engagement is a win, so well done Sprint.


 About The Author

thomas-thompson-headshot

A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.
Connect With Thomas J Thompson
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Who is bloomfield knoble?

bloomfield knoble is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bloomfield knoble provides a one-to-one approach. Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at 214-254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

13 Nov 2015
Google Cardboard

Behold Google Cardboard

I struggled to find time to write this blog  – not because I’m too busy at work, but because I’ve been too busy playing with Google Cardboard.

I had heard about Google Cardboard, but I’ve been more interested in Oculus Rift and similar devices and hadn’t given it much thought. Then, much to my surprise, I received a pair (set, maybe? not sure what the accepted term is just yet) courtesy of the New York Times. The pair (that’s what I’m going with) came with my subscription courtesy of GE in Sunday’s paper. Although I was surprised it was included with the paper, the box was clearly marked, so I was quickly aware of what it was. It was in its own packaging and it only took a few minutes to unfold (assemble). An instruction card directed me to download the NY Times virtual reality app (the URL is also printed on the side of the cardboard). The VR app installed quickly and then I was instructed to put my iPhone into the cardboard and enjoy.

Now, just in case you’ve never heard about it, Google Cardboard is a virtual reality (VR) platform developed by Google for use with a fold-out cardboard mount for a mobile phone. It is intended as a low-cost system to encourage interest and development in VR and VR applications.

GoogleCardboard
Jeff exploring VR with Google Cardboard

Here is my takeaway both personally and professionally. Personally, totally dig it. The device itself is, indeed, cardboard, but feels quite sturdy. I’ve used mine quite a bit and while I am generally careful with it, haven’t had any issues with it at all. I didn’t have any concerns about inserting my phone – it feels like it’s held securely – and although I need glasses to see up close, the screen seems in focus. I’m familiar with VR (I’ve written about it before), but hadn’t experienced it via my phone. The VR itself was excellent, but I recognized pretty quickly that this is because of the content. The NY Times had excellent content – both in subject matter and production – available the day I downloaded it. Their app focuses on news stories delivered via immersive video and audio. They brilliantly had a wide range of subjects which enabled me to both watch content that was relevant to me, but also waste time just checking out the different options. I also used it to view an ad – just to continue enjoying the experience.

This wasn’t just my take either – my family all found it cool as did people here at bloomfield knoble.

I think what the NY Times did was an excellent promotional use and one that could be repeated across brands and platforms, with the following challenges:

  • It worked because it was delivered to me. If I had to fill out a form or pay for it, I probably wouldn’t have messed with it. I think it’s an excellent promotional handout or direct mail device.
  • It was new to me, so I downloaded the app to play with it, but I’m not motivated to download a bunch of other apps to use it. This is actually really good news for the NY Times, because they made me loyal to their app – so anytime I want to show it off or mess around with it, I use their app.
  • It’s all about the content. The NY Times content is excellent and also being freshened. If this came with 1 piece of content, I would have tossed it once I got bored. If this were to be used for promotional purposes, it would either have to be a one-off (which is fine sometimes), or it will have to be supported by ongoing content (also fine sometimes).
  • It’s still just cardboard. I’m being pretty careful with it now, but because I have no economic value associated with it, I am going to put it in a drawer and it will get damaged or broken. It’s like the cheap pair of sunglasses – you toss those around, but are careful with the pair that cost you money.
  • I’m not trained (yet… maybe never). I’m just not sure that I need to get my news via VR. I think that this is more of a content issue, because I might train myself to check the app regularly if it’s something that is experienced much better in VR – like the Royals victory parade, for example. That would be cool. If I know once a week or so that there will be something that is entertaining – I’ll start using it more. For now, just getting news stories, no matter how well done, doesn’t motivate me to regularly check the app.

Now, having said all that, it’s still a job really well done. More than half the battle is getting people to engage with a promotion – in whatever form – and the fact that I took time to assemble the unit, download the app, use the app and then share the experience is the very definition of a successful marketing campaign. And while it sits unused on my desk, it is still on my desk and the app is on my phone.


 About The Author

thomas-thompson-headshot

A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.
Connect With Thomas J Thompson
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# # #

Who is bloomfield knoble?

bloomfield knoble is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bloomfield knoble provides a one-to-one approach. Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at 214-254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

27 Oct 2015
flipboard

Using data to enhance ad targeting

I was at a family gathering this weekend and was watching my son and my nieces and nephews (aged from 8  – 14) avoid social interaction with adults by spending all of their time on iPads or iPhones when I noticed something interesting. They were all on the same platform (Instagram) and sharing a verbal conversation about what they were looking at, but they were all processing the information differently. One kid would find a funny picture and tell the other kids. All the kids would go to that picture and laugh or comment, but even though they were at the same starting point, they would go different directions on their own mobile device until another funny picture was found and then the process would repeat itself.

Watching them reinforced that relevancy is a vital plank of any advertising plan – that even though we at bloomfield knoble, or any advertising agency, think we know what people are going to do – we don’t. It is because of this uncertainty that you find more and more advertising campaigns offering additional information across a wide variety of social media platforms. It wasn’t that many years ago that the only action we thought people would take would be to call a phone number. Then it became the only action we thought people would take would be to go to the website. Now an agency has to prepare for, well, everything. So I am always pleased when platforms make life easier for us here at bloomfield knoble.

I was quite excited to read that Flipboard opened up its data to enhance ad targeting on its platform. If you’re not familiar with them, Flipboard gives people a single place to follow all of their interests. People use Flipboard to enjoy their favorite sources from around the world and then save stories, images, and videos into their own Flipboard magazines—sharing items that reflect their interests, express their perspectives, or are simply things they want to read later.

Curation, reader behavior and social data together with Flipboard’s powerful Topic Engine, which understands the content of articles, are the key elements of the social magazine’s new Interest Graph Targeting. Interest Graph Targeting combines the best of two worlds: contextual advertising and behavioral targeting, without their downsides. Instead of targeting individuals based on cookies and tracking them across the Internet, which is not a viable option on mobile devices, Flipboard’s Interest Graph lets brands reach people based on billions of stories per month across thousands of publishers including the top premium publishers that users are reading, sharing, curating, liking, and discussing.

This launch signifies a next phase in Flipboard’s advertising business as advertisers can now increase the relevancy of their full-page adds, Promoted Stories or Videos and Brand Magazines by placing them near related stories and by reaching people who are interested in this content. “Flipboard is well known for beauty and design, which is reflected in the presentation of content as well as advertising. We combine this beauty with ‘brains’: our deep understanding of the intricate connections between people, content and interests through our Interest Graph,” said Mike McCue, Flipboard’s co-founder and CEO. “The Interest Graph powers content discovery on Flipboard and now, we’re opening it up to our brand partners who want to get their messages in front of their audience in the right context as well as in the right mindset.”

Interest Graph Targeting also ensures that ads appear in proximity to and in related content, making them interesting and relevant to the topic a person is reading about on Flipboard. Flipboard’s ad data has historically shown strong performance when brand ads and branded content were aligned with relevant interest channels. Interest Graph Targeting further enhances this contextual targeting by giving advertisers access to all 34,000 Flipboard topics and using the billions of user data points. High-end brands, that place a premium on the placement of ads, can use Interest Graph targeting to ensure their ads appear in the appropriate context.For instance, a retirement fund can target financial topics, and an airline can target different travel destinations; Flipboard’s Interest Graph automatically knows all the related relevant topics omitting hours of research into keywords. “We can go beyond the keyword to find like-minded people in broader contexts that will resonate with an advertiser’s brand narrative,” said Dave Huynh, head of ad product at Flipboard. As Flipboard’s audience grows—recently reaching 80 million monthly active users—advertisers increasingly seek out the platform to reach their audiences. To meet the growing interest from brands, the company has made advertising a key focus this year, expanding its ad formats and targeting capabilities.Using tools like Flipboard’s Interest Graph can be of great benefit to both advertising agencies like bloomfield knoble, but more importantly, provide a better (more relevant) experience to the reader – and at the end of the day, that’s really what we want to accomplish.

 


 About The Author

thomas-thompson-headshot

A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.
Connect With Thomas J Thompson
twitter
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# # #

Who is bloomfield knoble?

bloomfield knoble is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bloomfield knoble provides a one-to-one approach. Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at 214-254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

 

08 Oct 2015
Focus-Group-version-3-300x300

So did you really like our ad?

focus groupWe at bloomfield knoble are big believers in testing our creative and creative messaging. We have conducted focus groups, in-depth interviews, online panels and software to measure eye-tracking and other physiological responses. The challenge with this, or any type of testing, is to avoid testing bias and to, as much as possible, accurately record responses. As anyone who has ever been involved in testing, this is much harder than it seems. Now it turns out that there may be a way to remove bias altogether by using technology that can analyze a person’s face as they watch advertisements.

A system made by Affectiva, a start-up in Waltham, Massachusetts, can pick up on hidden emotions just by monitoring face movements. According to an article by Aviva Rutkin writing in New Scientist, Affectiva’s software first pinpoints important facial markers, such as the mouth, eyebrows and the top of the nose. then, machine-learning algorithms watch how those regions move or how the skin texture and color changes over the course of the video. These changes are broken down into discrete expressions indicating shifting emotions.

According to Affectiva’s principal scientist Daniel McDuff, the approach lets you find out what people actually think from moment to moment while the ad runs, not just what they say once it is over. “It provides a way of getting at those more genuine, spontaneous interactions,” he says. “This is their visceral response. It’s not sent through a cognitive filter where they have to evaluate how they feel.” In a study published this month, McDuff and his colleagues asked 1,223 people to give his team access to their home webcams while they watched a series of ads for sweets, pet supplies and groceries.

Before and after the ads ran, the subjects filled out online surveys about how likely they were to purchase the products shown. While they watched, the software stayed on the lookout for emotions, such as happiness, surprise or confusion. Afterwards, the researchers found that they could use the facial data to accurately predict someone’s survey results –  suggesting that they could rely on the computer’s analysis alone to know where an ad was successful. In the future, McDuff thinks the system could plug into TV services such as Netflix. “You could imagine suggesting TV programs or movies that people could watch, or ads that they find more enjoyable,” he says.

The Affectiva team has amassed a database of over three million videos of people across different ages, genders and ethnicities. McDuff says that there seem to be subtle variations in emotional responses: women tend to have more positive facial expressions than men, for example. By understanding how different groups respond, companies could put together ads that are fine-tuned for particular audiences. The data could also help advertisers to tweak their ads to tie in more closely to viewers’ emotions – for example, by putting in the name of the brand at the moment that elicits the strongest positive reaction.

Automated emotional analysis systems are promising, says Michel Wedel, who studies consumer science at the University of Maryland in College Park. They let advertisers break an ad down moment by moment to figure out exactly what works and what doesn’t. “What’s particularly powerful is that they’re unobtrusive,” he says. “They don’t rely on introspection or recollection.”


 About The Author

thomas-thompson-headshot

A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.
Connect With Thomas J Thompson
twitter
facebooklinkedin_25x25youtube_25X25

# # #

Who is bloomfield knoble?

bloomfield knoble is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bloomfield knoble provides a one-to-one approach. Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at 214-254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

 

25 Aug 2015
oculus

We have our Oculi on the rifts coming in 2016

oculusWas it  Erik the Red that said, “the times they are a changin’ so let’s go see if we can find us some Green/Iceland?”

No. I just wanted to make that reference in my blog to win a bet. Now, here is what bloomfield knoble (bk) has been studying the last few months, as we gauged where we need to direct client spending and our internal resources to focus on new technologies for advertising initiatives in 2016:

Foremost, search engine marketing (SEM) is going to get even more complicated. Surprised? Of course your not. For too long everyone has sat on their haunches placing buys on Google and calling it media planning and placement. Not that that was a bad thing, it just was too easy and not always effective. Through our efforts over the last two years, and our unique relationships with the folks at Facebook, Baidu, Twitter and other key market drivers, we have been at the front of the trend with our buys this past year. (Ahem. . . Our good friend, T-Bone, over at Google, notwithstanding.)

On the Western Front, it seems that our key strategist, Thomas J Thompson, has proven some of his theories that he started to muse upon in 2014. That “study hard” intensity, along with some intense training with IBM’s Watson and other analytical tools, has caused bk to tie in with the offerings of unique players including, but not limited to, Pandora and other app-based platforms. Of course, the one leads the other, not the other way around. Strong analytical research, data points and matching it to the right opportunities is what wins the day. But in my book, it’s the imaginative approach, hard work and curiosity that puts bk out in front when it comes to spotting and taking advantage of opportunities others wait to hear about in industry publications.

I teased you with the Oculus Rift (OR) headline, as if it is going to interrupt the advertising marketplace in 2015. Well, it won’t. However, it is pretty interesting and we are beginning to view it as a future opportunity that we need to gain real-time (yes, a pun) experience in the coming year and beyond. There are all types of scenarios being floated around, so if you have time, do a little more than reading my little blog. Let’s just say that product placement, unique experiential “commercials” and in-game, in-movie ads are going to get a crazy lift as that application platform grows. (Kind of scares me, what with my 1980’s upbringing, what OR is going to bring. I’m just glad I have much smarter folks around to explain it to me — very, very slowly.)

Next on the list? The big data opportunities seem to have no end now that humans are “self-tagging” themselves with every kind of device they can wear. That is why Watson and other new tools that make it possible to sift through the data make so much sense for our strategic teams to gain expertise in applying. The more that consumers “tag” themselves with watch/wrist devices, clothing, shoes, etc. that have the native apps built right into their daily lives, tracking everything consumers do from bathroom breaks to how much water they consume in a day makes sifting through it that much harder, but that much more rewarding.

Please don’t be afraid of those invasive tracking devices. (They scare me shitless, but I’m not a millennial.) In fact, it should be the opposite for those of you that are not paranoid like me. If I was not afraid of Big Brother, it would be nice when I go window shopping online. You see, I don’t like commercials or retargeting ads that I are not relevant to me. So, it is going to be so much better when all I see are ads for fishing adventures, vacations and college tuition coupons (I wish) because my apps know my habits and needs and only deliver advertising that is relevant to my life.

By the way, those new “digitally active” shirts and shorts slated for 2018 releases are going to really blow everyone’s mind. How will that become part of bk’s targeting algorithms? Well, you’ll need to check back for my 2017 blog, unless it gets pushed back to 2022. (I have heard that is a real possibility. The shirts and shorts, I mean.)

Of course, there will still be growth opportunities for SnapChat, Ello and Wanelo, but everyone knows that. Right?

This was just a reminder that bk knows more than we should, but not near as much as we will in a year. We don’t wait for someone to tell us about it because our clients trust us to get them in front of trends so they can reach their target audience in the most effective, economical and righteous way possible.

I don’t plan to let them down on my watch. Need an agency that is forward thinking, has nearly 20 years of success with Fortune 100s, takes everything personal and lives to succeed? Call me today and let me see if we are a right fit.


 About The Author

clark-bachelot-headshotEric J. Hirschhorn is a principal at bloomfield knoble. For 17 years he has helped lead the Dallas-based advertising agency from start up to becoming a premier, full-service agency whose clients include some of the most influential companies in America. Eric lives to spend time with his family, to work and to travel the world in search of unique fishing adventures.

Connect With Eric Hirschhorn
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# # #

Who is bloomfield knoble?

bloomfield knoble is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bloomfield knoble provides a one-to-one approach. Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at 214-254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

 

11 Aug 2015
crowds

Forget ‘Wisdom of the Crowd’

crowdsOne of the central tenets of bloomfield knoble is R.U.D.E. (an acronym for Research, Understanding, Design and Execution) – the process by which we help our clients achieve success. While the process remains the same from client to client, the application of the process can vary widely depending on need and circumstance. Take for example, “Research.”

At bloomfield knoble, we are big believers in using focus groups to learn, analyze and test, but it seems that we are rapidly becoming considered “old school” for our method of research. The popular notion among everyone – from agencies to brands – is to utilize social media to harness the “wisdom of the crowd” – the belief that large groups of people can make smart decisions even when poorly informed, because individual errors of judgement based on imperfect information tend to cancel out. To that, we at bloomfield knoble say, “hogwash!” (pardon my language).

A quick primer: the selfishness of humans is a central assumption of orthodox economics, where it is thought to lead to benefits for the economy as a whole. It is what 18th-century Scottish economist Adam Smith described as the “invisible hand.” For simplicity’s sake, orthodox economics assumes that people making a fundamental decision (such as whether to buy or sell something), have access to all relevant information. If the price is too high, then because we’re rational and self-interested, we don’t buy and the price falls. The general idea is that, eventually, supply equals demand. Well, it turns out that people aren’t rational, because people (like me) will pay some ridiculous amount for an old vinyl album that they loved as a kid – pretty much regardless of price.

That’s just one silly example, but it is correct to present that in addition to not being rational, humans don’t always have accurate information and certainly don’t act in isolation. We learn from each other, and what we value, buy and invest in is strongly influenced by our beliefs and cultural norms, which themselves change over time and space. Over the years, there have been various attempts to inject more realism into the field by incorporating insights into how humans actually behave. This is known as behavioral economics and works great when attempting to understand how individuals and small groups make economic decisions. This, most recently, has been the area of “nudge” – persuading people into doing what’s best by subtly influencing behavior. Unfortunately, the complexities of behavioral economics make it too unwieldy to be applied across the board.

According to a great article in New Scientist by Kate Douglas, it turns out that humans adapt our decisions according to the situation, which in turn changes the situations faced by others, and so on. The stability or instability of financial markets, for example, depends to a great extent on traders, whose strategies vary according to what they expect to be most profitable at any one time. According to Alan Kirman, an economist at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris, France, “The economy should be considered as a complex adaptive system in which agents constantly react to, influence and are influenced by the other individuals in the economy.”

This is where biologists might help. Some researchers are used to exploring the nature and functions of complex interactions between networks of individuals as part of their attempts to understand swarms of locusts, termite colonies or entire ecosystems. Their work has provided insights into how information spreads within groups and how that influences consensus decision-making, says Iain Cousin from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz, Germany.

It is this new research approach that may change the way agencies and brands approach gathering information. Remember, in orthodox economics, the wisdom of the crowd helps to determine the prices of assets and ensures that markets function efficiently. “This is often misplaced,” says Cousin. By creating a computer model based on how animals make consensus decisions, Cousin and his colleagues showed last year that the wisdom of the crowd works only under certain conditions – and that contrary to popular belief, small groups with access to many sources of information tend to make the best decisions. According to their abstract:

Individuals in groups, whether composed of humans or other animal species, often make important decisions collectively, including avoiding predators, selecting a direction in which to migrate and electing political leaders. Theoretical and empirical work suggests that collective decisions can be more accurate than individual decisions, a phenomenon known as the ‘wisdom of crowds.’ In these previous studies, it has been assumed that individuals make independent estimates based on a single environmental cue. In the real world, however, most cues exhibit some spatial and temporal correlation, and consequently, the sensory information that near neighbours detect will also be, to some degree, correlated. Furthermore, it may be rare for an environment to contain only a single informative cue, with multiple cues being the norm.

We demonstrate, using two simple models, that taking this natural complexity into account considerably alters the relationship between group size and decision-making accuracy. In only a minority of environments do we observe the typical wisdom of crowds phenomenon (whereby collective accuracy increases monotonically with group size). When the wisdom of crowds is not observed, we find that a finite, and often small, group size maximizes decision accuracy. We reveal that, counterintuitively, it is the noise inherent in these small groups that enhances their accuracy, allowing individuals in such groups to avoid the detrimental effects of correlated information while exploiting the benefits of collective decision-making. Our results demonstrate that the conventional view of the wisdom of crowds may not be informative in complex and realistic environments, and that being in small groups can maximize decision accuracy across many contexts.

That’s because the individual decisions that make up the consensus are based on two types of environmental cue: those to which the entire group are exposed – known as high-correlation cues – and those that only some individuals see, or low-correlation cues. Cousin found that in larger groups, the information known by all members drowns out that which only a few individuals noticed. So if the widely known information is unreliable, larger groups make poor decisions. Smaller groups, on the other hand, still make good decisions because they rely on a greater diversity of information.

Now, I realize that I am making a bit of a stretch here. A focus group about consumer packaged goods isn’t the same as financial modeling for the Greek economy, but it does highlight the need to better understand who has what information and how to prevent over-reliance on highly correlated information, which can compromise collective intelligence. Operating in a series of smaller groups may help prevent decision-makers from indulging their natural tendency to follow the pack. Here’s a quick test for you: how many “influencers” do you follow on LinkedIn? LinkedIn even makes suggestions on who to follow and rewards people that drive action with special “influencer” badges. Information passed on to followers are perceived to have already been “vetted” or “approved,” which may actually minimize the amount of research an individual will perform.

There isn’t much argument among agencies that research is important – it’s the approach to the research that seems to be a matter of some debate. Those who would hold up research models that show vast numbers of followers on social media love “Creative A” better than “Creative B” may not be any more accurate than those who tout the results of a focus group between 8 and 12 people. Regardless, there is one thing that Adam Smith taught that holds true for agency economics – get it wrong and you’re fired! So maybe there is still something to be said for orthodox economics in advertising after all.


 About The Author

thomas-thompson-headshot

A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.
Connect With Thomas J Thompson
twitter
facebooklinkedin_25x25youtube_25X25

# # #

Who is bloomfield knoble?

bloomfield knoble is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bloomfield knoble provides a one-to-one approach. Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at 214-254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

 

11 Aug 2015
crowds

Forget 'Wisdom of the Crowd'

crowdsOne of the central tenets of bloomfield knoble is R.U.D.E. (an acronym for Research, Understanding, Design and Execution) – the process by which we help our clients achieve success. While the process remains the same from client to client, the application of the process can vary widely depending on need and circumstance. Take for example, “Research.”

At bloomfield knoble, we are big believers in using focus groups to learn, analyze and test, but it seems that we are rapidly becoming considered “old school” for our method of research. The popular notion among everyone – from agencies to brands – is to utilize social media to harness the “wisdom of the crowd” – the belief that large groups of people can make smart decisions even when poorly informed, because individual errors of judgement based on imperfect information tend to cancel out. To that, we at bloomfield knoble say, “hogwash!” (pardon my language).

A quick primer: the selfishness of humans is a central assumption of orthodox economics, where it is thought to lead to benefits for the economy as a whole. It is what 18th-century Scottish economist Adam Smith described as the “invisible hand.” For simplicity’s sake, orthodox economics assumes that people making a fundamental decision (such as whether to buy or sell something), have access to all relevant information. If the price is too high, then because we’re rational and self-interested, we don’t buy and the price falls. The general idea is that, eventually, supply equals demand. Well, it turns out that people aren’t rational, because people (like me) will pay some ridiculous amount for an old vinyl album that they loved as a kid – pretty much regardless of price.

That’s just one silly example, but it is correct to present that in addition to not being rational, humans don’t always have accurate information and certainly don’t act in isolation. We learn from each other, and what we value, buy and invest in is strongly influenced by our beliefs and cultural norms, which themselves change over time and space. Over the years, there have been various attempts to inject more realism into the field by incorporating insights into how humans actually behave. This is known as behavioral economics and works great when attempting to understand how individuals and small groups make economic decisions. This, most recently, has been the area of “nudge” – persuading people into doing what’s best by subtly influencing behavior. Unfortunately, the complexities of behavioral economics make it too unwieldy to be applied across the board.

According to a great article in New Scientist by Kate Douglas, it turns out that humans adapt our decisions according to the situation, which in turn changes the situations faced by others, and so on. The stability or instability of financial markets, for example, depends to a great extent on traders, whose strategies vary according to what they expect to be most profitable at any one time. According to Alan Kirman, an economist at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris, France, “The economy should be considered as a complex adaptive system in which agents constantly react to, influence and are influenced by the other individuals in the economy.”

This is where biologists might help. Some researchers are used to exploring the nature and functions of complex interactions between networks of individuals as part of their attempts to understand swarms of locusts, termite colonies or entire ecosystems. Their work has provided insights into how information spreads within groups and how that influences consensus decision-making, says Iain Cousin from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Konstanz, Germany.

It is this new research approach that may change the way agencies and brands approach gathering information. Remember, in orthodox economics, the wisdom of the crowd helps to determine the prices of assets and ensures that markets function efficiently. “This is often misplaced,” says Cousin. By creating a computer model based on how animals make consensus decisions, Cousin and his colleagues showed last year that the wisdom of the crowd works only under certain conditions – and that contrary to popular belief, small groups with access to many sources of information tend to make the best decisions. According to their abstract:

Individuals in groups, whether composed of humans or other animal species, often make important decisions collectively, including avoiding predators, selecting a direction in which to migrate and electing political leaders. Theoretical and empirical work suggests that collective decisions can be more accurate than individual decisions, a phenomenon known as the ‘wisdom of crowds.’ In these previous studies, it has been assumed that individuals make independent estimates based on a single environmental cue. In the real world, however, most cues exhibit some spatial and temporal correlation, and consequently, the sensory information that near neighbours detect will also be, to some degree, correlated. Furthermore, it may be rare for an environment to contain only a single informative cue, with multiple cues being the norm.

We demonstrate, using two simple models, that taking this natural complexity into account considerably alters the relationship between group size and decision-making accuracy. In only a minority of environments do we observe the typical wisdom of crowds phenomenon (whereby collective accuracy increases monotonically with group size). When the wisdom of crowds is not observed, we find that a finite, and often small, group size maximizes decision accuracy. We reveal that, counterintuitively, it is the noise inherent in these small groups that enhances their accuracy, allowing individuals in such groups to avoid the detrimental effects of correlated information while exploiting the benefits of collective decision-making. Our results demonstrate that the conventional view of the wisdom of crowds may not be informative in complex and realistic environments, and that being in small groups can maximize decision accuracy across many contexts.

That’s because the individual decisions that make up the consensus are based on two types of environmental cue: those to which the entire group are exposed – known as high-correlation cues – and those that only some individuals see, or low-correlation cues. Cousin found that in larger groups, the information known by all members drowns out that which only a few individuals noticed. So if the widely known information is unreliable, larger groups make poor decisions. Smaller groups, on the other hand, still make good decisions because they rely on a greater diversity of information.

Now, I realize that I am making a bit of a stretch here. A focus group about consumer packaged goods isn’t the same as financial modeling for the Greek economy, but it does highlight the need to better understand who has what information and how to prevent over-reliance on highly correlated information, which can compromise collective intelligence. Operating in a series of smaller groups may help prevent decision-makers from indulging their natural tendency to follow the pack. Here’s a quick test for you: how many “influencers” do you follow on LinkedIn? LinkedIn even makes suggestions on who to follow and rewards people that drive action with special “influencer” badges. Information passed on to followers are perceived to have already been “vetted” or “approved,” which may actually minimize the amount of research an individual will perform.

There isn’t much argument among agencies that research is important – it’s the approach to the research that seems to be a matter of some debate. Those who would hold up research models that show vast numbers of followers on social media love “Creative A” better than “Creative B” may not be any more accurate than those who tout the results of a focus group between 8 and 12 people. Regardless, there is one thing that Adam Smith taught that holds true for agency economics – get it wrong and you’re fired! So maybe there is still something to be said for orthodox economics in advertising after all.


 About The Author

thomas-thompson-headshot

A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.
Connect With Thomas J Thompson
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Who is bloomfield knoble?

bloomfield knoble is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bloomfield knoble provides a one-to-one approach. Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at 214-254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

 

07 Jul 2015
birthday_cake

Maybe you don't have to spend as much as you think.

birthday_cakeEveryone at bloomfield knoble knows not to ask me STEM (science, technology, engineering, math)-related questions, because I will not give a simple answer. I seize the opportunity to fill an entire whiteboard with formulas and computations as if I were giving a lecture at MIT. In my defense, I don’t try to be like that, it’s just so many STEM-related answers are based on knowing the answers to a bunch of other questions. For example, Chi square (calculating the relationship between two variables to determine if they are related) is pretty common in marketing. However, calculating Chi square means constructing the observed values table using the original dataset; using the f^e formula to construct the expected values table; using the Chi square former to calculate the Chi square value; using the df formula and the Chi square table to discover if that x^2 value is significant; and drawing a conclusion about the relationship between the two variables. So, yeah, ask me a question and I’m going to walk through the entire process to deliver the answer.

Sorry – got a bit off topic. See! I just used a paragraph to explain why people don’t ask me STEM-related questions.

Anyway, it turns out that Clark (associate creative director here at bloomfield knoble) and I have the same birthdate. One of the interns, who doesn’t know better, asked what the chances are that two people in a relatively-small office would have the same birthday, and the topic for this week’s blog was born. Let the whiteboard explanation (followed by the reason it matters in advertising/marketing) commence:

Let’s exclude February 29th because those people, like Gingers, are born without souls, so that a year has 365 days. Let’s also assume that all days are equally likely birthdays for a randomly chosen person. So how many people do you need to ask to be at least 50% certain that at least two of them have the same birthday? What’s your guess? Many people answer 183, which is about half of 365. This is a fairly well-known problem, so you might already know the answer is 23.

We arrive at the answer by computing the probability that everyone has a different birthday and then subtract this from 1. Start with just two people. The first can have any birthday and the second person must avoid this day, which has a probability of 364/365. The probability that two people share a birthday is thus 1 – 364/365 or about 0.003. Add another person. His or her birthday must avoid both previously taken birthdays, which has probability of 363/365. The probability that all three people have different birthday is 364/365 x 363/365 and the probability that there is some common birthday in a group of three is P(some common birthday) = 1 – 364/365 x 363/365 about 0.01. We keep doing this over and over. At 10 people, the the probability already exceeds 0.1 and at 22 people it is 0.48 and at 23 people the probability of some common birthday is 0.51. Thus, only 23 people are needed to be at least 50% certain that there is some common birthday.

Remember, this isn’t the same as the probability that somebody shares a particular birthday, which is how I’m going to spin this math lesson back to marketing and advertising.

There are, generally, two types of campaigns. There is the campaign where you are trying to reach a very specific audience and influence them all; and there is the type of campaign where you are trying to reach everyone and then influence some. The first campaign is like two people sharing a particular birthday – you have very specific criteria in mind and you determine the reach and frequency based on those criteria. These are, in my opinion, the best kind of campaigns and thanks to the willingness of people to give up their private information in return for cat pictures, very easy to accomplish. The second campaign is a bit trickier. This is the “maybe I should get a billboard” campaign. It’s become quite popular to dismiss these kinds of campaigns, simply because we – as ad people – don’t feel like we’ll reach the target audience or that they are simply too expensive to have an effective return on investment. But much of that “feeling” isn’t always based in true numbers.

Like the birthday problem, the number that seems correct (183 to hit 50%) isn’t actually the number. The same is true in different types of campaigns. It is easy to dismiss campaign elements like Digital Out of Home, or billboards, etc. as a “waste of money” because the length of time required to be seen by enough people may seem like too low of an ROI. However, a little statistical analysis may reveal that we don’t have to spend as much as we thought to be effective. I could show you the math behind that thinking, but I’ve run out of space on the whiteboard.


 About The Author

thomas-thompson-headshot

A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.
Connect With Thomas J Thompson
twitter
facebooklinkedin_25x25youtube_25X25

# # #

Who is bloomfield knoble?

bloomfield knoble is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bloomfield knoble provides a one-to-one approach. Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at 214-254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

 

07 Jul 2015
birthday_cake

Maybe you don’t have to spend as much as you think.

birthday_cakeEveryone at bloomfield knoble knows not to ask me STEM (science, technology, engineering, math)-related questions, because I will not give a simple answer. I seize the opportunity to fill an entire whiteboard with formulas and computations as if I were giving a lecture at MIT. In my defense, I don’t try to be like that, it’s just so many STEM-related answers are based on knowing the answers to a bunch of other questions. For example, Chi square (calculating the relationship between two variables to determine if they are related) is pretty common in marketing. However, calculating Chi square means constructing the observed values table using the original dataset; using the f^e formula to construct the expected values table; using the Chi square former to calculate the Chi square value; using the df formula and the Chi square table to discover if that x^2 value is significant; and drawing a conclusion about the relationship between the two variables. So, yeah, ask me a question and I’m going to walk through the entire process to deliver the answer.

Sorry – got a bit off topic. See! I just used a paragraph to explain why people don’t ask me STEM-related questions.

Anyway, it turns out that Clark (associate creative director here at bloomfield knoble) and I have the same birthdate. One of the interns, who doesn’t know better, asked what the chances are that two people in a relatively-small office would have the same birthday, and the topic for this week’s blog was born. Let the whiteboard explanation (followed by the reason it matters in advertising/marketing) commence:

Let’s exclude February 29th because those people, like Gingers, are born without souls, so that a year has 365 days. Let’s also assume that all days are equally likely birthdays for a randomly chosen person. So how many people do you need to ask to be at least 50% certain that at least two of them have the same birthday? What’s your guess? Many people answer 183, which is about half of 365. This is a fairly well-known problem, so you might already know the answer is 23.

We arrive at the answer by computing the probability that everyone has a different birthday and then subtract this from 1. Start with just two people. The first can have any birthday and the second person must avoid this day, which has a probability of 364/365. The probability that two people share a birthday is thus 1 – 364/365 or about 0.003. Add another person. His or her birthday must avoid both previously taken birthdays, which has probability of 363/365. The probability that all three people have different birthday is 364/365 x 363/365 and the probability that there is some common birthday in a group of three is P(some common birthday) = 1 – 364/365 x 363/365 about 0.01. We keep doing this over and over. At 10 people, the the probability already exceeds 0.1 and at 22 people it is 0.48 and at 23 people the probability of some common birthday is 0.51. Thus, only 23 people are needed to be at least 50% certain that there is some common birthday.

Remember, this isn’t the same as the probability that somebody shares a particular birthday, which is how I’m going to spin this math lesson back to marketing and advertising.

There are, generally, two types of campaigns. There is the campaign where you are trying to reach a very specific audience and influence them all; and there is the type of campaign where you are trying to reach everyone and then influence some. The first campaign is like two people sharing a particular birthday – you have very specific criteria in mind and you determine the reach and frequency based on those criteria. These are, in my opinion, the best kind of campaigns and thanks to the willingness of people to give up their private information in return for cat pictures, very easy to accomplish. The second campaign is a bit trickier. This is the “maybe I should get a billboard” campaign. It’s become quite popular to dismiss these kinds of campaigns, simply because we – as ad people – don’t feel like we’ll reach the target audience or that they are simply too expensive to have an effective return on investment. But much of that “feeling” isn’t always based in true numbers.

Like the birthday problem, the number that seems correct (183 to hit 50%) isn’t actually the number. The same is true in different types of campaigns. It is easy to dismiss campaign elements like Digital Out of Home, or billboards, etc. as a “waste of money” because the length of time required to be seen by enough people may seem like too low of an ROI. However, a little statistical analysis may reveal that we don’t have to spend as much as we thought to be effective. I could show you the math behind that thinking, but I’ve run out of space on the whiteboard.


 About The Author

thomas-thompson-headshot

A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.
Connect With Thomas J Thompson
twitter
facebooklinkedin_25x25youtube_25X25

# # #

Who is bloomfield knoble?

bloomfield knoble is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bloomfield knoble provides a one-to-one approach. Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at 214-254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.

 

28 Apr 2015
Bond

Is this why people always ask me to play poker?

I’ll admit that my duties at bloomfield knoble don’t usually require me to read Evolution & Human Behavior – the official journal of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society, but as a fan of poker, this abstract by Eugene Chan, University of Technology, Sydney, caught my eye:

Prior research has examined how sexual opposite-sex stimuli impact people’s choices and behaviors. However, it is largely unknown whether sexual same-sex stimuli also do so. This research reports an intriguing phenomenon: men who see attractive males take greater financial risks than those who do not. An evolution-based account is proffered and tested across four experiments. In evolutionary history, men have faced greater intrasexual competition in attracting women as a mating partner. Thus, when the average heterosexual man sees males who are more physically-attractive than he is, he is motivated to increase his desirability as a mating partner to women, prompting him to accrue money, and taking financial risks helps him to do so. This research concludes by discussing the implications of the present findings for men today who are constantly bombarded by not only sexual opposite but also same-sex others, such as images that are commonly used in advertising.

Fortunately, I found it while reading New Scientist – I don’t think I could add one more scientific journal to my current bloomfield knoble reading list. Basically, the study explains that in what seems to be a kind of compensating behavior, when heterosexual men see another man they perceive as being more attractive than themselves, they try to increase their wealth. They make high-risk, high-return decisions. Chan did four behavioral experiments involving 820 men and women. After being shown pictures of attractive men, the heterosexual men in the study were more likely to choose a riskier bet when given the choice than at other times, or than when shown a picture of an attractive woman.

In one experiment, some men were shown male models in Abercrombie & Fitch advertisements, while others were shown female Victoria’s Secret models. A third group were shown photographs of “average” looking people. The participants were then offered the choice of getting $100, or taking a bet where they had a 90% chance of getting nothing and a 10% chance of getting $1000. The men who saw male models were more likely to choose the risky bet than the men who were shown female models or mere mortals. And no difference was seen in the behavior of the women.

The effect was greater in participants who rated the models as “more attractive” than themselves, suggesting the risk-taking was an attempt to compensate for perceived inferiority. And there was a bigger effect when the men were in a “mating mindset,” imagining wooing a woman.

“This financial risk-taking occurs because men want to appear more desirable to women, and having more money is one way to do so,” says Chan. “Taking financial risks is one quick way to get more money, even if it might not be a sure thing.”

Bill von Hippel of the University of Queensland in Australia says the results highlight an aspect of male mating behaviour that people tend to forget. Before attracting females, the men need to compete with other males for access to them, he says. So does taking these kinds of financial risks work? “I guess the idea that money can be helpful for men who are less attractive is evident in many TV shows and movies, ” says Chan. “But yes, one can also say that taking greater financial risks can be a stupid way to go, since it might not necessarily make more money. In fact, you might lose money.”

As a member of the advertising community, the results of this are not surprising to me. When was the last time you saw someone unattractive in an ad for, well, anything? However, I will admit that I had always perceived the use of attractive models in financial marketing to be more aspirational (I want to be that guy / girl) instead of promoting risk. Financial services is a core competency for us at bloomfield knoble. Much of our work lately has been about loss mitigation (helping people avoid foreclosure, for example), so we’re actually trying to do the exact opposite of what this study says – we want people not to take risks.

This study has got me thinking about how we use visual information to relay a decrease in risk without using “fear” as is traditionally used in mitigating risk (smoking-in-bed-kills-people ads come to mind). It’s easy to forget how powerful visuals can be when developing creative when you have a specific call-to-action in mind. Chan agrees. Chan says he can imagine banks or casinos using this information to encourage riskier behavior. “But I can also see policy and government officials counteracting this with stricter regulations regarding advertising.”

So there’s nothing like the sight of a rival to embolden a man, it seems. If you want a straight man to make a riskier play in poker, you should consider getting a hot guy to sit with you. This must be why my friends always ask me to play poker.


 About The Author

thomas-thompson-headshot

A STEM (Science / Technology / Engineering / Math) graduate and COO of bloomfield knoble, Thomas exemplifies the view that advertising is becoming an engineering discipline. He leads the integrated insights and strategic planning group in a way consistent with bloomfield knoble’s goal of bringing a strong analytical foundation to uncover fresh and innovative insights and business opportunities.
Connect With Thomas J Thompson
twitter
facebooklinkedin_25x25youtube_25X25

# # #

Who is bloomfield knoble?

bloomfield knoble is a full-service, premier strategic marketing and advertising agency based in Dallas, Texas. Our clients include top 50 Fortune companies and unique businesses that seek a strategic partner to empower their offerings and growth. Whether developing an integrated advertising campaign, a direct marketing tactical approach, brand framework and positioning exercise, or daily creative, technical and consulting support, bloomfield knoble provides a one-to-one approach. Call Eric Hirschhorn to learn more at 214-254-3805, or eric@bloomweb.com.