Monday, 18 August 2014


The trouble is that just isn’t true. We talk increasingly about empathy but when it comes to understanding Isis or Al Qaeda we simply don’t have a clue.  Actually, we often don’t even understand how people near to us really feel. It’s ironic isn’t it that those of us who spent our lives in advertising were, much of the time, guessing about how our ads were going to work?

But soon all that’s going to change and marketing, as we knew it, is going to be pretty well redundant. As neuroscience becomes front page newspaper stuff and not arcane and academic we are going to be embarked on a journey that will let us unravel moods and feelings and our ability to detect, predict and manipulate them.

And I think this is really exciting because it takes the finger-in-the-air-ness out of not just marketing but behaviour in businesses and specifically things like negotiation. How much time is spent trying to outwit and double guess each other? Eliminate business poker and we can spend more time on innovation and pure problem solving.

I’m writing this on holiday in Dorset – grandsons outraged that I’m tapping away when there are trees to be climbed and monsters to be caught. Outside although it’s drizzling I feel that curious contentment about this green and pleasant land that is pure gut and not rational. Yesterday I had a pint of Palmer’s Best Bitter (the Bridport Brewer) slightly flat, slightly warm, mildly hoppy and bitter sweet. It tasted to me of village cricket and memories of steam trains. But my wife said it tasted to her of “disappointment” not that it was disappointing but that it reminded her of “something not quite fulfilling what she’d expected it to”. I reflected she was probably right; it was a sort of UKIP taste – slightly discontented and mildly aggrieved, happy to put up with chipped cups and white bread.

A taste can do that as can a smell. Summer holidays are evoked by the smell of sun on old stones and of a BBQ aroma.  Mansion polish: just one sniff of it and I think of Oxford.

We can only guess at people’s memories, at what is stored in the brain ready to go off at any time. Yet “mood-barometrics” – the study of how to measure mood – will take us a long way down the road of disentangling the mysteries of feelings and human instinct.

The smartest business people are recognising the need to engage and inspire the emotions. The art of storytelling, creating a compelling narrative,  is the stuff of the C suite. We are on the verge of an era where emotion plays a much bigger part in business than spreadsheets and facts.

Einstein once said: “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

But that was then. The world is changing and quite soon we’ll be able to count the things that really count.

1 comment:

Ian Wilson said...

Steam trains, warm beer, leather on willow. It is nostalgia for pleasures remembered or a potent vision of a sunny future that is more effective? And I guess demographics come into too!