In a world of change, what won’t? 7 unchanging principles of effective communication – Tom Roach, Jellyfish

Tom Roach, VP Brand Planning, Jellyfish
In marketing we love change, but what about what won’t? The things that don’t change are the things that we can build strategies for the long term off the back of.



Key takeaways on 7 unchanging principles of effective communication

For more from Tom – and a write up written in his own words of this talk – head here.

  • Marketers are obsessed with what’s changing and what’s new; but, it’s actually the things that will never change that are often far more powerful for our brand’s growth.
  • A strong brand is an actual thing in our brain—an associative network of memories and ideas.
  • It’s the light buyers that are surprisingly important to brand growth, because heavy buyers will notice and buy you anyway.
  • Great communication helps brands…
    • …be noticed…
      • Attention, Creativity, Reach
    • …be easy to mind…
      • Distinctiveness, Consistency, Emotion
    • …thought worth it.
      • Motivation (meeting goals)

[09:32] The Associative Memory

  • “Cells that fire together, wire together.” ~ Donald Hebb
  • What are the unchanging fundamentals of effective communication that will always be true regardless of the technologies we use?
  • In neurological terms, a brand is an associative network.
  • Two systems of thinking which govern our behaviour:
    • System 1 Thinking
      • The vast majority of behaviour and decision-making.
      • Instinctive System 1 processes govern our buying behaviour.
        • Quick
        • Instinctive
        • Automatic
        • Little/No Effor
      • System 2 Thinking
        • A very small minority of behaviour and decision-making.
          • Conscious
          • Rational
          • Slower
          • Complex Decisions
          • More Logical
          • Effortful
        • “Although many of us may think of ourselves as thinking creatures that feel, biologically we are feeling creatures that think.” ~Jill Bolte Taylor
          • We need to make our brands no-brainers.

[13:35] People choose brands to meet functional and emotional goals.

  • To have, do, be, become, experience…
    • Adventure – Adventure, Courage, Thrill
    • Autonomy – Success, Recognition, Status
    • Discipline – Discipline, Control, Orderliness
    • Security – Security, Warmth, Protection
    • Enjoyment – Pleasure, Relief, Carefree
    • Entitlement – Zest for life, Inspiration, Vitality
    • Create powerful stimuli. Evoke emotional reactions. Build consistent associations. Create mental networks. Target consumer goals = Become an instinctive, easy choice.

The 7 Principles of Effective Communication

      • Reach
      • Attention
      • Creativity
      • Distinctiveness
      • Consistency
      • Emotion
      • Motivation

[14:52] Reach

  • The greatest opportunity is always to get light buyers from “zero to one”.
    • “A lot do a little, and a few do a lot.”
  • Your brand’s health depends on lots of people who don’t know you well, don’t think of you much, and don’t buy you often, if at all.
  • We have to step outside of our marketing bubbles and realise that most people don’t care much about brands, and spend almost no time thinking about them.

[17:22] Attention

  • See: KFC’s 2018 chicken shortage bounceback; “a masterclass in PR crisis management.”
    • The “FCK” apology was unexpected and attention-grabbing.
    • KFC won back fans as a result
  • Take advantage of attention measuring tools that are continuing to pop up today.

[19:33] Creativity

  • Creativity is repeatedly found to be the strongest driver of advertising profitability in sales over and above media and targeting.
  • “Good ideas are non-obvious, non-trivial combinations.” ~Faris Yakob
    • Novel, non-obvious, useful
  • Creativity is attention-grabbing and memorable.
  • We’re seeing rising sea levels in the sea of sameness.
  • Let’s stop putting our work through the modern marketing wind tunnel.

[23:40] Distinctiveness

  • The fundamental task for all communication is to build and refresh memory structures.
  • We need to make our brands…
    • easy to mind, and
    • easy to find.
  • Distinctive brand assets help create the memory structures that are the frame of reference, stored in the brain, that helps brands come to mind first and get chosen.
  • Having a strong set of distinctive brand assets result in a brand looking like itself.
    • Best example: McDonalds

[23:40] Distinctiveness

  • You also need to be consistently distinctive in your communication.
  • “You cannot be distinctive if you are not consistent.” ~Byron Sharp
  • Consistency is more profitable long-term.
    • Long-running “distinctive brand campaigns” have ROIs +62% above average.

[28:25] Emotion

  • Emotion is a consumer outcome, not an executional input.
  • Emotion in advertising has various functions:
    • Getting and keeping attention
    • Processing content
    • Memory encoding
    • Sharing and WOM (Word-of-Mouth)
  • “Emotional” campaigns are more profitable.
    • Emotional campaigns are almost 2x as likely to achieve top-box profit performance as rational campaigns, and over 2x as efficient at driving market share growth per 10 pts of excess SOV.

[30:25] Motivation

  • “Ads that evoke emotional responses have better attention, deeper processing of the content, better memory-encoding, and retrieval. BUT the emotion itself is NOT what motivates people: there has to be something that the brand helps you to achieve. John Lewis is the poster child of emotional advertising, but their campaign works because of the double whammy of emotional response AND motivation—it shows John Lewis shoppers are ‘thoughtful gifters’.” ~Phil Barden

Q and A on 7 unchanging principles of effective communication

[34:26] Q: The examples you give with regard to creativity are mostly eCommerce-based. Which service brands demonstrate ingenuity, creativity, and originality?

A: Virgin Media is consistently distinctive in its communication. It knows its tone of voice well. They know who they are. They are recognizably themselves in the way they speak. They achieve a really good balance between freshness and originality.

[35:51] Q: For smaller brands that don’t necessarily have the opportunity, or B2B brands that might be a little bit more “boring”, is consistency still possible?

A: Of course it is, and it’s perhaps even more important. You’re probably still trying to find your voice and creating assets. Still, these 7 principles are timeless and universal. Really strong brand will have a rich and diverse set of assets, which can include people, and will usually include logos. It’s always better to have freehold assets instead of leasehold assets—assets that you fully control. But, always remember that a brand’s first job is simply to be remembered.

[45:12] Q: I work in a family-run business, both B2B and B2C, with a strong “that’s how we’ve always done it” attitude. The managerial roles are male, and as a woman I regularly feel like I’m not taken seriously, even with the results marketing now provides. How would you address the internal weakness of the company without being brushed off?

A: Using a parallel example, so often, marketers are trying to persuade CFOs to spend money on brand investment, and they go in with a very logical, rational argument with all the data and charts. They miss the human side of the story. It has to start with personal relationships: Understand people’s goals, issues, and fears. I bet you there is common ground to be found. If you want to make your brand great, go back to what made it great in the first place. Really dig into the brand; do some brand archaeology, and understand the history and the essence of it. Somewhere in that kernel of the essence of the truth about the brand will be common ground that can take you forward. Find common ground.

[49:17] Q: Which emotional triggers do you believe have the greatest effect on people’s behaviours?

A: It depends on the category. Some categories are all about safety and reassurance such as banking and finance. Some categories are all about fun and excitement. When it comes to the communication side and triggering emotions, there is a lot of evidence that surprise and humour are really powerful communications devices to get and keep attention and drive memory. Intense, positive emotions are the ones you want to go for.

[54:07] Q: Tom, I love all your material. Apart from Byron Sharp, what other resources do you advocate we look at?

A: Professor Karen Nelson-Field has a lot of stuff on attention. Dr. Grace Kite is a brilliant example of someone who is on the cutting edge of thinking and the science of why we do what we do. I really like Phil Barden and his book Decoded: The Science Behind Why We Buy. Anything by Les Binet and Peter Field. Les Binet and Sarah Carter wrote the book How Not to Plan: 66 Ways to Screw it Up, which is more for advertising strategy people.

[55:58] Q: How do you take a TV ad (visual)  and create a multisensory experience?

A: The answer to all marketing questions is “it depends”. With brands that rely solely on the senses, such as perfume or even fashion brands, note that meaningless distinctiveness is more powerful than meaningful differentiation.