Archive for February, 2011

Audience with Rory Sutherland

Friday, February 18th, 2011

I’d been looking forward to this week’s Institute of Direct Marketing Members’ Evening, An Audience with Rory Sutherland since it came up on the event schedule. I last saw Rory in full flow at a previous IDM event, their 2008 Business-to-Business Marketing Conference and enjoyed his combination of levity and original thinking. We weren’t disappointed this time-round, as Rory was allowed to run-over his time slot with a steady barrage of witticisms and insight.

Among them were an observation regarding the importance of behavioural data in determining consumer preferences. Rory pointed out that relying on what consumers tell us in terms of their preferences and requirements can often be unreliable. Instead, paying attention to behaviour, and increasingly this means online, can enable unstated interests to be revealed that might otherwise remain out of sight. Putting it into metaphorical terms Rory said, “the conscious mind is not like the Oval Office,” suggesting it’s in charge, but that many actual decisions are made unconsciously. This makes it pretty hard to ask someone what they intend to do!

I was also struck by Rory’s comments regarding the perceived value of TV or other traditional media compared to digital. Everyone knows that TV airtime is expensive, not to mention the cost of creating the advertising, so a certain value is attached to it. Even direct mail, perhaps given its tangible form, is viewed in a similar way. In comparison, digital media, with its much lower cost of production, doesn’t have quite the same cache, Rory posited. This isn’t to say it isn’t effective, but perhaps the tendency for brands to reallocate spend from traditional to digital media, rather than simply adding resources to new media, may be a mistake.

His parting thought though was that “there’s more than one way to do everything”, which seems like good advice.