I’ll give you a clue, it has nothing to do with Duff beer. The answer is actually Jay Heinrichs, a persuasion consultant and author of the bestselling Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion. Jay visited us recently to give a talk on behavioural change. I.E. changing the way your customers behave. He picked Drinkaware, the UK alcohol awareness campaign, to use as an example to demonstrate his work. I wondered if this was because, being an American, he thinks Brits and Aussies have some kind of drinking problem. I quickly learned that Americans don’t use units to measure alcohol. “Why would I want to measure how much I’m drinking?” he exclaimed to our amusement.
Jay has worked with all manner of clients, the most impressive being Nasa, and has helped them to engage with their audiences, something we advertisers and marketers are required to do on a daily basis. I was interested to hear Jay’s methods of persuasion and his ideas of how he would run a Drinkaware campaign targeting 20-year-old women. After discussing the merits of the word orgasm for a while (more on that later), I was thankful that Jay isn’t running the Drinkaware campaign. His techniques, however, are extremely effective and his top tips are to use logic, emotion and character to change your audience’s behaviour. Focusing particularly on character because this is the most powerful tool. Not emotion, as I had anticipated. “If you can really understand your audience’s character, and project that same character into your product or service, then the audience will trust you.” Says Jay.
Another top tip was to find a ‘belonging trope’ for your product’s strapline or slogan. A trope is a word or phrase which changes your focus and pretends one thing is another, such as “the moon’s a balloon”. A belonging trope is a metaphor or simile for a word which is a single item representing a whole. Confused? Jay gave the example of using the phrase “baby blues” to represent a woman’s eyes, and ultimately the woman. This partly rationalises Jay’s hook with the word orgasm and 20-year-old women. He later mentioned that, upon being asked to explain sex to his children, he said “It’s the exchange of body fluids, kind of like picking your nose and sharing it with someone you love”. I think we’ll leave the campaign ideas to our creatives who seem to understand the target audience better.
Jay gave some examples of successful campaign tropes. Amex’s 1978 “Do you know me?”, Nike’s 1988 “Just do it!” and Avis’s 1963 “We try harder.” Jay also thought the UPS “Consider it done” campaigns were very successful. If you are a corporate, the principals are the same as for consumer campaigns; understand your audience’s values and virtues (character) and project a message about your service which they understand and relate to. Sometimes this is more difficult than it sounds. Many firms invest in days of research to understand their client’s needs and how best to demonstrate that their service fulfills these needs.
My top tip is to engage with your audience and verify that your product or service will make their lives easier or better. This is a very similar philosophy to Jay’s so perhaps he does have what it takes to be a marketer. Particularly as he supplied us with Krispy Kreme donuts and was highly supportive of Homer Simpson’s four day weekend fantasy. If you suddenly see Drinkaware posters urging women to “Party to the climax” you know who’s responsible. Somehow, I doubt it. I’m pretty sure that 20-year-old ladies are looking for something much more meaningful to engage with.