In his new book, “Alchemy,” Rory Sutherland states that “the problem that bedevils organizations once they reach a certain size is that narrow, conventional logic is the natural mode of thinking for the risk-averse bureaucrat or executive. There is a simple reason for this: you can never be fired for being logical. If your reasoning is sound and unimaginative, even if you fail, it is unlikely you will attract much blame. It is much easier to be fired for being illogical than it is for being unimaginative. The fatal issue is that logic always gets you to exactly the same place as your competitors.”
Sutherland, vice chairman of Ogilvy in the UK, is an ad man who speaks about the idea that value is subjective. He believes it is important for marketers to embrace this concept and free themselves from the stranglehold of conformity. The bottom line is that we live in a logical and rational world, where we collectively subscribe to reason as the basis of decision-making.
Reviewing the past and analyzing data is simple. Anyone can conduct a post mortem on why a campaign worked or didn’t work. For example, he says that pundits who predicted a landslide victory for Hillary Clinton proudly explain how Trump won. The data and algorithms simply didn’t capture what many people were truly feeling. In business, we overwhelmingly use logic based on history or antiseptic data to make strategic decisions and projections. The irony is that all of our competitors do exactly the same thing, which leads us to a race to the bottom.
The extraordinary is born from the the unconventional. In other words, the greatest performers take the chance to do the opposite or what the rational players consider outlandish. The people who ignore the past and prevailing logic are the ones who ultimately make the biggest splash.
Listen, I don’t doubt that data matters. I think there is always a place for logic when considering specific chores and objectives. If a worker is charged with a task or a deadline, logic aids in getting things accomplished as quickly as possible. But to achieve the extraordinary, we must be nonsensical.
I always liked the idea that Henry Ford put forth. He believed that if he used logic and simply listened to customers, he would just have to provide faster horses. His ability to think laterally and engage the unconscious feelings of people created a completely new recipe.
We always preach that listening is critical. Data can help in that regard, but a lot of times, people tell you what they think and not necessarily what they feel. They may say they want shorter wait times, but maybe what they really want is a better overall experience while they wait.
For brands to be truly customer-focused, they need to ignore what people say and concentrate on what people feel.
Data does not help a company connect with people on an emotional level. It does nothing to inspire or make people feel better. It only feeds the CFOs and their linear mindset. They care nothing of experience and feelings. They believe in efficiency and profits. Yet, the greatest companies make us feel.
It is time to stop making sense. We interpret the world through touch and we need to feel something in order to connect with it. In my opinion, logic is the product of filtering what we feel through the context of others. Great marketers, however, recognize the power of engaging on a more subconscious level and allow the market to feel something for them.
CEO, Conduit, Inc.
Mark Potter is the CEO of Conduit Inc, a content marketing organization, which produces a variety of publications and community building programs including CANVAS Magazine. In addition, Mark is the author of the book, Egrets, Hockey Sticks, & Roller Skates and sits on the Electronic Document Scholarship Board.