When Anger is a Force for Good

Last Wednesday I attended “Anger: A Force For Good” event held at the wonderfully hospitable ad agency BMB. The event explored what made people angry, how they channelled their anger (tellingly the talk was held on the anniversary of Trump’s election and the Russian Revolution centenary) and whether anger could be used positively.

Haras Rafiq, the CEO of counter radicalisation think tank Quilliam, talked about the dark and destructive side of anger: islamist, far-right and far-left extremism. I learned that people became radicalised when they had real or perceived grievances and were fed partial truths.

Anthropologist Nazima Kadir illustrated what we unfortunately knew too well (think Brexit, Trump, AfD, etc.) – people get angry when they are ignored.

To lift us out of the darkness of anger’s destructive forces was a presentation by Ian Murray the founder of consultancy house51 and BMB’s own Head of Planning Jamie Inman. A stat that I took out from the research was that almost as many people in the UK (45%) got angry about the injustice of something that happened to other people, as about something that affected them personally (47%). If empathy is key to a more peaceful and happy world, than empathetic anger is nothing less than a driving force for good.

On the day of the event there was hopeful evidence that anti-Trump anger started bearing fruits, as Democrats swept to victory in governor, state legislative and mayors’ elections across the US.

In media and advertising it’s widely accepted that emotive content and marketing perform best.

Top shared media stories are emotional. In case you are wondering which emotions dominate, well, it varies by media. In the last 12 months the top shared story on The Telegraph “Redhead emoji finally on the table after campaign for ginger equality” is 59% joyful (IBM Watson Tone Analyzer). Whereas the Guardian’s top shared article “Frightened by Donald Trump? You don’t know the half of it” is 59% fearful. While The New York Times‘s “Trump’s Lies” is 72% angry.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising found that marketing underscored by emotion performed twice as well as campaigns based around rational thinking.

Traditionally, marketing has been dominated by two emotions: happiness and fear. In the first episode of Madmen Don Draper calmly tells his clients: “Advertising is based on one thing: happiness, and do you know what happiness is? … It’s freedom from fear.”

According to BMB/house51 research 60% of the UK population got angry in the past week. So there is a lot of anger out there, and it is important for marketers to be ‘in tune’ with how people feel.

Forget the John Lewis ad, my current favourite is Jigsaw’s pro-immigration campaign. It starts boldly with “British style is not 100% British. In fact, there is no such thing as 100% British”, and finishes with “Fear, isolation and intolerance will hold us back. Love, openness and collaboration will take us forward”.

A great campaign targeted at Jigsaw’s liberal educated target audience, which addresses their anger with Brexit and anti-immigrant climate.

Tesco’s mass-market positioning means that its similarly-themed Christmas ad provoked an angry reaction from the far-right for featuring a Muslim family. Its yet to be seen what it would mean for Tesco’s sales but the ad has worked generating priceless publicity.

Both Jigsaw and Tesco have managed to either chime with existing anger or provoke anger, and both campaigns carry a positive message of love, openness and happy co-existence. So, perhaps the most successful campaigns are three-part dramas that take us on a roller-coaster of a range of different emotions:

1. Set-up: anticipation;

2. Jeopardy: anger;

3. Resolution: joy.

And after more than a year of anger, I can only hope for a joyful resolution to the Trump/Brexit saga.

What social data can tell us about social purpose

Increasingly brands want to know whether people think about social purpose when shopping, whether it lifts their moods or if they talk to others about it. Sometimes asking people about it in surveys may not yield accurate results: people often don’t register what they are thinking about, and may not realise that social purpose matters to them. Others may virtue signal, and exaggerate the importance of brand social purpose to them. And lastly, social purpose can have a different effect on different groups of people.

Thankfully, whilst still not perfect, actual data of conversations on social media can help understand whether social purpose matters to people engaging with different brands, and what effect it has on them.

I looked at over 14,000 tweets in the last 30 days, mentioning UK supermarkets: Aldi, ASDA, Lidl, Morrisons, M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose.

Using IBM SPSS Modeler Text Analytics package, I extracted over 5,000 concepts from these tweets and organised them into 100 themes/categories, ranging from food, drink, taste, price, customer service to emotions, employment desirability and social purpose.

When tweeting about Social Purpose in the context of UK supermarkets, people mentioned 15 different types of action, including fundraising for/donating to charities, paying fairly to staff and suppliers, improving communities and lives, helping victims of disaster emergencies, staff volunteering for charities and local communities, protecting the environment, ensuring sustainable food supplies and supporting food banks.

Present in 5% of all tweets, social purpose ranks joint 5th amongst key themes, behind food, other products, and location but on-par with customer service and offers, and ahead of wine (!), problems and online shopping.

1. Food: 11% of all tweets

2. Products: 10%

3. Location: 8%

4. Store: 7%

5. Customer Service: 5%

5. Offers, Promos, Competitions: 5%

5. Social Purpose: 5%

8. Wine, beer other drinks: 4%

9. Problems: 3%

9. Staff: 3%

9. Online Shopping: 3%

10. Plastic Bags: 2%

Text link analysis showed that social purpose was most likely to appear in tweets about Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and M&S. It was also linked to other themes, e.g. staff, produced in the UK, plastic bags, etc.

 

Waitrose punches above its weight when it comes to being mentioned in tweets with a social purpose theme. It was mentioned in 11% of all tweets but 25% of social purpose tweets, giving it an index of 233. Tesco’s was mentioned in a whopping 41% of social purpose tweets, although a third of those were negative, accusing the retailer of pocketing plastic bag charges. M&S is underperforming relative to its overall tweets share, giving it an index below 100.

 

For Waitrose and people tweeting about it social purpose is hugely important, present in 13% of tweets and ranking 3rd only behind food and store environment.

Text link analysis shows that social purpose is interlinked with other themes. Most importantly it shows that social purpose makes people feel and tweet positively about Waitrose. It also makes them want to work for it.

Overall, premium and mid-market food retailers have higher social purpose indexes vs those competing on price. One could argue that this could be explained by their customers’ greater levels of interest in social purpose.

However, most likely this is due to the brands’ own levels of engagement in social purpose activities, how consistently they live this purpose and how they communicate it to the outside world. This would also explain variations within each category: Waitrose vs. M&S, or Tesco vs. Sainsbury’s. And with one-third of regular Waitrose customers also shopping in Lidl (Kantar/TGI), consumer segments are now shared, and there’s nothing stopping brand getting behind social purpose.

5 steps for turning good intentions into good behaviours

Being Human

AI, robotics, the internet of things, machine learning and predictive modelling are the signature topics of 2017.  It is however helpful to remember that most things are still driven by human nature, imperfect and largely irrational.

Human decisions are not the results of perfectly constructed algorithms but habits, emotions and cognitive biases, which make a less rational choice seem more appealing. I am always amused to see people who run in to work taking lifts or escalators rather than the stairs to reach the office. Or my favourite: people work harder for free if it’s for a cause than for money if it’s purely for a commercial gain. This is because when money is mentioned, people apply market norms and evaluate how much money is involved and if it’s a good deal or worth their time. If the money is too little, they will actually work less than normal because they feel they are being taken for a ride. However, when no money is involved, people apply social norms to the situation and work harder.

We judge ourselves by our intentions, but other people by their actions

Most people want to be good, live in a way that treats other people, society and the environment with care and respect. In surveys, 81% of people say they would make personal sacrifices to address social and environmental issues. And 67% say that it’s important that the brands they choose make a positive contribution to society.

However, sustainable brands don’t yet have the largest market share, and we all find ourselves engaging in unsustainable behaviours that have negative impacts. So, there is an intention-action gap. Why is it happening?

Social desirability and wishful thinking

First of all, when people respond to surveys, they suffer from social desirability bias (wanting to be liked), virtue signalling (they are good!) and wishful thinking (they have good intentions and ignore constraints). To overcome this, researchers need to use implicit research techniques, conjoint analysis or observational methods, rather than straight questions on attitudes and intentions.

I often use intent scale translation techniques, such as Juster’s probability scale to convert stated intent to likely action. For example, only 83% of those who state that “they would certainly purchase” an FMCG product actually do so, this diminishes for durable goods.

Decision-making is not linear

Thanks to the work of Daniel Kahneman, we now know that most decisions are not made by our rational brains. Two systems of reasoning, the rational and the intuitive, work in parallel. The rational system is slow and makes decisions based on careful consideration of facts and evidence. The intuitive system, on the other hand, arrives at a decision much more quickly and responds to subtle sensory cues such as familiarity, emotional reaction and mental images. Often, especially when we are multi-tasking, are distracted or under stress, the intuitive system takes over completely.

Decision-making is not a rational, linear, sequential process. It looks more like a path of a bee with a multitude of simultaneous questions arising and being answered within a second.

A good strategy to promote desirable actions or products would be to make them appealing to both, rational reasoning and the intuition.

Closing the intentions – actions gap. Let the fun begin

Apart from contextual and social barriers, there are many things within us that make it difficult for us to change behaviours:

– Existing habits: 40% of our actions are driven by habit

– We can’t immediately see how what we are asked to do is personally relevant

– We think that there is no point doing something if the others are not doing it

– We have a “present bias”, prioritising present benefits over future

– We find the ask too difficult and can’t follow through

To encourage behaviour change, start by making it fun, and follow a mirror image of the barriers – enablers of behaviour change.

I applaud the London Mayor’s initiative to clean up the city’s air through introducing toxicity charges for the most polluting vehicles and establishing an ultra-low emissions zone. It’s all very needed.

However, behavioural insight shows that people are conditionally co-operative. In experiments most people choose a smaller incentive to adopt a good behaviour vs a larger incentive for themselves, if it means that those not behaving in the right way are penalised.

Following our behaviour change model, the Mayor could:

1. Incentivise walking and cycling through deals with employers, retailers and entertainment venues to offer facilities and discounts to people arriving on foot or by bike.

2. Make walking and cycling fun. For instance, VW’s “The Fun Theory” campaign turned stairs into piano keys, resulting in 66% more people opting for stairs rather than escalators. Could we have cycle routes that make the best use of London’s creative talent?

Show that cycling is fun. To-date most use of behavioural science has been directed at showing how dangerous cycling is!

3.Make it personally relevant. Don’t talk about air pollution in London, but the “air you breathe”, “health in your area”, “safety in your street”.

4. Make cycling and walking a social norm: instead of pushing the message that ”most short journeys are done by car”, say “this year X% more people in your borough are walking or cycling instead of using their cars” or “your neighbours are driving less, are you?”. Introduce competitions between the boroughs, people are competitive by nature.

5. And finally, provide regular feedback, communicate small gains and achievements.

Recent advances in behavioural science mean that delivering change does not have to be daunting. Let the fun begin!

What makes people happy at work? Now there is a formula

Dame Carolyn McCall, current CEO of easyJet, and former CEO of the Guardian, where I had the pleasure of working with her, is believed to be the frontrunner for the top position at ITV. Lucky, lucky ITV. McCall, one of only four women in Glassdoor’s Top 50 CEOs rated by UK employees, has not only turned-around easyJet’s profitability, piloting it into FTSE 100, but has also greatly improved employee morale.

McCall, whom rival Michael O’Leary dismissed as “media luvvie”, has re-assured staff that they were not about to turn into “orange Ryanair” and was often seen on-board a flight chatting to passengers and crew. Rated 4.1 out 5 on overall employee satisfaction on Glassdoor, easyJet is now one of the Best Places to Work in the UK, above British Airways (2.9), Eurostar (3.6), Virgin Atlantic (3.1) and certainly no one’s luvvie Ryanair (2.3).

So how much does satisfaction with Senior Leadership influence employee morale (and therefore, productivity, retention and ultimately, bottom line)? An awful lot, and I have data to prove it. Glassdoor collects real-world data by asking employees to rate: senior management, pay & benefits, career progression, culture & values and work-life balance. It also asks people to submit an overall satisfaction score and agree/disagree whether their employer’s business outlook is positive.

I ran regression analysis on Glassdoor’s UK data to determine what influences the overall satisfaction score. The top predictor of employee satisfaction was 1) Senior Leadership, closely followed by 2) Culture & Values and 3) Career Opportunities. Work-life Balance mattered much less, and Pay & Benefits were a minor contributor to the overall level of satisfaction.

And this is the formula, ta-da:

Overall Satisfaction = 0.19 + 0.29 x Senior Leadership + 0.26 x Culture & Values + 0.23 x Career Opportunities + 0.13 x Work-life Balance + 0.11 x Pay & Benefits

As you can see Senior Leadership matters. Yet, it has the lowest satisfaction score out of all factors: 3 out of 5.

Organisations need to create a positive culture and strong set of values that senior managers embody and promote, and that employees share and get behind. According to previous studies, people generally feel happier at work when they can see that their work is benefiting others. People who felt their jobs really benefited society were much more likely to be happy at work: 59%, compared with the average of 38%.

As for pay, even Adam Smith, writing more than 250 years ago in The Theory of Moral Sentiments said that material gains often make us less happy, not more. However, it doesn’t mean that employers can get away with not paying people their worth or luring unpaid interns to enjoy “great company culture and free beer”. Although not the most important driver of employee happiness, pay is still a statistically significant contributor to the overall score.

Worth noting, that employer’s business outlook was insignificant in my regression model, and therefore, did not influence employee happiness at all. So, when companies assume that staff derive pleasure and satisfaction just from working for a profitable business, they are wrong, unless the benefits of being profitable translate into opportunities for employees or shared with the wider society.

Interesting that not a single charity appears in Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work. Charities, which by default are purpose and values driven and generally offer good work-life balance, need to pay more attention to career progression and pay & benefits, which are rated significantly lower vs. the private sector.

As for myself, I’ve never been happier, echoing a well-known fact that self-employed people are most satisfied. In employment, I was the happiest at the Guardian, which offered the best of two worlds: great values & culture together with good pay and career progression. As for Senior Management, here is an anecdote for you. I remember washing my hands in the Guardian’s toilets, when then CEO Carolyn McCall asked me why I sighed and if she could help. I said it was a minor concern, not to worry, it’s just annoying how environmentally-unfriendly were all those paper towels. McCall said to consider them gone. They were gone.

Consumers of the future demand purposeful brands

In the future, the most successful brands will be those that make the most positive contribution to society beyond just providing good services and products.

68% of world’s consumers agree, according to Ipsos Global Trends Survey. The percentage of people that think that purposeful brand will be the most successful in the future, is higher in the fastest growing economies, where issues of sustainability and employment rights have a higher profile and urgency than in well-established economies of the past.

Younger people also want to purchase from and work for companies with strong values and ethics.

Earlier I wrote that quality, price and emotive advertising were no longer enough, in order to future-proof themselves brands needed innovation and purpose.  And it’s obvious that consumers of the future care about brand purpose whilst young companies (Tesla, Patagonia, Lyft, Toms) built purpose into their DNA.