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Rory Sutherland. Radical, robust and often right.

Rory-Sutherland-Like-MindsA couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be attending Like Minds at the Digital Marketing Show in London when Rory Sutherland took to the stage.

The room was far from full when he began, but as he spoke the audience grew and grew. He pulled people in by his humanity and his insights, and rather more specifically, his insights about humanity.

Impressed by his performance, I have since looked at and listened to rather more of his words and now, even more impressed, I thought I’d share a little of what Rory’s musings mean to me.

Rory Sutherland is a Behavioural Economist. That means he studies the effects that social, cognitive and emotional factors have on economic decisions.

Or to put it another way, ‘I think and feel, therefore I buy’.

Well, there’s nothing too radical about that is there? Although it seems that Rory’s contention would be that in this day and age there is.

He talks about the increasing obsession with numerology in marketing and that I completely understand.

‘What do the numbers say?’ has become a more common question than ‘What do people feel about us?’

The problem with social media is that it is so very quantifiable. How many likes, how many shares, how many followers or connections? We can become obsessed with the numbers because they are easy to understand, analyse and place on a spreadsheet.

But people, the people those numbers represent, are harder to understand and have no place on a spreadsheet.

As Rory says, the study of human behaviour is closer to meteorology than engineering. Perhaps there are too many engineers in marketing and not enough people testing the breeze?

Simon Minchin, the other founding partner at Minchin & Grimshaw, often says that marketing is both a science and an art. Sutherland seems to hold similar views, perhaps because they both worked at Ogilvy in the early 90’s.

Rory sees the ‘sweet spot’ for a business at the point where technology, economics and an understanding of human behaviour meet. In fact he says, ‘It is now more important for us to understand how people relate to technology than it is for us to actually try to tinker with the technology itself.’

And that too is perhaps quite a radical thought.

Conversations on rapid changes in disruptive technologies and the connected consumer often overlook the fact that the consumer, as a person, has pretty much stayed the same.

Better informed perhaps and with more choices, but their decisions are still driven by how they perceive the value of what is being offered to them.

However well connected they are, however accessible to digital marketing messages, the purchase decision is still made by their head and their heart.

‘I think and feel, therefore I buy’.

You can read more about Rory and view his TED talks here

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About the Author

I’m fascinated by how a company or organisation can change its fortunes and even undergo a transformation by looking at a challenge in a different way and by behaving in different ways.

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