Predatory Thinking

Predatory Thinking

Dave Trott
Last Updated
November 29, 2021
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The Ship of Theseus

While on its voyage, the ship of Theseus was repaired so much that none of the original ship remained. So was it still the Theseus? What exactly was/is the Theseus. One could argue that there isn’t a ship without someone to envision it, build it, and use it as a ship. The ship is a concept. Creativity is creating something out of nothing.

The Power of Ignorance

A man receives his phone bill and it’s through the roof. Someone in their house had made a two hour call to a chat line. Turns out his son called a story line he found in a comic strip. Only, when the short story was over, he didn’t know to hang up the phone. He just walked away.

Upon retirement, a man achieves his dream of buying a sheep farm. But he soon notices his sheep are getting fat. He starts to reduce their feed, but they continue to get fatter. Eventually they starve to death. Turns out they weren’t getting fat, their wool was just growing.

The moral of these stories is that we don’t know what we don’t know. We need to embrace not knowing everything, inquiring, saying “I don’t know”

A creative mind is an enquiring mind

Dave Trott attended a talk at The Science Museum, led by Stephen Hawkin, James Dyson, Robert Winston, and Richard Dawkins. All men were geniuses in different ways, but the thing that they all had in common was an enquiring mind. They were genuinely curious, always challenging the status quo and searching for better ways. They had a sense of discovery to them that was exciting.

Creative people should always be asking “why”

You can have it all. But not all at once

Twiglets and strawberry ice cream, while delicious on their own, do not become more delicious together. In fact, the taste becomes worse. You can’t have more than 100%. Which means you can’t add something without taking away something. That’s why messaging should focus 100% on one thing. Les important points don’t add to the communication, they detract from the main point. Messaging works better in separate ads.

No one's even looking

4% of advertising is remembered positively. 7% is remembered negatively. 89% is not remembered at all. We are not trained to notice everything. Like the class of police recruits that didn't notice the man passing a note to their instructor, the average person can only focus on one thing at a time. You shouldn't be asking if your advertising is "right", you should be asking "will people even notice it?." The most difficult part is being noticed.

What's in it for me?

Every buyer want's to know what's in it for them. In order to sell anything, we need to convince people by telling them what they can expect to get out of the deal. Otherwise we're just saying "we can't think of any reason why you should buy this, but please do it anyway"

Believability beats truth

Group Captain John Cunningham was in charge of a night fighter squadron. During the blitz his squadron shot down twice as many bombers as any other. He became a celebrity and the media said it was because he had better eyesight, ate carrots, and wore dark glasses during the day to preserve his eyes. The enemy believed this, calling him "Cats Eyes Cunningham". Reality was that the RAF had designed a new radar system that was first used on Cunningham's squadron.

Margaret Thatcher won three elections in a row. In one interview she said "when it comes to money, we women always had to take charge of running the household. So I think we are rather better at handling money than men."

In most cases a simple lie is more powerful than the complicated truth. Something that captures the imagination is often more powerful than something that captures reason. We need to think about our audience and what they care about. Our message needs to be something they want to believe.

The plumber and the ad man

"Trust" is the positioning that everyone wants to have. Like the plumber that refused to charge a man for fixing his pipes by simply hitting them with a hammer, or Nigel at TBWA who would help prospects find a suitable agency when he knew they weren't ready for his. Building a reputation of trust is the best business strategy you can have.

Never mind the quality, feel the width

A man named George tried to sell books based on how big they were. Seems silly, but that's how most people in advertising associated value — with how much time someone spent on the project. It doesn't matter what went into an ad, it's about what people get out of it.

The consumer’s telescope

Grandma only knows drinking tea made from loose tea leaves, spooned into a mug. So when she’s given tea bags with no other context, she assumes they’re just pre-portioned tea. She cuts the bag opened and dumps it into her mug. This illustrates that we only know what we know. As marketers we need to think from our buyers perspective. They likely don’t have the same (if any) knowledge of our product and space as we do. We can’t assume everyone knows what we know.

Turn the telescope around

Bob Levenson, one of the best copywriters ever said, “most people ignore advertising because most advertising ignores people.”

The agency Allen Brady and Marsh (ABM) was competing for a contract with British Rail. When British rail came to their office they had it staged to look like crap and the receptionist was rude. Before the BR folks walked out, the creative director walked out and greeted them, saying that they had just experienced what their customers impression of BR was. they tuned the telescope around and show BR what it looked like from the customers end.

Advertising doesn’t sell stuff

We see advertising we like every day, but we don’t buy those products. If someone isn’t in the market to buy something then no advertising can make them buy it. So many other factors come into play alongside advertising. The job of advertising is to give your product an edge over the competition, so that when all of the other boxes are checked, your product is the one that wins.

How to get laid

Famous actor Warren Beatty was asked how he managed to have affairs with so many beautiful women. His answer was that he asks every women he meets to sleep with him. He got slapped a lot but also got laid a lot.

There was a story of a farmer who’s plough broke. He figured that farmer next door had a plough he could borrow so started walking to ask him. On the way he started wondering if maybe the farmer wouldn’t let him borrow it. By the time he got to the farmers door he had worked himself up so much that when the farmer answered he told him to “shove that plough up your arse.” We all get it our own heads about events that haven’t or won’t ever happen. We let our fears impact our decisions and keep us from trying. It’s easier to fail by not trying than to be rejected.

Rejection is an important/necessary step on the road to success. “You gotta kiss a lot of frogs to get a prince”

Winning is nice, but losing is learning

Ron Collins was doing a workshop and came across a piece of work he hated. He chewed the student out in front of the class for a long time. Then he found a piece he liked and praised the student, giving them a bottle of champagne. At the end of class, he told them that the student he criticized got far more out of the experience because he would never make that mistake again. People that want to get better, seek our criticism.

Those who can’t, teach

Tim Martin was the founder of J D Weatherspoons, a chain of successful pubs and hotels in the UK bringing in almost a billion pounds in revenue each year. He called his pubs and hotels Weatherspoons because that was the name of the teacher who told him he’d never amount to anything. He wanted that teacher to be reminded every time he drove by one.