The Week: Best of the blogs - Darwinism for marketers

The great Drayton Bird once related a rather damning criticism of advertising once made by a client of his. "You advertising people ... you go very deeply into the surface of things, don't you?"

It is, of course, true. Yet half of me feels no need to apologise for this bias. The importance of the superficial is hugely under-rated. As Matthew Taylor remarked last week at the IPA's 44 Club, we can talk about quantitative easing as much as we like, but Gordon Brown's electoral fate has been sealed not by his macroeconomic policy decisions but by a tendency to display bizarrely demented face movements which appear like some early failed attempt at Supermarionation.

Yet there is one form of shallowness in our business that does pain me. The fact that, as I remarked in my IPA inaugural speech, our models of human behaviour and persuasion are so shallow and make no attempt to place our discipline within any evidence-based scientific framework. "Rather like astrologers," I said, quoting my colleague Alasdair Graham, "we use a language which is convincing to fellow converts but sounds like bollocks to anyone else."

Or, as I wish I had said: "Marketers still use simplistic models of human nature that remain uninformed by the past 20 years of research into human nature - research by evolutionary anthropologists, biologists and psychologists ... as a result, they don't have access to a good map of the human mind, or of the brave new semiotic world in which it dwells. What marketers need is Darwin."


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