Is it time to ditch the jargon?

Day One Podcast: Insights Room 101
Episode 01: Richard Shotton

In the Insights Room 101 series, our guests describe three of their worst insight industry pet peeves and aim to lock one of them away forever in Room 101, much like the popular British TV show. In the inaugural episode, author and behavioral scientist, Richard Shotton, walks through three trends in insights culture that he despises. He describes each of the three and offers guidance toward how we could actually solve these marketing problems. The main pet peeves Richard describes are the myth of the public trust crisis, complex jargon and terminology, and an over-reliance on claims data. For each of the three pet peeves, Shotton describes his own experience and suggests how advertising professionals could avoid these pitfalls and create more engaging and effective content.

For the first item, Richard describes the myth of the trust crisis. He points to a trend in polling that suggests that there is an ongoing decline in public trust in advertising agencies. Fortunately, Richard explains that the data is at best misleading. It’s true that people genuinely try to find that evidence to support what they want to be true, but that doesn’t mean that there’s a connection. And a genuine parsing of the data is important. And as Richard says, if trust actually isn’t declining, then that revelation will affect how advertising agencies approach their problems. People are, and should be, skeptical of advertisers. But the idea that trust is on a steady plummet is just not true.

Part of the reason trust is so low in politics is that over time, the problems of yesterday have faded. The more recent transgressions are top of mind. In order to fight this, Richard suggests that ad agencies can use this to their advantage in many ways. One is the Pratfall effect, which essentially has the company admit its mistakes to build trust in the public. Admitting flaws can have a kind of panacea effect if executed correctly.

The second item Richard would like to banish is the problem of complex jargon and terminology. One of the main reasons Richard pushes against this is that the research shows that overly complex language actually doesn’t do anything to make you appear more intelligent. People think that sounding smart is connected to using bigger words, but time and again, the research has shown that speakers and writers who use simpler language actually come across as smarter and more in control of the content. Ad agencies need to take heed of this and banish the complex language forever. He points to Apple’s “1,000 Songs In Your Pocket” ad campaign for the iPod as a classic example of how eschewing the techy stats and data points actually helped humanize the iPod for a generation looking to understand.

The third item he’d like to banish is an over-reliance on claims data. The problem here is that the interpretation of data is often limited or even erroneous. What we should do is prioritize experiments to observe data. Ultimately, what companies need is data that is reliable and communicates insights that actually reveal the thoughts and desires of their customers. Claim data is good, but small tweaks can help provide a “more rounded view of human nature.” If we understand what generally motivates people, he says, we can more easily influence them.

Hannah decides to banish the complex terminology because it could help make a difference in basically any industry or walk of life. Richard happily agrees.


About – Richard Shotton:
Richard Shotton is a behavior scientist and advertising expert who brings psychological insights to marketing. As a founder of Astroten, he helps companies use behavioral insights to improve their marketing gains. Shotton is also the author of The Choice Factory, which some have already heralded as the greatest advertising book of all time.

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