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The100: Visual thinking, Hotelling’s law and perfectionist narratives

Painting with numbers

Hannah Fry discusses visual thinking. It’s fascinating how it can reveal what would otherwise remain invisible, how it can have a profound effect on the way we approach problems, and indeed how it can sometimes mean the difference between life or death

In there, she quotes the quote:

“Only a graph speaks directly to the eyes.”

Which reminded me of the power of witnessed emotion. Example: a video came in via our own research where a person was using a magnifying glass to read some cooking instructions. The accompanying text just said “packs are hard to read”. Pick a winner…

Flashback also to the famous Bezos graphic which is frightening. Simply saying he has/had $185bn doesn’t mean as much, until you start to visually see the differences involved. 

The fallibility of visual memory

After championing the merits of visual information, I’ll now counter with the Rashomon effect, which also has huge relevance to market research. 

It describes how events can be recalled in contradictory ways by different, well-meaning but ultimately subjective witnesses. 

Guilty until proven innocent

From an effect to a principle: the precautionary one. Or better safe than sorry

It is an approach (that you may already know) which advises us in complex situations, where not enough is known, to err on the side of caution; to sit tight and collect more information. Again, super relevant to research. 

Similarity can breed success

And from a principle to a law: Hotelling’s. This states that it is sometimes rational for companies (and politicians) to make their products/positions as similar as possible

As usual, Ian Leslie describes it better than I ever could: 

“Coke and Pepsi: two very similar products that carved up the soft drinks market between them for decades. Or think about the menus at Burger King and McDonalds. It’s not that markets or democracies don’t reward differentiation, they clearly do, but there are countervailing incentives at work too, and that’s what Hotelling’s law – ‘the principle of minimum differentiation’ – tries to account for.”

Drowning in immersion

Jim Carroll recounts a story of having to go and get a facial in a skincare institute in Germany. 

“I don’t subscribe to […] to the belief that one should demonstrate passion for a product in order to justify working on it. I’ve never felt I need to live a brand in order to think it […] Come to think of it, if I were only to work on brands that are genuinely integral to my life, I’d be restricted to the likes of Bic biros, Tunnock’s biscuits and Guinness stout.”

I also agree with him. It’s not necessary to have the facial yourself, but it is necessary to observe people having the facial if you really want to understand motivations/needs etc. (ahem).

Perfectionist narratives

Talking of advertising, for decades marketing has left women feeling they must live up to punishing ideals

“For the past 70 years or so, this diet of perfectionism, cooked up by advertising men (it’s still the case that 65% of those who write ads are men), is what women have been consuming. And we are all now aware that setting up women to fail on a day-to-day basis can (surprise, surprise) make them unwell.”

Now, finally, some brands are offering a glimmer of hope.  As a father of a smart 14 year old girl, seeing how she takes it all in, how she is affected by the messaging, has always been a huge concern for me. It is good to see change arrive. 

It doesn’t come from Yorkshire… surprisingly 😉

There are about 6,500 languages spoken on our planet, but depending on if it arrived in your country by land or sea, you’ll use one of only 2 words for (arguably) the world’s finest drink.

At your service.