Marketers need 'weird sheep' | Marketers need 'weird sheep' | DMA

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Marketers need 'weird sheep'


Sheep follow. Everybody knows that. Except they don't - 3% lead the pack, and what about that other 1%? They are the 'weird sheep', and their power to question trumps almost all other marketing attributes says founder of Maverick Planet Mark Palmer

Mark Palmer, former mathematician and physicist and founder of Maverick Planet explored the faddish nature of marketing in his talk at the recent Door Drops morning held at MRM Meteorite.

"I'm not a fan of door drops, but I’m open minded about them," he said.


"Lots of organisations have blocks. They think they are open minded but they are not. Lots of organisations do that."

He said it's better for companies to explore what is in between "overwhelming inertia and new possibilities, and be open minded about digital, about door drops, about everything."

"Think business, don’t think media," he said, quoting research from the British Population Survey, which suggests that door drops have the highest response rate of any media at 6%, and the sixth highest for acceptability.

But, when people are asked to describe different media as family members, door drops come out as the grandparents, and perhaps marketers pay attention to this. But younger people are the ones who respond most to door drops, he said.


"People take the same piece of information, but subjectivise it," he said, giving some examples of known psychological fallacies:

  • Paradox of choice – the brain can’t cope with choice
  • Inattentional blindness – if you do one thing, you are unlikely to process another thing.
  • Sunk cost fallacy – because you put time and money into it, you can’t let go. "Media plans, business plans may rely on what you invested in. Ask: if I started now, would I do it or use it?" he asked.
  • Framing effect – 80% lean (means 20% fat), but much more likely to buy 80% lean. "How you present information has an effect," he said.

Weird sheep

He said the secret relies on questions, and gave the example of the behaviour of sheep.

"Sheep – 96% follow the others. Then there are the leader sheep who lead the others. That's about 3%. That leaves 1% who are the weird sheep, who can’t see the point of following the others or be the leaders either.

"Most organisations need a weird sheep," he said.

"If something has not worked before, so what? Media and marketing is not ‘either or’ but ‘and and’ – different media work harder together. But the biggest challenge to marketers is omnichannel marketing. It isn’t ‘digital first’, but ‘digital as well’," he said.

Palmer said it's important to question everything, but also have ideas about what might work, and test your hypotheses.


"A typical response to a challenge is RAIN - React, Assume, INsist," he said - this means to react immediately, assume the challenge has no merit, and insist you are right after all. "This has no benefit," he said.

"Instead, learn to SUN - Suspend, Understand, Nurture – this is better. Suspend reaction, understand the comment, think about it," he said.

So the secret to marketing - be the weird sheep in the sun. Doesn't sound so bad.

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