When I was first asked to do a TEDx I really wanted to say no.
It's the pressure of the mantra "Ideas Worth Spreading." It weights heavy. I was absolutely wracked with doubt - were my ideas big enough? Were any of them worth sharing, were any of them worth spreading? I've been feeling that quite a lot recently. It might well be one of the reasons that I have found it quite hard to blog recently. Was what I was writing about going to add to the conversation? Would it make anyone think/smile/comment? If not, what was the point. Back in 2006 when I started blogging it was a way of sharing early ideas and thoughts and using the community to help shape and refine them. Now I tend to use Twitter for that and if I have a really "big idea" that I want to share I tend to write it up for a publication like Campaign, PR Week or the Holmes Report. What it has made me realise is that in the past I shared a lot more than I do know. I used to really enjoy it. It is something that I need to start leaning into and doing again.
Anyway, Mark who I sit next to at work persuaded me that I might just have something interesting to say for 12 minutes on "the magic of brands." (My brief from the TEDx organizing committee)
12 minutes is a perfect length of time. When I was at VCCP we started a weekly session called Curious when we would get external speakers in to come and talk to the whole agency. We told them that they had 13 minutes as I remembered reading that Chris Anderson had said that it's long enough that you have to prepare, you can't wing it but not long enough that you can really bore anyone too much.
I did more prep for that 12 minutes than any other speach that I have ever given. So many people were so hugely helpful - Mark Choueke, Pete Trainor, Rory Sutherland, Kevin Murray and Jeremy Bullmore in particular gave me more of their time that they needed to.
I knew that I wanted to talk about what happens inside the brain when people choose brands. I do think that brands have a rather magical effect on the brain and body. What I needed was help understand neuroscience and some examples.
Jeremy started me off with some writing that he had done for WPP called Plonk and Placebo (really worth reading!) He had found a study from 1981 in the British Medical Journal in which researchers had found that branding increased the efficacy of analgesic painkillers by 30%. The team took identical tablets and placed one in an unbranded box, the other in a branded box. Jeremy writes: " Their findings were clear, significant and have never been challenged. To the pain relief contributed by the active ingredient, Branding added over 30%. The packaging itself (widely advertised and extremely familiar) had a consistent and measurable beneficial effect. The study confirmed what many suspected: when ordinary people claim to find widely publicised products more effective than generic equivalents, they’re not being conned by snake-oil salesmen. They’re right."
With that as my starting point, the rest of the talk (horlicks, cola, ice cream, baby carrots, turkey, wine) followed quite easily.
This was my opening example:
If you were to drink a cup of Horlicks in Hyderabad something very different would happen to you than if you were to drink a cup of Horlicks in Hackney. In India you would feel full of energy, ready to face whatever the day threw at you. In India Horlicks is the number 1 energy drinks brand. If you were in the UK you’d be settling down, warm and comfortable ready for a soothing night's sleep - the product puts you to sleep.
In both India and England, Horlicks is exactly the same product - a malted, milk-based powder.
But two brands in two countries, two sets of brand expectations and as a result two totally different sets of physical results.
I would argue that people’s expectation of the brand changed the experience and performance of the product.
I believe that expectations change experiences....
This is the YouTube of the event. In the Playlist I am number 3. I hope that you enjoy it.
If you want to read the speech rather than watch it, this is an adaption I wrote for the Holmes Report.