Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Neophiliacs in Advertising.

John Tierney writes very intelligently for "The New York Times," primarily on health and science. I don't always love what he writes, but now and again he comes across with something big and seismic, something that in its own way explains the behavior of large swaths of humanity. It's rare and to be cherished when you come across writing and thinking that has a world view.

Today, Tierney talked about a trait people are calling "neophilia." It means, simply, a love of novelty and change. A love of the new.


Psychologists have tracked neophiliacs and found that the hunt for new sensation has "genetic roots and relations to the brain’s dopamine system, they linked this trait with problems like attention deficit disorder, compulsive spending and gambling, alcoholism, drug abuse and criminal behavior."

Other psychologists demur. They believe that neophilia--when complemented by other traits--is a "crucial predictor of well-being."

In short, "if you combine this adventurousness and curiosity with persistence and a sense that it’s not all about you, then you get the kind of creativity that benefits society as a whole."

The Times continues: "We now consume about 100,000 words each day from various media, which is a whopping 350 percent increase, measured in bytes, over what we handled back in 1980. Neophilia spurs us to adjust and explore and create technology and art, but at the extreme it can fuel a chronic restlessnes and distraction.

"[Ms. Gallager] and Dr. Cloninger" (the researchers behind this work) "both advise neophiles to be selective in their targets. Don’t go wide and shallow into useless trivia...Use your neophilia to go deep into subjects that are important to you.” 

From an explicit advertising point of view, I happen to believe that most advertisers and certainly most agencies are afflicted with extreme cases of neophilia. A client I recently worked on delivers messages in something like 37 different channels. They have enough money to disseminate their message to the point where it is spread so thin it is virtually assured not to make an impact.

The explosion of media, channels and messaging has propagated, in short, "chronic restlessness and distraction."

If a visitor from another world came to me and asked me what a "brand" does, I would answer thusly: "A brand creates order. It supplies a cogent definition about values and a product to the consumer."

We are, ostensibly in the brand-building business. 

The neophiliacs amongst are in the brand diffusing business.


Tore Claesson said...

"A brand creates order. It supplies a cogent definition about values and a product to the consumer." Hear, hear. And only then can the consumer contribute to the brand, rather than spreading confusion. In times when social media gives the consumer the possibility to mass publish any thoight or personal opinion a cogent and well understood definition of a brand is more improtan than ever. Whar's more, the brand will have to live it!

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