Category Archives: Marketing

Funny on Sunday: but what if…

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Funny on Sunday: this is a Generic Millennial Ad

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This tweet by J.K. Rowling is a lesson for consultants and bloggers

Imagine, a small soccer-team wins the cup. Within a few hours you’ll get posts explaining what this could mean for your company, your school or your life. As Freek Vermeulen puts it: don’t.

And while you’re at it, stop also with tweets and presentations like these. Or you’ll run the risk of being blamed in public… As happened when J.K. Rowling replied herself.

But wait… I’ve seen this message already being spread as a point of inspiration. #sigh.

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On authenticity and jerks

Beside battling myths about learning and education I’m still doing research on a topic that is again quite popular in the media: authenticity. The past weeks the concept of authenticity is often mentioned when discussing the success of Donald Trump. People seem to chose for the tycoon because he ‘looks real’ and ‘says what he means’. I could now refer to John Oliver to check how truthful the man truly is, but I’m not a political fact-checker. My focus is on authenticity and education and maybe I can share some insights.

It’s very difficult to define authenticity. Everybody seems to know what it means, but when you start discussing what the meaning really is, you’ll end up with a big discussion. It’s an essentially contested concept. Gilmore & Pine in their 2007 book make a distinction between authenticity and perceived authenticity. It’s a distinction similar to what Trilling in 1974 described as being ‘true to yourself’ versus ‘being true to others’. When discussing the authenticity of Trump it isn’t the question if he’s authentic or not, it’s the fact that people perceive him as authentic. And the latter has a lot to do with the expectations people have (disclosure: I just submitted two papers on this aspect with great data on this, but sadly I can’t share something about those papers yet)

I borrow this example from Hannes Leroy who did a lot of research on authentic leadership: who is the most authentic leader in this picture:

You could ask the same question when you look at this two leaders:

The truth is, it’s hard to tell. Their values were different, their actions too, and you sure will have a preference in both cases, but this all says nothing about how true they are to themselves.

Maybe even more surprising, should somebody always be true to him- or herself? Let’s look at the fictitious character of dr. Gregory House from the famous tv-series. Was the man true to himself? Most of the time he was truly an authentic jerk. Maybe you’ll want him as a doctor – because he saves lives, but should you want him as a friend or – more important – as a teacher for your kids?

Authenticity, or better perceived authenticity, is something often used as selection tool (cfr Gilmore & Pine), but it’s a selection criterion that needs a critical mind. Why do you perceive a person as authentic? Often it says more about your expectations and your own values. And than ask yourself if this is really what you want…

P.S.: The urge for authenticity can also be very dangerous. The very interesting book by Andrew Potter, The Authenticity Hoax opens with a story about a couple who died looking for authenticity, sailing the world.

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The downside of ‘global citizens’? They contribute less to society (study)

There is a strange (negative) correlation between the more individuals perceive themselves as “citizens of the world,” the less likely they are to contribute to collective public goods and the more likely to hitch a “free ride” on the contributions of other citizens. This finding emerges from the doctorate thesis of Dr. Eitan Adres from the School of Political Sciences at the University of Haifa. This makes me wonder what this study could tell us about users of AirBnB or Uber or the whole sharing-economy…

Sadly I only was able to track down the press release, but it sure got me interested…

From the press release:

A key dilemma in political science concerns the question of “free riders.” A rational person can be expected to prefer behavior that allows them to evade their obligations and rely on the contributions of others — ranging from tax evasion to refraining from donating to charities and on to draft dodging. Nevertheless, most people choose not to act in accordance with this rational model. According to Dr. Adres, the level of acquiescence to governmental demands depends in part on citizens’ level of trust in the government. Globalization has clouded concepts such as identity, culture, and borders and raises numerous challenges in terms of this bond between state and citizen.

In Dr. Adres’ thesis, which was supervised by Dr. Dana Vashdi and Dr. Yair Zalmanovitch, he sought to examine the connection between globalization and participation in contribution to public goods. To this end, the study presents an innovative and unique index determining the individual’s globalization level, whose impact is not dependent on the level of globalization of the state.

Four countries were chosen to examine this relationship: Germany and Australia, which both have a high level of globalization; Columbia, which has a low level of globalization; and in the middle Israel, which has an intermediate level of globalization. Approximately one thousand participants in the four countries participated in three economic decision games testing their willingness to contribute to a public good.

The findings showed that the more people consider themselves to adhere to the values of globalization, consumerism, and individualism, and the more they regard themselves as “citizens of the world” exposed to globalization, the less likely they are to contribute to public goods and the more likely they are to seek to be “free riders” on the contributions of others.

This finding was particularly apparent in the first experiment, when the participants were divided into groups and received 100 tokens each. The participants were asked to choose an amount from their 100 tokens to be pooled in a communal pot. The total amount donated would be doubled and this doubled amount would be distributed evenly among all participants, no matter how much each one contributed. Thus each individual received the equal portion of the communal pot together with the tokens they did not contribute to the pot. The collective interest in this situation is that each participant will contribute all their tokens to the collective pot. The individual interest is not to contribute anything, and to add the money shared from the pot to the 100 tokens. The study found that 30 percent of German participants and 25 percent of the Australians preferred to keep all their tokens to themselves. By contrast, only 3.6 percent of the Columbians and 12 percent of the Israelis chose to do so.

The two other experiments produced similar findings. The second experiment simulated a tax payment system, by means of truthful reporting of the level of payment each participant received, while the final experiment examined a real-life donation to a charity for children at risk. The three experiments found that a high level of globalization increases the likelihood that the individual will not provide a truthful report on income, will catch a “free ride” on others’ contributions, and will donate less to a charity.

As expected, a similar correlation was found between the level of globalization of the country and the participants’ contributions. The greater the country’s globalization level, the higher the average probability that its citizens would not contribute anything to the communal pot in the first experiment; would make untrue reports in the tax experiment (truthful reports were made by 27 percent of the German sample, 41 percent of the Australians, 60 percent of the Israelis, and 75 percent of the Columbians); and would make a smaller donation to the charity.

Dr. Adres summarizes his findings: “Since we found a clear correlation between the individual’s globalization level and their contribution to public goods, above and beyond the state’s influence, our conclusion is that there is a correlation between this personality characteristic and values such as social solidarity and social cohesion. The new index we have developed provides a significant and important tool for understanding the connection between citizen and state in today’s world.”

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Most kids in the UK today are gamers (VIMN-study)

Computer games have been around for a couple of decades now (yes, you’re getting old) and gaming has become a massive industry.

What are kids’ gaming habits like in the UK today? And how do boys’ and girls’ gaming preferences and attitudes differ?

These questions were posited by a recent gaming project by Nickelodeon UK. This research was heavily featured in a July article on the future of gaming in The Guardian. Here are key findings from this study:

TV dominates UK kids’ screen time … but gaming is a huge (and growing) part of their lives.

  • Television viewing on the main TV set occupied 59% of their screen time
  • Nearly a quarter (22%) of their total screen time went to gaming

Gaming among kids is nearly universal in the UK, according to parents.

  • 99% of kids play games on handhelds, consoles, or mobile devices weekly, according to parents
  • Over half (56%) of kids play games daily—and it only grows with age (45% of K6-8, 57% of K9-10, 70% of K11-12)
  • Gaming moves hand-in-hand with personal device ownership, which also increases with age (46% of K3-4 own a device, 68% of K5-7, 85% off K8-11, 94% of K12-15)

Parents love gaming, too—especially as a family.

  • 3 out of 4 parents say they love to play games as a family
  • Nearly 7 in 10 see games as a great way to bond
  • As more Millennials become parents, new parents are very tech-proficient and pass that down to their children

Gaming isn’t just for boys—girls love it, too!

  • 70% of girls say they love to play games
  • 1 in 4 consider themselves a gaming addict
  • Boys play more frequently from a younger age–but at age 9-10 both genders are on an even playing field, with 54% of boys and 60% of girls gaming daily
  • Gaming peaks for girls at age 9-10—after that, their focus shifts toward their social lives (while boys’ passion for gaming continues)

Boys and girls play games differently.

  • Consoles are the #1 gaming device among boys (50% say it’s their favorite), followed by tablets
  • Smartphones do not really register for boys—they prefer bigger screens and more immersive experiences
  • Tablets are girls’ preferred device, driven by younger girls
  • Apps have made gaming more accessible to girls and offer more “girl-driven” games than consoles
  • At the peak gaming age for girls (9-10), consoles are important to hard-core gamers (25%), though the tablet still reigns (43%); as girls move into secondary school they focus more on smartphones

Boys’ gaming preferences shift with age. They start with exploring and racing games, then move into sports and shooting games.

  • While all boys are competitive, the youngest ones thrive on being the fastest, biggest, best
  • Competition becomes more advanced as boys grow — sports games become more popular and a way to bond with friends
  • Shooting games are more common among older boys (11-12)
  • Exploring/Building (primarily Minecraft) games remain relatively consistent across age groups

Girls love puzzle games the most.

  • Puzzle games are more suited to mobile devices (their preferred gaming device)
  • Singing and dancing games are popular, but skew younger
  • They also love Minecraft, character world games, and simulation games like The Sims
  • In general, girls stay with kids’ brands and immersive world longer than boys

Boys bond with each other through gaming, while girls prefer to play alone.

  • Boys enjoy playing with friends in the same room (something that increases with age); playing online kids in at 9 and by 11-12 a third of boys play online with friends (vs. 14% of girls)
  • Girls are more private about gaming, with 50% preferring to play alone (which increases with age)

When kids talk about gaming, conversations turn toward competition and new games.

  • Among boys and girls, levels completed and high scores are among the most common topics
  • New games are also a hot topic
  • Boys are more competitive than girls–as boys get older, they talk more about high scores and methods for increasing them (tips and cheats, YouTube videos, walk-throughs, etc.)
  • The playground is the main place where kids talk about and discover new games
  • YouTube is also a key source of gaming information for kids (especially boys) over 9

Summary of UK boys’ and girls’ gaming habits and preferences:


  • Core focus on game consoles because they are immersive
  • It’s all about completing the game and being the best
  • Tablets skew young or are more for casual gaming; they could be used to complement console games or promote conversation
  • YouTube is important for knowledge, discovery, and passing on skills—and should be embraced!


  • Gaming peaks at age 9-10, then migrates to smartphones in secondary school—social or puzzle games appeal the most
  • Don’t stereotype—racing and platform games are popular
  • Be inclusive
  • Mobile has opened up the market to girls – embrace the opportunity with this audience!

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Funny on Sunday: Using Social Media To Cover For Lack Of Original Thought

This Onion-parody of a typical TED-like talk is hilarious:

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(Not so) Funny on Sunday: great commercial only using Emoji, an emoji crush

Caroline Van Helden sent this one to me and it’s pretty great (and important)!

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Good read: the BBC tries subliminal advertising

One of the most-read posts on this blog is on subliminal advertising. In that post I explain how the famous Vicary coke-experiment actually never happened, but also mention a more recent Dutch study that suggests some effect in lab-conditions. For a new documentary, the BBC replicated the study now outside the lab and… didn’t succeed in finding a statistical significant effect.

Their conclusion:

So this experiment did not finally disprove the notion that subliminal advertising could theoretically work in public.

But what it did demonstrate is that, while the fear of subliminal advertising may be based on a kernel of scientific truth, in practice this would be a devilishly tricky thing to pull off.

If, after months of preparation, with willing volunteers, with the distribution of crisps to induce thirst, we still couldn’t achieve a result, the chances of achieving anything on a mass scale don’t appear very attractive.

Furthermore, even if the subliminals had influenced choice immediately after the film, it is very doubtful that there would be a lasting effect on their drink purchases after they left the cinema.

Read the full story here.

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For anyone who shared the post by a real teen on social media: read this post by danah boyd

I received the link a couple of times, Andrew Watts’ “A Teenager’s View on Social Media written by an actual teen.

I didn’t share it myself, danah boyd now explains why in this post I do share.  She is both harsh and correct.

A first excerpt:

Andrew’s depiction of his peers’ use of social media is a depiction of a segment of the population, notably the segment most like those in the tech industry. In other words, what the tech elite are seeing and sharing is what people like them would’ve been doing with social media X years ago. It resonates. But it is not a full portrait of today’s youth. And its uptake and interpretation by journalists and the tech elite whitewashes teens practices in deeply problematic ways.

A second excerpt:

I don’t for a second fault Andrew for not having a perspective beyond his peer group. But I do fault both the tech elite and journalists for not thinking critically through what he posted and presuming that a single person’s experience can speak on behalf of an entire generation. There’s a reason why researchers and organizations like Pew Research are doing the work that they do — they do so to make sure that we don’t forget about the populations that aren’t already in our networks. The fact that professionals prefer anecdotes from people like us over concerted efforts to understand a demographic as a whole is shameful. More importantly, it’s downright dangerous. It shapes what the tech industry builds and invests in, what gets promoted by journalists, and what gets legitimized by institutions of power. This is precisely why and how the tech industry is complicit in the increasing structural inequality that is plaguing our society.

And just read her book, please. She knows what she’s talking about!

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