Evolutionary decision making
I like to think of myself as a specialist in internet marketing, after all I have been doing and studying it since 1997.
So, like many specialists, I am sometimes amazed or confused as to why someone would approach a traditional marketing agency first – to solve internet marketing problems or develop online strategy.
I usually assume it is either a case ‘who we know’ or a real belief that the ‘big agency’ probably knows best.
But a recent study of chimps, yes that’s right chimps, perhaps gives us another way to understand this curious type of decision.
Apparently when presented with a task that requires cooperation a chimp will look for help from another.
When given the choice between (and here comes the analogy bit) :
a) an experienced but subbordinate chimp (specialist agency)
b) an inexperienced but dominant chimp (traditional agency)
Guess what. The chimp, just like most humans, chooses b. Doh!
The decision only lasts until the chimp realises that the dominant chimp helper is ‘useless’ and then he chooses the experienced helper…whatever their status.
Perhaps the choice for the dominant chimp is one of deference i.e. that it is the ‘right thing to do’, to ‘show respect’ etc.
This mirrors my own business experience in internet marketing.
1. We contracted this big agency to do our website, but it’s not really working. Why is that? Could you ‘have a look’?
2. We want to do all this ‘internet marketing stuff’ but we do not have a big budget because we spent it all on the last agency!
3. We spend a lot on banner ads. Our agency says banners are good for branding but we are not getting much response. What else can we do?
So it’s normal.
Apparently, assuming you believe in evolution, we humans are ‘conditioned’ to respect the dominant powers and that’s why clients often try the big agencies first. (Ok, where’s my nobel prize?)
It is not always the best decision (sometimes it is, there are some very good large agencies….and some not very good specialists too..out there) but it’s natural.
So the task in hand perhaps is to make it easier for client to see which “chimp” can really deliver the results. So they can save time and make money faster.
Internet marketing CAN deliver huge competitive advantages provided you move fast enough and don’t waste time mixing with the wrong monkeys.
PS We change our name to “monkey marketing” next week.
Robin ‘chimpee’ Gurney
Read more about this monkey business at the New Scientist.