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!

But wait…

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.

Typical situations:

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.

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There are 2 comments .

Mika Tuupola

“We contracted this big agency to do our website, but it’s not really working. Why is that? Could you ‘have a look’?”

I don’t know how much of your post concerns Estonia. I assume most.

During my short stay in here I have observed Estonia has similar situation Finland had several years ago. We had advertising agencies which did not understand much of this “Internet thingie”. On the other hand we had lot of interactive agencies who knew how to make webpages but did not understand much of marketing or brand building.

Then one brave advertising agency combined them both. Year was 1999. People from interactive agencies such as Icon Medialab and Razorfish said symbiosis would never work. Those companies are now long gone. The symbiosis is still alive and profitable.

Other advertising companies have now started to follow. In the last six months two big Finnish advertising agencies have hired executives with online media background.

My view on this is that there is three kind of creativity: technical creativity, business creativity and traditional creative creativity. Combine all three and you have a killer team for designing online marketing. Miss one and you can not succeed.

And yes, I prefer smaller agencies too. They don’t have the corporate overhead.

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Robin Gurney

Integrated marketing is the way forward in so many ways.

Not least because the client wants one butt to kick.

At altex we can imagine that we will merge or be consumed by a larger agency at some point who want to incorporate that ‘internet stuff’ into their offering. Either that or we will have to acquire…same result though.

The question for me is where the futurologists fit in the picture…but that’s another story.

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