February 19, 2014

Strategies And Mysteries

Today we have a mystery for you to solve. Get out your pipe and deerstalker hat. But first, the set-up.

Yesterday, Dave Trott had an excellent post about the limits of strategy.

I have always felt that in advertising, strategy is essential but it's not enough. The problem with most of our agency strategists is that they complicate the shit out of the easy stuff and screw up the hard stuff.

For the most part, peoples' purchasing behavior is pretty easy to figure out. First, there's the utilitarian stuff. They buy these things because they're cheaper, nicer looking, more convenient, better tasting, or work better. No mystery there.

Next, there's the emotional stuff. They buy these things because the brand makes them feel better. Also, no mystery.

Planners and other strategists take great pains to make these obvious behaviors seem arcane. After all, if a dumb-ass blogger can figure this shit out, who needs a "cultural anthropologist?"

Then there are the 10% of consumer behaviors that really are mysterious. This is the stuff that is very hard to explain and truly requires the help of a good strategist. Sadly, this is the stuff that many of them get wrong.

Here's an example.

I get The New York Times delivered to my home in Oakland every morning. Yet when I'm traveling, I don't buy The Times on Mondays or Tuesdays. I do buy it, however, on Wednesdays through Sundays.

Pretend you're a marketing strategist, and see if you can come up with a logical explanation for this purchasing behavior. Leave your explanation in the "Comments" section and tomorrow the mystery will be revealed.

Anyone who gets it right receives a free beer next time they're in SF.


Mendacity said...

You fly overnight on the Monday and take your copy from home.

On Tuesday, you get a complimentary copy when you land.

Ilya Petrov said...

cool guess. but that would mean trips are always happening at the same day which is kind of strage

Ilya Petrov said...

or may be Sunday one is tough and enough for several days

Ilya Petrov said...

Can I buy you a beer if no one win? :) I am going to SF at the end of April for Big Sur marathon and would be very happy to have a quick chat about ad strategy with such a wise man after that.

Mendacity said...

I'm taking a punt on the idea that he has the clout to say "I only do out of town meetings Wednesday through Friday".

Plus, strict routines are a recurring habit in people from creative backgrounds. Who's to say that this doesn't carry over into travelling habits?

I admit that I'm simply abducing a conclusion based on the information I have. Here's another reasonable conclusion:

He takes the time to read the paper from his destination so he can discuss local issues with his clients and get to know them a bit better.

But that could also be wrong.

The fundamental weakness of strategy is that there are an infinite number of wrong answers.

Ilya Petrov said...

Okay :) Sounds like a winner. Clever and unpredictable versions are just boring and that one is funny enough to be the right answer.

Wikipedia: The puzzle becomes increasingly difficult throughout the week, with the easiest puzzle on Monday and the most difficult puzzle on Saturday.[6] The larger Sunday crossword, which appears in The New York Times Magazine, is an icon in American culture; it is typically intended to be as difficult as a Thursday puzzle.[6]

Mendacity said...

A previous reply to this post seems to have been swallowed by Disqus. Let's try again:

We know that AC is from a creative background. People from creative backgrounds tend to develop strict routines in many aspects of their lives - who's to say that doesn't extend to travel?

I am, of course, taking a punt on the idea that he has enough clout to proclaim "I only do out of town meetings Wednesday through Friday".

Another reasonable conclusion would be that he takes those two days to read the local paper. Familiarise himself with issues that might be important to his client and their corner of the world.

The problem with any strategy is that there are an infinite number of wrong answers.

Martin said...

I know nothing about the New York Times, but my guesses would be...
1. Due to the bulk? Mon and Tues are massive and unwieldy while travelling. (DOesn't count for weekend, you're in a hotel so can manage)
2. Due to the content? Mon and Tues don't carry sports (or similar)?
3. Because at the start of the week you're mentally focussed on getting shit done but by Wednesday you're starting to mentally relax? (Not a real guess)

Johnthebrand said...

They don't print the Times on Monday and Tuesday?

Tony Mariani said...

I would pick up the phone and call you and ask why.

PixieSlasher said...

A shot in the dark, but here goes:

If something important happens at the beginning of the week, chances are they'll still be writing about it on Wednesday. So you can spend two days on leisure / business at the place you've traveled to without missing out on the news too much

Cecil B. DeMille said...

You don't get Mondays or Tuesdays when you travel because you travel to places where that particular paper is unavailable, or the point of the travel is to disconnect and enjoy life instead of read the paper?

Jay said...

Who the hell knows/cares - just make sure the Times is available at newstands in airports, hotels and coffee shops every day.


On Monday and Tuesday you read the online version that you get for free with home delivery. You buy the paper version Wed-Sun because that's when the crosswords are the most challenging. And if I've learned anything from reading this blog thing, is that Mr Hoffman likes meatball sandwhiches, hates whoopi goldberg and does crossword puzzles at 3am - because they are better than jigsaw puzzles and less tiresome than conversations with humans.

Sean Peake said...

Perhaps it is certain sections you do not want to miss, like food (Wed) and Style (Thurs?) etc?

Mike Vassolo said...

Dave Trott's post was wonderful and it reminds me of something similar Mike Tyson said about strategy. I'm paraphrasing but essentially it's this, "everybody's got a plan until you punch them in the mouth."

As for why you don't buy the paper on the road Monday or Tuesday, I haven't got the foggiest fucking clue. How could I be expected to parse the buying habits of one individual? It's simply my job to be top of mind when you decide to buy a paper.

Charlotte said...

After intense strategizing I concluded that you don’t give a shit about the news or anything in The NYT on Mondays and Tuesdays.

I will also make the leap that you don’t read it online those days.

On Monday and Tuesday you fill your soul with deep research on all things social and digital and imagine having conversations about engaging with brands. Then you write your weekly blog posts about all the amazing things you have learned.

I love a good microbrew.