TED Talks For Marketing

November 15, 2012

Recently, I’ve become somewhat addicted to videos from TED conferences. TED conferences, focusing on “ideas worth spreading,” happen all over the world and delve into technology, entertainment and design.

So, as I watched more and more videos about space, math, health and everything in between, I came across several talks that apply perfectly to marketing. There were many that apply to the topic but two really struck me as being unique and applicable: “Dan Cobley: What physics taught me about marketing” and “Susan Cain: The power of introverts.”

I’ve always had a passion for numbers. I even started out my collegiate career with the hope of being a civil engineer. So I was instantly attracted to the title of Cobley’s speech. During his talk, Cobley applied several physics concepts to marketing, but I’ll highlight one: Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle.

Simply put, this physics principle explains that it is impossible to measure the exact state and position of a particle simultaneously, because the act of measuring it changes its original state. Applying this to marketing, the uncertainty principle means that directly observing and monitoring consumers changes their behavior from what it would normally be.

In certain situations, not all, like taking surveys or holding a focus group, people know they are being observed and may alter their answers to questions because it has an effect on what others think.

Dan Cobley giving his TED Talk

A timely example in Minnesota comes to mind to help explain this idea, the marriage amendment vote that took place last week. Prior to the election, people on both sides of the debate passed out surveys to Minnesotans in order to see what they could expect when election came along. These surveys turned out confusing results that didn’t really provide much conclusive evidence. The problem was, like the uncertainty principle explains, was that many people answered one way on the survey in order to adapt their answers to their friends, family and others around them, but planned on voting the opposite on Election Day.

So the lesson out of this is: Instead of only looking at what consumers may do in the future, take a closer look at what people are actually doing. Use tools like Google Analytics, point-of-sale tracking and trending topics on social media to figure out how to accurately focus in on your consumers.

The second video – “Susan Cain: The power of introverts” – provided a little less obvious application to marketing, but has great messages for the industry. Cain’s speech discusses how there is an underlying bias in society, in many schools and work places, where group thought is preferred and expected more than individual work. Introverts are often looked at differently and passed up for leadership positions, even though introverted leaders allow people to run with their ideas and deliver better results in the end.

Although, many more topics were covered Cain came down to three underlying ideas for everyone, whether introverted or extroverted, to put into practice.

  1. Work doesn’t need to be constant group work. Make time for individual thought.
  2. Unplug from the world at times and get within yourself.
  3. Take a good look at what’s inside of skills you have and understand why you have them.

These three concepts are perfect for marketing.

Although, in the marketing industry collaboration is key but there needs to be time for people to be introverted by finding a quiet place and push themselves creatively. If you have a client brainstorm, take the time deep creative thought and then bring those ideas to the group.

Susan Cain delivering her TED Talk

Also, with so much in the marketing world being digitally driven, unplugging from it all, for even a short period, will allow you to gain a different perspective on what’s going on around you and figure out where your true passions lie.

Finally, take the time to realize where your true skill set lies and how those skills came to be. By truly understanding your abilities you will be able to be more effective at what you do and be a greater asset to the marketing industry.

Dan Cobley and Susan Cain’s TED Talks may not seem very connected initially but with a quick application to the marketing world you can see they provide great insight. Occasionally, take a step back from the world of group thinking, whether it’s from group surveys or brainstorms. Use more specific tracking tools and your own creative thought process to understand who your consumers are, pushing yourself, your company and the industry forward.