What is wisdom in the age of modern marketing?

Wise brands will use data, science and context to generate insights, says Human Understanding Lab's Simon Collister

Oscar Wilde famously stated that “with age comes wisdom,” but as technology matures and puts infinite information at our fingertips, some argue that we’re actually becoming less intelligent.

In theory, Generation Z should be the smartest and most clued-up ever. This can be seen in them becoming potentially the most activist generation and the savviest consumers we’ve ever seen. Yet, in many cases, brands are resorting to typical tried-and-tested marketing tactics and need to think smarter to better engage their audiences.

But what is wisdom in the age if modern marketing? Age and experience do come into it, but these can also bias judgement. I like to think in terms of a triangular formula – data, science and context is how we get to “true” insight. Generally speaking, when you value and apply all three, the decisions we make today have a much better chance of standing the test of time, for brands, businesses and clients.

With that in mind, simply having vast volumes of data and cutting-edge machines isn’t enough to create campaigns that engage consumers. But there are ways they can reverse this trend and make more of the right decisions.

Wisdom means making better decisions

People are quitting their jobs more than ever. Essentially, “quiet quitting” means taking your job less seriously — whether you log off at 5 p.m. or do “just enough to get by”. The trend is being driven largely by Gen Z who are putting up boundaries to guard their work-life balance. If businesses are not supporting employees with work-life balance, then the trend will continue, and you can say goodbye to your next generation of leaders.

We now have access to more innovative technology than ever before. That means we need to work smarter and use this technology’s power to do the hard graft for us. Because if young professionals have learned anything from older generations, it’s that hustle culture is a quick path to burnout, which Gen Z is doing its best to avoid.

The key to success in this digital world of brand overload and short attention spans is to truly understand and build strategies around what it means to be ‘human’. Marketing should focus on improving people’s lives, and learn to use empathy, trust, and tension to market products and services.

Data, science and context provides wisdom

Data and science can help us play catch up and take our human understanding to the next level. For example, artificial intelligence (AI) platforms allow us to mine vast volumes of data to identify patterns of behaviour or new insights that a human alone would never be capable of finding.

Science is crucial to providing the insight we need to understand the drivers of human behaviour, such as what leads a consumer to choose one brand or product over another. We know these decisions are mostly not rational and undertaken by our subconscious brain. Neuroscience techniques means we can dig beneath the surface of what people say to decipher the complex webs of emotions, memories and motivations that drive real behaviours. This smarter way of doing things is vital to helping brands establish customer loyalty, improve perception, and boost sales and interaction levels.

And we can’t overlook the context in which we experience brands and take decisions. Knowing what people do and how their wider environment affects behaviours is crucial to achieving optimal outcomes. A busy commuter scrolling through their social media feed experiences brand content in a much different way to lazily consuming the Sunday papers. Similarly, the motivations for shopping in Lidl versus Waitrose will also affect how brands communicate and grab consumer attention in the right way to influence a desired decision.

Wisdom in modern marketing means generating human-centric insights to understand what makes people tick and what drives them to take action. But for me, getting to a point of real wisdom in the age of modern marketing is the formula of using data, science and context. This is what will help brands and businesses stand the test of time.

Featured image: Isi Parente / Unsplash

Simon Collister, Director, UNLIMITED's Human Understanding Lab

With over 15 years of experience, Simon is an accomplished research and strategy consultant and has helped some of the biggest brands in the world from multi-national corporations to international NGOs and governments including FedEx, BP and UNHCR solve complex challenges through insight and creativity. In his current role as Director at UNLIMITED’s Human Understanding Lab, Simon leads a team of 120-strong community of neuro, behavioural and data scientists, technologists and strategic planners. With a PhD in digital-media and political communication from Royal Holloway he has published books and articles for leading publishers on digital media and the role of technology in shaping society.

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