This week we're reading: Faris Yakob's 'Paid Attention'

By Matt Boffey, founder

September 23, 2015 | 5 min read

Every Wednesday, London Strategy Unit's Matt Boffey reads one of the most influential books from the world of innovation, marketing or creativity so you don't have to. In today's Booknote, he takes a look at Faris Yakob's 'Paid Attention', which is "a manifesto for a more reflective and philosophical kind of marketing."

Why have we chosen this book?

Because we still don’t know that right way to ‘do’ marketing. Paid Attention unpacks some of the most-repeated truisms of the digital age - phrases like ‘content is king’ - and finds that marketers still aren’t sure what really makes some brands a success and others failures.

What’s the original thought or argument?

That brand planners need to stop thinking about how to deliver content and start trying to understand why humans behave in predictable ways. Yakob argues that digital provides the perfect space for brands to understand their audiences and engage them on new levels. In broad terms, Paid Attention is a manifesto for a more reflective and philosophical kind of marketing that always asks “why are we communicating ourselves in this way?”

If you want to look smart, just read

Part Two, ‘Attention deficit disorders’ where Yakob explores the attention hacks that brands use to subtly persuade consumers. In 2006, Sony created an advert for their Bravia TV which featured 250,000 rubber balls bouncing their way down a hill in San Francisco. Viewers, following the balls with their eyes, found themselves nodding along as they watched the advert. Nodding creates a subconscious positive association with the advert’s content that might have been enough to make the Bravia the world’s bestselling that year.

You might want to skip

The chapter on ‘recomzinant culture’ which yokes together Coca-Cola, Banksy and postmodern cultural theory in just ten pages. Postmodernism in advertising would need a book all of its own to explain and this short chapter only alludes to ideas without really explaining how they all hang together.

Why trust this author?

Yakob is everywhere in the strategy and innovation world. After stints as Chief Innovation Officer at MDC Partners and Chief Technology Strategist at McCann, he took strategy on the road with his itinerant innovation consultancy, Genius Steals. As well as writing for Financial Times, Forbes and Advertising Week, Yakob is a regular feature on the marketing speaking circuit.

Once you’ve read this you don’t need to read

Any books on digital marketing written before 2012. If Twitter’s recent decline is anything to go by, it’s clear that change is the only certainty in the digital world. Be careful you’re not getting yourself up to speed with information that is already out-of-date.

Why should this stay on your bookshelf?

Because though digital spend continues to be the fastest growing part of the advertising economy, recent estimates suggest that up to 60 per cent of that spend never even reaches audiences. For brands to avoid adblockers and connect with consumers they’ll need to heed Yakob’s advice and rethink the way they’re currently using digital channels.

What’s the one thing you should do differently after reading this book?

Throw away your brand onion charts and brandgrams. Yakob argues for a model that recognizes that brands are naturally nebulous and person-specific. He uses the term ‘brandemes’ to refer to concepts and associations like ‘redness’ and ‘refreshing’ that can be influenced by advertising but essentially exist only in the mind of each audience member.

Best quote in the whole book?

“If we return to the roots of planning we see at its heart a desire to understand human behaviour and provide a robust model for influencing it. Rather than dismantling strategy into endless experimentation, we need a new way of understanding the world, a modern philosophy.”


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