Read our new manifesto

Explore our new sections and topics

14 - 18 June

How Home Depot is building consumer love with the help of data

Ken Hein

US editor

Shavonne M Clark

senior manager of marketing

From ancient market traders to influencers: understanding the science of communication

This promoted content is produced by a member of The Drum Network.

The Drum Network is a paid-for membership product which allows agencies to share their news, opinion and insights with The Drum's audience. Find out more on The Drum Network homepage.

Tailify considers what the most effective marketing of the future will be

Marketing all comes down to one question; how can I communicate this idea effectively to create a desired reaction?

Communication is a primal instinct

Modern humans have relatively the same brains as we did 35,000-100,000 years ago, and so how we communicate from person to person is truly a primal instinct. Therefore to understand how to communicate effectively, it logically follows that we must first understand the behavioral science that informs those instincts.

The first forms of communication, or of influencing each other, goes back to word-of-mouth conversation. It was important to able to chat to the other people in your tribe to explain where the best fruits were for picking, much like when honey bees perform dances within the hive today to tell their fellow bees where the best pollen is. These interactions are instinctive as we pick up on social cues and non-verbal communicators to create trusting relationships.

The written word

Humans developed past this point and started to put the spoken word into the written word. Communication transformed as language became centralized to those who could write it down. You could now control information in a much more tangible way, banning people from reading, writing or sharing information with each other. Those with access to literacy, who could afford a printing press or who were governed responsible enough to control mass communication created the very first centralized model of communication; publishers.

Over hundreds of years this control over communication has continued, from segregated schools to newspaper moguls controlling a monopoly of news outlets. When we reached the television era we saw the advertising industry boom as they could reach huge numbers of people with their messages. A select few people from society were able to create messages, place them in mass-communication formats and grow this centralized model of communication.

Then came social media.

Now in their inception, Facebook and similar platforms were merely flexing their coding muscles to create communities at local universities. They didn’t realize they were completely transforming the way that society communicates. Individuals were now able to create a page, share opinions, grow a community and get a following. Almost by accident these social media platforms had dismantled the centralized model that advertisers had spent decades building.

Of course, this isn’t a completely de-centralized model. Facebook and co still control what is said on their platforms to a degree, but now anyone with the skills can be a publisher. Anyone can share their opinions with the world and create their own headline news. It is the same word-of-mouth marketing we saw in honey bee hives or within tribes, but on a larger scale. This is what we now know as influencer marketing.

This is why influencer marketing is completely different to other modern forms of marketing. It returns communication in society to its primal form of person-to-person interaction. This is also where the majority of marketers are getting it wrong. They are applying the rules of 20th-century advertising to a game created 100,000 years ago by our ancestors.

Even those who are utilizing influencers are not truly able to understand why their partnerships are a success or not as they don’t understand the nuances of communication. This influencer marketing is ineffective and leaves us with dodgy product placement, inauthentic partnerships and, frankly, weird collaborations.

How do we solve this ineffective approach to influencer marketing?

We need to go back to the initial question: how can I communicate this idea effectively to create a desired reaction?

Now that we know about the history of communication, we can think about influencer marketing through the lens of behavioral science and recognize the primal, instinctive element that this return to person-to-person communication introduces. We need to look at the 93% of communication that is non-verbal and study it. When we understand the science of personal influence, we will be able to create great influencer marketing.

At Tailify we are studying these factors to create the most effective marketing of modern times. We’ve found that factors you wouldn’t even consider can have the biggest impact on performance. By tracking everything from laughter, levels of self-disclosure, body language, caption length and more, we are able to understand why certain interactions are more effective than others. We are able to identify specific lessons for individual brands, influencer collaborations and posts that we can then use to inform future campaigns and scale success.

This is the future of marketing. Take a step back and reframe your perspective of what influencer marketing is. Is it just another ad space to buy? Or is it so much more?

Your answer will determine your success in the next five to 10 years.

Meet Tailify to understand how to think like a behavioral scientist and unlock the true ROI of influence.

Esme Rice is marketing director at Tailify.