Shotton's 'Choice Factory' brutally dismantles brand purpose

MullenLowe London's former head of strategy says Richard Shotton's book The Choice Factory is a must-read for anyone in marketing and advertising - not just planners.

A few years back, the IPA ran an experiment of sorts amongst planning directors in the industry. They were out to prove that these business brains had the perfect mix of Magic and Logic. I was put through the test and, it’s fair to say, I came out a bit more Gandalf than Hawking – in fact, quite a bit more.

The thing is, I’ve always had to work hard at the science bit. I know it’s important, but I have to really concentrate to take on board the theories on behavioural science from the likes of Kahneman, Ariely and Thaler. And I’m sure many of you probably feel the same way.

Worry no longer, welcome to The Choice Factory by Richard Shotton – an excellent new book that gives you practical advice on how to apply behavioural science in your work. It’s a book for all of us.

To borrow the author’s narrative device, here are five reasons why anyone in marketing, advertising and media should read it, not just planners.

1. The book is, as behavioural scientists say, "chunked" into 25 chapters, with each chapter covering a specific bias. Chunking is a simple behavioural theory that makes information easy to digest. Each chapter opens with a simple scene that grounds a particular bias in the everyday; this is followed by hard evidence proving the effect of that bias from an experiment conducted by people with formidable names like Ebbinghaus, von Restorff and Festinger; and then finishes up with advice on how to apply the effect in advertising. It’s a simple and highly effective structure.  

2. The information is made extra easy to absorb because the language Shotton uses is very straightforward. The Plain English Campaign would approve. But it’s also an entertaining and jaunty read. Shotton is a real enthusiast for his subject matter, and this comes singing through in the book. It must be great fun working with him; you never know what madcap experiment he’ll be springing on you next, ably supported by his trusty accomplices who could make up the new fire department at Trumpton: Clay, Hobday, Kandasamy, Linford, Riddell, Strong.  

3. The book provides invaluable knowledge for you to act on. There’s something to learn and apply in every chapter. I particularly enjoyed the irrefutable proof that advertising has to be distinctive, otherwise it’s a waste of money. I loved the Marketing Triage model based on Napoleon’s chief surgeon; as well as Shotton’s brutally logical dismantling of brand purpose – as much use as a brand porpoise.

4. It is packed with little gems. It’s not in every book you’ll find stories about footballer Japp Stam mixing it with German oompah music and the dating site Ashley Madison. I had never heard the wise words of Bob Levenson, the copywriter behind many of the great Volkswagen ads, on how to adopt a personal tone of voice in advertising, but it features his close friend Charlie.

5. What makes this book extra special and useful for today’s communication practitioners is that it refers equally to creative and media execution. As a media planner by trade, with a full appreciation of great creativity, Shotton understands the power of each. Anyone in the industry worth their salt is always thinking seamlessly of combined creative and media solutions, and this book is made for them.

This is not just a book to read, it is a book to use. Repeatedly. Whether you’re more Gandalf or Hawking. Buy it in paperback and slot Shotton next to your Morgan, Earls, Feldwick and Sharp. He sits comfortably next to the very best.  

Charlie Snow is an advertising consultant and formerly chief strategy officer at MullenLowe London

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