Meet Adam Ferrier, the thought-provoking and well-respected marketing strategist and consumer psychologist from Thinkerbell. Adam has been a regular panelist on TV shows The Gruen Transfer/Gruen Planet, The Project, Sky, Switzer and Nine Mornings, as well as Celebrity Apprentice and Australia’s Next Top Model (don’t ask!). He had a weekly segment on national radio station MMM, and monthly show on ABC. He’s on the editorial board for B& T and has commentated and/or written for TIME, The Australian, Mumbrella, Fast Company, The Guardian, Wall Street Journal and more!
Adam recently wrote an article called If businesses are trying to humanize why are they doing with robots? It was published first on LinkedIn and then on the Huff Post. As a consumer psychologist and a crazy strategy guru, Adam has a brilliant take on businesses and how they should humanize themselves while also incorporating technology.
Efficiency vs. Human connection
In the world financial advice in which I sit, there is a lot of conversation and strategizing going on around delivering advice to more Australians through the use of technology. Robo-advice is a frequent suggestion.
According to Adam, there are two key macro trends affecting businesses currently: the pursuit of efficiency and the need to get really consumer centric. In focus groups, people often say they just want the advice, or just the basics, or the cheapest rates. Many organizations then go and deliver those things consumers said they wanted as efficiently as possible, and they think they’ve ticked both boxes.
However, humans are really bad at understanding, let alone disclosing, their motivations for what they do. We tend to buy on emotion and then try to rationalize our purchases and decisions, rather than the other way around. Adam says, “We’re rationalizing humans not rational humans.”
Organisations are trying to deliver a more efficient kind of engine when in fact sometimes it is the opposite that people actually crave. What humans often want is stuff like comfort, support, to be coached and someone to hang in there with them. Yet, they never will never say that in a focus group or via a chat bot.
Add genuine value to your customer’s experience
In their thrust for automation and efficiency, many businesses are killing off the very bit of their business model that the consumer sees value in. Sometimes it’s the mistakes or imperfections in the delivery that actually bond people together.
In the world of financial advice specifically, there hasn’t yet been an algorithm developed that has been particularly good at predicting financial markets, so there are still benefits of working together with a human mind. The more automation and robo-advice there is, the more people value the human contact and face-to-face advice.
If you take a brand or service to its ultimate efficient end, there’s nothing that sticks between the consumer and the brand. Whereas, if you can get consumers to put some effort in and co-create things together with their service provider, they actually value that advice or service more. It sticks because they’ve helped created it and invested in the advice, rather than just having it served to them via the computer.
Adam recommends putting the focus on adding value to the customer’s experience, rather than the efficiency of information delivery.
Transparency and the pizza tracking app
However, if you are going to go down the automated delivery of information road, make sure you’re very transparent about the different human decisions and actions at the back end. If you’re giving robo-advice, make sure the customer knows that human thinking has gone into that advice.
One example of a company doing this well is Domino’s Pizza, who have been focusing on efficiency and transparency with their pizza tracking app. You can have a look at all the different stages your pizza goes through on its way to being delivered. It gets your imagination going and feels like there’s a whole industry of people working together to bring you that pizza. To the consumer, that transparency adds value. We know this because that pizza tracker has been studied extensively by Harvard Business School!
The other interesting thing Dominos has to been doing lately is apologizing a lot. It brings in the human side by saying “we make mistakes, we’re sorry.” Humans respond well to imperfection, apologies and transparency, whereas robo-advice isn’t necessarily aligned with that.
In the world of financial advice, while apologizing for the markets doesn’t make sense, there are certainly ways to talk about the things you can’t control. It’s important to be transparent in that manner and it adds value to the customer.
Marketing is in everything you do
Adam believes the financial services industry has some catching up to do when it comes to presenting itself as relevant and human. While all the new money people in Silicon Valley wear hoodies to meetings, the financial industry still wears stiff suits and shiny shoes. It feels like it’s stuck in a 1980s Wall Street view of success.
Although many advisors these days are turning towards more goals-based advice, most businesses don’t have a full marketing and brand strategy in place so that shift towards goals isn’t always well known. You don’t need a whole marketing department, you just need to have a clear understanding of your vision, and that needs to align to what your customer wants. Ideally, it would be slightly differentiated from your competitors, but flexible enough to ride any marketplace trends coming through.
The financial industry doesn’t have to take on the casualisation and socio-capitalist views that is trending in Silicon Valley in order to humanize, they just need to be clear on the culture of their organisation. Know what you stand for and then make sure every single point—what you wear, your business card, your office furniture and how you say hello—reflects on that central proposition.
Having a clear brand that guides the behaviour of staff is really important, because marketing is in every single thing your organization does. A clear brand strategy means customers get the one experience no matter what part of the business they’re dealing with.
Where to find Adam:
For more information you can find Adam at his website, www.thinkerbell.com