There’s some click bait for you – thanks to those who are actually reading this blog. The challenge we face as researchers at The Interpreters is often to deliver bad news. We deal with numbers – while 25% of the Australian population might like the product we’ve researched as an idea, it means that 75% of the population don’t like it, don’t want to buy it, don’t see it as a fit with the brands or products they buy. But a quarter of the population is good … if a quarter of our Twitter, LinkedIn or newsletter subscribers were reading this, we would deem that as success. So why then are we more conditioned to respond to bad news (three quarters of the population rejecting us) than the positive?
We see this in the political work that we do – despite protests that people are sick of negative advertising when it comes to politicians and parties, these are the most effective in influencing the vote. Look at the consistent poll measure and PR’ed story around ‘Preferred Prime Minister’ – the fact that Turnbull or Shorten has gone down in x amount of points has no bearing on how people are going to vote. When we go to the polling booth, it’s not decided on that preference but it’s still a negative press release that has more impact because it’s negative.
A negative experience is more memorable compared a positive one. How do you go when you try to recall the greatest compliment you’ve ever received versus the nastiest insult – for me, the latter is easier to remember. Negative messages tend to be more complex but have an implied comparison – which might make it harder to process the information, but we do so with more attention. If Malcolm Turnbull doesn’t understand the middle class, in what ways does he not understand me? Let me think about that.
So why is negative the new positive or has it always been that way. There’s an old adage in the newspaper trade that “if it bleeds, it leads” and there’s science and research behind this. Magazine sales increase by around 30% when the cover is negative versus positive.
Professor Nass, the author of “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships” confirms this as he found that the brain handles positive and negative differently and negative emotions require more thinking which means more time and effort is given to these messages.
Does this mean that every subsequent research report we deliver is going to be filled with doom and gloom – absolutely not he writes with a positive disposition! But, it’s important to note that as humans, we are more likely to respond or react when the message is negative so the positives in the story we’re telling need to be highlighted, pronounced and front and centre. We might react better to news and politics when it’s painted in a negative light but brands can tell stories of hope, positivity and making a difference. The local news might have told us that we’re spending too much at a supermarket shelf but be the brand on the shelf that makes us smile and forget about the strict budget we related to because half of Australians can’t save for Christmas. Or so the news told us.
Be that shining light and thanks for reading … I didn’t think anyone would get to the end of the blog … or did I?
By Paul Dixon