Eat Your Greens: Fact-Based Thinking to Improve Your Brand’s Health

Edited by Wiemer Snijders

This book is a compilation of 42 chapters written by 37 practitioners and scholars of branding, advertising, and marketing. “The brief to all of the contributors was simple: tell us how you apply or find inspiration from marketing science in a short, easy-to-digest paper… I did not ask them to write about a particular topic; this was intended as a bag of nutritious ‘mixed greens.’” There is no chapter on spinach or basil, but somehow cauliflower scored a cameo role in chapter 26.

I have selected some highlights to whet your appetite.

Wiemer Snijders and Charles Graham: “Heavy buyers are less important to sales than we may think… The lightest 80% of buyers account for about 40% of stationary brand sales, and the implications are clear: light and super-light buyers matter a lot to brand performance… Graham’s data shows that a little over one-third of Dove’s buyers still only bought it… once in six years.”

Mark Ritson: “The modern marketer has created an entirely stupid dichotomy between ‘digital communications’ and ‘traditional communications’… There are just tactical tools, and they can only be valued and selected once a target and a position and a strategy are in place. What’s more, it’s clear that most successful campaigns combine multiple channels for optimum success. Most studies suggest that the more channels a campaign includes, the better the ultimate ROI.”

Tess Alps: “In 2017, 86% of standard TV was viewed live, even though 60.4% of homes had a TV recorder.”

Jerry Daykin: “Most social media posts don’t get time to ‘wear in’ let alone ‘wear out’, and repeating content (especially high quality video) is much more acceptable than you might think… With cut-downs, cinemagraphs and later repeats, a brand ends up needing a great piece of content just once every couple of months, certainly not every day.”

Shann Biglione: “Tim Ambler from the London Business School aptly notes that ‘ROI tends to encourage campaigns that target existing and heavier customers. These show higher ROI largely because many of the sales aren’t really extra sales but sales that would have happened anyway, or sales that might have merely been brought forward in time.’ The problem is that today’s targeting tools precisely allow marketers to act on this, and many brands fall for the trap. It looks good for a few months, but usually within a couple of years they wake up with a massive hangover, looking at the inevitable erosion of their baseline. It negates advertising’s greatest strength: reaching those who don’t care much about you.”

Eaon Pritchard: “Signalling theory shows that when we can intuit how much money a company has laid out for an ad campaign, this helps us (unconsciously) make distinctions between brands that have put their money where their mouth is and brands that have not… Researchers Tim Ambler and E. Ann Hollier quantified this in their important study, ‘The waste in advertising is the part that works.’”

“We’ve forgotten the basic idea that brand advertising creates demand, and direct response fulfills it. The adtech-ers and our Silicon Valley robot overlords stepped up, wanted the whole game, and we handed it to them on a plate… The used car salesmen and engineers have had their turn, and the results were substantially less than optimal.”

Robert van Ossenbruggen: “Imagine the following (hypothetical) situation. The past two years a thousand new dairy products have been launched. A hundred of those sold well, and the rest of them have been taken from the shelves because they didn’t. Of those well-sold products, 80% are low fat, low calorie, or some other light version; 20% are the regular kind.

It is tempting to infer from the above that a light dairy product has a larger chance of success than a regular one. Without the 900 failed products, however, you can’t draw any conclusion. The products that have been taken from the shelves might have been light products for 80% as well. That would imply the attribute ‘light’ has no effect whatsoever.

This is an example of ‘survivorship bias’: you only observe things that have survived some process for whatever reason.”

Phil Barden: “Sometimes an ad evokes high arousal, but no one remembers the brand—how come? To leverage the potential of the arousal, the brand/product needs to be the agent that triggers the response. If emotional response is not linked to the brand, the ad might be remembered but not the brand, because it is not instrumental in activating the emotional response.”

Byron Sharp and Amy Wilson: “Most advertising isn’t persuasive, nor does it need to be. Advertising can do an amazing job without shifting beliefs and attitudes… As marketers, capturing people’s attention is the primary challenge. The main focus, then, should be on reminding people your brand exists, and refreshing memory structures that give your brand more of a chance of being chosen in choice situations.”

Ryan Wallman: “The single most important rule of advertising is that it must be noticed. This rule does not change with the times. It will always be true that if an ad doesn’t get noticed, it is pointless.”

Helen Edwards: “Your preferred, brand-for-me option and one of those competitors are side by side in a supermarket aisle. Both tidily displayed, both easy to reach, both the same price. It’s not hard to conclude that you would, almost intuitively, reach for your more favored brand… This is loyalty at parity: the tendency to always choose one brand when everything else is equal.”

“But of course, it is very often not. If there were a promotion on the other brand, would you still choose your favored brand as before? Unlikely. What if the other one commanded a more prominent position on the shelf? Probably not. What if your favored one were not there at all, because it had a weaker distribution footprint, and you’d have to walk a couple of blocks to get it? Definitely not.”

Kate Richardson: “Attributes which contribute to brand authenticity include the original source of production, a sense of history, sincerity of purpose, timelessness, quality of production, traditions that have remained over time, and dismissal of commercial motivations… Too many brands are making the mistake of orienting themselves around a lofty, higher purpose… In trying too hard to be responsible and caring, they’re coming across as tediously homogenous and utterly disingenuous.”

Wiemer Snijders: “Whether your product is bought from a shelf or a screen, you will benefit if your message is recognizable and distinct—for one thing, it will reduce the risk of you advertising for your competitor(s).”

Kate Waters: “If you understand what distinctiveness really is, you can see why a search for novelty and originality, while done with the best of intentions, can end up creating communication that actually does the brand a disservice. New positioning, new messaging, new designs, new endlines only work for brand if they are used consistently and in a way that strongly links them to other brand assets, thus strengthening the memory structures in the brain for that brand… Which is why the best definition of distinctiveness is very simply to quote Byron Sharp, ‘a brand looking like itself.’”

Paul Feldwick: “There’s a universal fashion now to talk about the importance of ‘creative idea’. If that means that good campaigns always have some kind of internal logic and coherence to them… I’ll maybe agree. But very often it sounds as if having the ‘idea’ is the only difficult, ‘creative’ bit, and the rest is mere ‘execution’. People respond to ads, however, not to abstract ideas: ads that exist in the full details of how they look, how they sound, the timing of the edit, the camera angles, the soundtrack, the lighting, every nuance of sets and propping and casting…and so on.”

Tom Goodwin: “Thrill people, manage their expectations, and they become our advertising.”

Patricia McDonald: “Even the smallest design elements can transform user engagement. Airbnb users were once able to save properties to a list using a star icon. In 2011, they changed the star to a heart and saw engagement levels increase by 30%.”

Gareth Price: “Strong brands make choosing and buying as simple as possible. To achieve this, they must establish collective meaning and be consistent in the associations they communicate. This requires both their positioning and product portfolio to be tight, ensuring that the shared connotations that circulate about them are accepted as truths. All of which is at odds with personalization and one-to-one marketing, which sacrifice shared cultural meaning to establish relevance through targeted messaging.”

Becky McOwen-Banks: “Women make up just 14% of creative directors in London, and the stats for New York are even worse, at 11%… In the world advertising purports to reflect, women account for 85% of all spending.”

The 38 contributors are: Tess Alps, Mark Barden, Phil Barden (Decoded), Shann Biglione, Julian Cole, Jerry Daykin, Mark Earls (Copy, Copy, Copy), Helen Edwards, Paul Feldwick (The Anatomy of Humbug), Adam Ferrier (Stop Listening to Your Customer), Peter Field (Effectiveness in Context), Tom Goodwin (Digital Darwinism), Charles Graham, Philip Graves, Bob Hoffman (BadMen), Patricia McDonald, Becky McOwen-Banks, Costas Papaikonomou (Thoughts From A Grumpy Innovator), Gareth Price, Eaon Pritchard (Where Did It All Go Wrong?), Anjali Ramachanran, Kate Richardson, Mark Ritson, Doc Searls (The Intention Economy), Byron Sharp (How Brands Grow), Richard Shotton (The Choice Factory), Rich Siegel, Wiemer Snijders, Rory Sutherland (Alchemy), Brandon Towl, Sue Unerman (The Glass Wall), Robert van Ossenbruggen, Ryan Wallman, Kate Waters, Amy Wilson, Rosie and Faris Yakob (Paid Attention), plus cartoons by Tom Fishburne (Your Ad Ignored Here).


Snijders, Wiemer, ed. Eat Your Greens: Fact-Based Thinking to Improve Your Brand’s Health. Leicestershire UK: Matador, 2018. Buy from Amazon.com


Note: I have modified the spelling to appease my American spellchecker.
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