Book Synopsis: Why is Red Bull so popular, though everyone—everyone!—hates the taste? Humans are, in a word, irrational, basing decisions as much on subtle external signals (that little blue can) as on objective qualities (flavor, price, quality). The surrounding world, meanwhile, is irreducibly complex and random. This means future success can’t be projected on any accounting spreadsheet. To strike gold, you must master the dark art and curious science of conjuring irresistible ideas: alchemy. Based on thirty years of field work inside the largest experiment in human behavior ever conceived—the forever-unfolding pageant of consumer capitalism—Alchemy, the revolutionary book by Ogilvy advertising legend Rory Sutherland, whose TED talks have been viewed nearly seven million times, decodes human behavior, blending leading-edge scientific research, absurdly entertaining storytelling, deep psychological insight, and practical case studies from his storied career working on campaigns for AmEx, Microsoft, and others. Heralded as “one of the leading minds in the world of branding” by NPR, Sutherland is a unique thought leader, as comfortable exchanging ideas with Nobel Prize winners Daniel Kahneman and Richard Thaler (both interviewed in these pages) as he is crafting the next product launch. His unconventional and relentlessly curious approach has led him to discover that the most compelling secrets to human decision-making can be found in surprising places:
- What can honey bees teach us about creating a sustainable business?
- How could budget airlines show us how to market a healthcare system?
- Why is it better to be vaguely right than precisely wrong?
- What might soccer penalty kicks teach us about the dangers of risk-aversion?
Better “branding,” Sutherland reveals, can also be employed not just to sell products, but to promote a variety of social aims, like getting people to pay taxes, improving public health outcomes, or encouraging more women to pursue careers in tech. Equally startling and profound, Sutherland’s journey through the strange world of decision making is filled with astonishing lessons for all aspects of life and business.
About Our Speaker: Rory Sutherland is Vice Chairman of Ogilvy. A columnist for The Spectator, he is former president of the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, the professional body for advertising, media, and marketing communications agencies in the United Kingdom. His TED Talks have been viewed more than 6.5 million times. He lives in London. Rory is the Vice Chairman of Ogilvy, an attractively vague job title which has allowed him to co-found a behavioural science practice within the agency. He works with a consulting practice of psychology graduates who look for ‘unseen opportunities’ in consumer behaviour - these are the very small contextual changes which can have enormous effects on the decisions people make - for instance tripling the sales rate of a call centre by adding just a few sentences to the script. Put another way, lots of agencies will talk about "bought, owned and earned" media: we also look for "invented media" and "discovered media": seeking out those unexpected (and inexpensive) contextual tweaks that transform the way that people think and act. It is a hugely valuable activity - but, alas, not particularly lucrative. This is because clients generally do not have budgets for solving problems they have not noticed. Before founding Ogilvy Change, Rory was a copywriter and creative director at Ogilvy for over 20 years, having joined as a graduate trainee in 1988. He has variously been President of the IPA, Chair of the Judges for the Direct Jury at Cannes, and has spoken at TED Global. He writes regular columns for the Spectator, Market Leader and Impact, and also occasional pieces for Wired. He is the author of two books: The Wiki Man, available on Amazon at prices between £1.96 and £2,345.54, depending on whether the algorithm is having a bad day, and Alchemy to be published in the UK and US in May 2019. Rory is married to a vicar and has twin daughters of 17. He lives in the former home of Napoleon III - unfortunately in the attic. He is a trustee of the Benjamin Franklin House in London and of Rochester Cathedral.
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