Is Behavioral Really Behavioral?

In keeping with my quest for top notch blog content, I discovered some worthwhile posts on Anil Batra’s Web Analysis and Online Advertising blog, two on behavioral targeting (here and here) and one on homepages.

I wrote in that blog and repeat here that I’ve never been comfortable with the way the industry is defining behavioral… well, behavioral anything, actually. It seems the industry is collecting a bunch of action and result pairs, let’s call them “Xs to Ys”, and labeling them as a behavior.

I have trouble with that and here’s why.

Behaviors are not action and result pairs, to me. I would yield that in the commonest sense of the word, “behavioral” can be used in the current paradigm and have meaning. But assuming common meaning is accurate meaning is a falsehood, don’t you think? I wrote in Anil Batra’s blog that part of the difference (again, to me) involves differentiating the manner in which something is done and the fact that it done. Consider this quote from ScienceNews:

Consider that hale and hearty coworker. He may cozy up to lots of folks because he loves social contact and craves his peers’ approval. Or perhaps his chummy behavior masks discomfort around others and a deep-seated need to manipulate them for his own ends. If the latter proves true, is he more shy than gregarious, or vice versa?

The quote above points to the missing piece in the behavioral blah blah blah. Marketers need to understand why something is happening in order to generate revenue from the fact that it happens.

Yes, the scalability argument can be made here, but when the big players are fighting over tenths of percentage points, doesn’t it make sense to investigate why that one sheep keeps on getting lost? After all, you already own the flock.

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Cultural Marketing ReDefined

I mentioned in a previous post that I’m learning how to determine a given blog’s value to me for specific purposes, both long term and immediate. One such post I encountered was on Stephane Hamel’s immeria and dealt with optimizing websites for international visitors. The fact that the blog had a quote from Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow helped me hook onto it quickly.

I agree with the immeria post.

Much of my work deals with optimizing sites for different cultures and I’m often bothered by the US-centric aspect of so many companies. I also think optimizing sites for different cultures involves a great deal more than simply making sure a site has multi-language versions that recognize different geographic locales.

Designing for different cultures (to me) involves understanding the psyches of the different cultures you’re designing for. I know this can bump into design scalability issues and (again to me) what it really bumps into is a marketing centrism that needs to be avoided. An excellent example of allowing variability of design was given by Coca Cola’s Tim Gaudie at the recent DC Emetrics Summit. Each country had their own unique design which they were allowed to retain when each was brought under the corporate umbrella. Nicely done, that!

With all the talk of micro-targeting going on perhaps it’s time to (oxymoron alert!) think of micro-targeting in a larger paradigm. This is a marketing issue, me thinks; I was once told that if you own 90% of the market it’s time to redefine your market so that you only own 10%. Now you have something to work for. Can that thought be used in reverse? Can you redefine your micro-target to be a entire culture? If you only have 10% penetration in a certain country, isn’t it time to redefine that 10% to you can figure out what micro-target within that country you own 90% of, then reverse engineer from there? I think the same tools apply, and I’m willing to learn otherwise.

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Tag, I’m It

Brad Berens honors me by allowing me to call him “friend” and with his mention of me in [[the long dead]] Mediavorous post, “Answering Tom Hespos with 5 Things About Myself”. Evidently there’s a blogging game going on “…in which the blogger shares five non-obvious things about him or herself…”. This is very difficult for me. I saw this post this morning and it’s taken me most of the day and several conversations with my wife, Susan, to come up with some responses.

I’m of the opinion that I’m not a very interesting person. Dull and boring, in fact. I tend to answer questions about myself and my life when asked as I’m usually flattered by the attention. Okay. Here goes…

  • I cry every time I watch The Iron Giant.
  • It’s only been the past five or six years that I’ve felt I’m actually ready to be serious about my life, which means I’ve done more laughing in the past five or six years than in the previous forty-five.
  • Each morning I wake up and both give a blessing and say a thank you for what I have around me.
  • I’m perpetually dumbfounded by people’s opinions of me.
  • There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the most wonderful, beautiful thing that has ever happened to me will be the next thing that happens to me.

Now, who to tag?

Sorry, I don’t know that many bloggers well enough to invite them to play tag. Like I told you, I’m boring and dull.

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Profanity from an AnthroLinguistic Perspective

I was reading a paper on the function of profanity in communication. That might seem like a strange area of study and it’s really very fascinating. My language is routinely “colorful”, a euphemism that’s used by others to warn them that I use verbs, adjectives, adverbs, nouns, gerunds, participles and other language elements with great aplomb. To me, words are words. It’s not what a speaker says, it’s what a listener hears. “Profanity” is simply another form of jargon.

What makes profanity an subject of interest is that most jargons have a cultural or education basis. Profanity is a jargon (usually) of emotional communication.

I wrote in In Search of Advertising PC “Language evolves to convey the maximum amount of information in the minimum amount of time. More succinctly, Language evolves to increase the rate of information transfer. This is why various professions have their own jargons and why people unfamiliar with a given jargon get upset; they’re being excluded whether that’s the speaker’s intention or not. This is also true of profanity.

I also wrote in Music, Language and Making Offshore Call Centers More Effective that profanity seems to work best when used in one’s native language.

The native language element is straightforward enough. We develop our native language skills while we’re simultaneously creating our core identity, that part of ourselves most closely tied to our emotional centers. Therefore, profanity simply doesn’t work unless it’s said in one’s native language. Gerhardt und Andrea get a kick out of my cursing in German because I don’t do it “right”. However, David, Felix e Rosario blanche when I curse in Italian and I admit I’ve spent considerable time learning to curse in Gaelic simply because the curses are so indicative of the psycho- and socio-linguistic aspects of the Celtic mindsets. Also, it gives Calum, Eachainn agus Catriona something to applaud when I do it correctly.

Therapists and related social workers are familiar with another form of profanity, one that is expressed without words and can be terrifying for the unprepared. Most people, hearing me talk of this, think I’m going to describe self- or other-destructive behavior and nothing could be further from the truth. The use of profanity, defined as a violation of the sacred character of a place or language, that I’m describing here is really a statement of self and could be solipsism (at the extreme).

This form of profanity comes from the most primitive aspects of our being. The person who has suffered devastating loss and screams their tears from their gut, the person whose entire being quakes with the release of the most primitive emotional pains and joys, the person who laughs so rapturously that they gasp for air when they are done, … these and other demonstrations of core emotional release are examples of profanity and the jargon is the purest imaginable.

Unfortunately, modern society rarely allows or even knows how to accept and acknowledge such demonstrations of profanity. This is why the person sobbing uncontrollably causes others discomfort, why the scream of primitive pain and rage terrifies. The beast is released in us and society’s (very) thin veneer is stripped away. People having these experiences have allowed themselves to not be human for however brief or long a moment and those of us in attendance know the normal laws of social discourse no longer apply.

Pity. I have never known someone to be more real to me, more alive, more genuine than when they trusted me enough to reveal their primitive egos to me.

(with thanks to my mentors who taught me to a) not be afraid and b) profane completely)

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The Complete “Music, Language and Making Offshore Call Centers More Effective” Arc

Note: This was a short, two post arc for J. Both posts are here

Music, Language and Making Offshore Call Centers More Effective, Part 1

Happy New Year, Everyone.

We spent last night with our neighbors, Gerhardt und Andrea and Andrea’s cousin, Raresh. I made an antipasto (went over very well) and three different kinds of pizza (I’m known throughout the Maritimes, Mississauga, Southern NH and Stoneham, MA, for my pizza). Between the antipasto and the southern red pizza, Raresh mentioned that he played piano, bass and guitar in his church. As we had all three, I invited him to play.

Soon he and Andrea were singing Romanian Christmas carols and Gerhardt was playing along on one of my guitars. It was glorious and reminded me of being back home in Nova Scotia where often people will gather just to play music together (aca Ceilidgh, ans a Gaidhlig). They asked me to join in on the sax but I was busy cooking and besides, why ruin a good thing?

But what really got me was the language “class” between dinner and Andrea’s honey-nut dessert cake.

Raresh’s English wasn’t that good and he didn’t have much German so he and Andrea spoke in Romanian. I listened and kept repeating elements of their conversation (Gonoi! Che? Como? Stan Kastan, kastanka stan (this last is a verse taught to children). Drom!) which got Andrea laughing so hard her face hurt.

At one point Andrea mentioned that she can curse in lots of languages but most either make her laugh or mean nothing to her, just words. But when she curses in Romanian? Oh, she truly feels the import of what she’s saying. I agreed. I can curse in English but it means so much more when I curse in Italian. The others shared similar experiences.

This got me to thinking about where and how the brain stores languages learned later in life, and that the neural wiring for native-languages is more closely tied to our emotional wiring than our higher thought centers.

And that got me to remembering some research which pertains to off-shore call centers and how to make them more effective. (more to follow)

Music, Language and Making Offshore Call Centers More Effective, Part 2

NextStage’s staff sociologist has been involved in a multi-year study of debranding. One element of her research involves people’s interaction with offshore call centers, something I’ve written about in Reading Virtual Minds Volume I: Science and History,Chapter 2, “What This Book Is About”.

A recurring theme in her research has been the customer’s inability to understand the call center personnel’s English due to a non-US accent. This is actually an amazingly simple problem to solve.

All the call center personnel need due to state at the beginning of the call that they know they have an accent and that perhaps they’ll need to repeat things a few times to be clearly understood. Research published in Psychological Science concurs with NextStage’s research on this topic. Several people interviewed in the NextStage study made non-prompted, voluntary comments suggesting that call center personnel who acknowledged their non-US English accents made for more rewarding help desk and call center experiences.

Something to think about, yes?

If there is a challenge to this simple fix, my guess is that it might be a legal one. A company’s personnel openly admitting they are missing or lacking something might open that company to litigation. Fortunately (and if you’re reading my post on building a business) you’re learning that I know nothing about such things. I’d be interested in your thoughts, though. Please feel free to share them with me personally via email or with readers via commenting here, as you’d like.

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