I think it was the Monty Python Team who sang the praises of always looking on the Bright Side of Life, but they weren’t the first.
The Harvard Medical School lists many interesting examples of research conducted over the years Optimism and your health – Harvard Health and it is interesting to note that in a study of 2,873 healthy men and women conducted in 2008, a positive outlook on life was linked to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, even after taking age, employment, income, ethnicity, obesity, smoking, and depression into account.
Most people are biased slightly towards optimism and maybe this is why it’s good for us. It’s also important though to beware of our natural Optimism Bias whereby we generally expect a good outcome, irrespective of past learning. Optimism Bias in Marketing (tronviggroup.com)
When times suddenly become tougher it’s not uncommon then for knee-jerk reactions to be the order of the day when quick decisions are made, irrespective of the facts and past learning, and this may be less than good for us or our businesses.
Take Marketing spending as a case in point. It’s well known that Marketing and Advertising are amongst the first costs to be cut in a recession, but they are also used as a bell-weather of when times are improving and a boom is ahead, as they are amongst the first sectors to see expenditure increase again ahead of the general economy. I’ve lost count of the number of times Martin Sorrell (Founder of World Leading Advertising Agency WPP Group) was interviewed on TV about his future predictions for the world economy.
In the recent pandemic, we saw budget cuts from clients we expected to increase spending and budgets maintained by those who might reasonably have been expected to stop altogether. We even supported some clients for free as we wanted to help their businesses to survive until the good times ahead, as surely, thinking positively, there would be good times ahead?
This mixed and surprising client reaction has had interesting results in business sales performance. None of our clients has suffered at all in the COVID-19 pandemic, except ourselves due to voluntarily cutting costs, but many have enjoyed boom times with their best-recorded figures. In short, being positive while those around do the opposite seems to have paid benefits as even our clients dropping budgets were helped to maintain activity by our free or subsidised efforts.
The moral here seems to be then that adopting a positive attitude to Marketing, and not slashing and burning on a whim, is the way to success. It is not right for every business of course as if you have no cash flow left, how can you spend? But if you can spend, it seems to be important to do so.
Looking at the firms that are thriving in retail versus those that are not and it’s easy to spot a correlation with marketing spend, both online and in media like television.
Is all this positivity Optimism Bias though? We don’t think so.
On the principle that eventually every rainy day must eventually be followed by a sunny patch we wondered if you tracked every day and recorded if it was generally positive or negative, what would the running total look like? We wanted to create a sort of positivity barometer by awarding a daily points score (positive or negative) and totting it up to adjust the trend. We included personal things and work-related things like a client win or the central heating not working – and started recording over 5 years ago. To us, it makes interesting viewing!
Like all good graphs, we started at 100 and for a period of time the score dipped below the start point but we quickly started to notice that over time more good things happened than bad, and the overall score gradually increased.
The dip a couple of years in was probably around the time of the original Brexit vote, and of course Covid-19 has had a noticeable impact on several occasions over the last year, but the overall trend hasn’t been dented that much and has just put us back to Q4 2019 levels, no further.
So if the future, overall, is generally destined to be better than the past it surely makes sense to stay positive mentally and in our businesses invest for a rosy future, so develop new products and services and spend on Marketing to ensure your business attracts more of its fair share, as our clients have managed to do, with our help of course!
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