Faking it - how much do facts matter?
When I was growing up, the Bozeat family enjoyed a good debate on
the topic du jour. When faced with a particularly well argued point
my dad would sometimes jokingly say, "Stop bothering me with the
facts whilst I'm making my mind up". When I heard him say that I
knew I had won the argument, but I think that sentence is a good
summary of what goes on in peoples minds when faced with facts that
counter their opinions.
Facts and opinions have of course been the subject, rather than
the content of the news recently. First we had the Stop Funding
Hate campaign who were keen for brands to stop advertising with
newspapers that held opinions counter to their own and blame those
papers for spreading 'hate' across society. Now we have have
revelations of the proliferation of 'Fake News' on social platforms
which is being blamed for winning Trump the US election.
In my reading of the of the fake news story I discovered I had
indeed been duped. An image which appeared several times in my news
feed of a young Donald Trump, overlaid with a quote saying if he
ran for president he would run for the republicans because their
voters are idiots, was a fake. Believable to me based on my view of
the man and served to reinforce that view. Would it have changed my
view were it counter to my opinion? On its own I doubt it and of
course, the chances are I wouldn't have even seen it.
Now I'm not for one moment saying that we shouldn't worry about
fake news or miss-reporting, we should. I believe it is critical
that we demand factual accuracy from news organisations,
politicians, advertisers and any figure of authority. This includes
the likes of Facebook and Google acknowledging responsibility for
their part in content surfaced on their platforms. But let's not
kid ourselves in thinking that it will stop people from holding
contrary opinions to one another or, would have stopped people
voting for Brexit or Trump.
The reality is, facts can be used selectively and spun to justify
most arguments and when they can't people are incredibly good at
ignoring them. Opinions however, are not built purely on facts.
They have their foundation in beliefs which, are all together more
emotional and built up over time. This is crucial when you apply to
our world of marketing. Binet and Field, Byron Sharp and many
others provide us with evidence that emotional messaging works
harder than rational. It's not that the rational fact based message
isn't important but its role is often to help justify the emotional
opinion. And as we know faking emotion is much harder than making
up a fact, unless of course you're Meg Ryan.
By Luke Bozeat, Chief Operations Officer