By Suzanne Basra, Content & Internal Communications Manager at Ogilvy UK


We live in an age of incredible technological progress. However, the way humans harness and adapt these technologies is largely dependent on behavioral change.

Ogilvy UK Vice Chairman, Rory Sutherland, gave a keynote at unbound this week which delved into this very topic, looking at today’s data-obsessed culuture, the importance of behavioural economics and how businesses and marketers of all sizes today can tap into behavioural insights to thrive in an increasingly disruptive landscape.

Introducing innervation

“The biggest determinant of what succeeds & what fails now is psychological, not technological”. Rory kicked off by highlighting the importance of perception and outlining innervation.

“Whether something is good or bad doesn’t depend on what it is – it depends on how you perceive it” he says. Innervation is realizing something is valuable not because of what it is, but how we look at it. And that is, in large, down to behavioural science and marketing.

It’s time to ditch logic

“We need to distinguish between where economics is useful and where it is actually dangerous” says Rory on the use of logic in the innovation process.

There are, of course, situations where logic can be helpful. However, as a marketer Rory believes it is difficult as “you’re in an environment where everything is trying to be logical but you have to try to be different”. If you’re logical as a marketer, you will simply end up in the same place as everyone else rather than somewhere new.

For Rory, when it comes to marketing he believes logic is overused – “if the answer were logical, someone would have already found it”. When looking to innovate, Rory advises to look for the non-logical and non-rational answers and to “test counterintuitive things because your competitors won't.” If we’re embracing real innovation, we must push ourselves and our clients out of our comfort zones.

Moving beyond data

Rory encouraged listeners to “be mindful that data is often used to give a false sense of certainty”. The numbers can obscure important things about customer experience by aggregating away important information.

As much as looking at what the data says, Rory stressed the importance of not forgetting how to use information and data. Rory outlined five factors from David Rock’s SCARF model, which if boosted can improve innovation in business: Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, Fairness.

Prioritise creativity

Rory argued that “incrementalism in advertising is destroying trust”, citing that most online ads are not written by a copywriter who truly cares about and understands the consumer. Which is why the bulk of online ads are in Rory’s words “not very good”.

Speaking to the tech-heavy audience, Rory made a plea for the prioritization of creativity, for the creative not to be chipped away at the expanse of logic in the business environment.

The essence of modern success in advertising is still creativity.


See a recording of Rory's talk via unbound here.

There's more from unbound London as Ogilvy Consulting's Paul English talked transforming brands through innovation here.