Timeless Emotions and New Behaviours: What Shakespeare teaches us about planning today

Technology changes human behaviour, but it doesn’t change human motivation.

Google, Apple, Facebook, You Tube, Microsoft, Twitter, Amazon, Nintendo have changed our lives.

Computers, mobiles, tablets, consoles and (coming soon) smart TV have changed our lives.

We’re  Googling, clicking, browsing, feeding, friending, liking, commenting, poking, posting, tweeting, sharing, downloading, uploading and more. New verbs have appeared to describe new behaviours.

But, take a step back in time to Greek and Roman Gods, Shakespeare and Dickens

All of human emotion is there- power, friendship, love, belonging, adventure, risk, recognition, and fun. And the negative sides like hate, fear, jealously, doubt.

These are the big, unchanging emotions, as powerful today as they were in the times of the Greeks.

Technology may have changed the way we behave, but it hasn’t changed the way we feel.

This is (very) significant for brands and their communications.

If we accept that the decisions we make are emotionally made and rationally justified, we shouldn’t obsess about the latest technology at the expense of understanding the big emotional driver.

In fact, the big motivator becomes more important than ever.

Not only is it the key decision driver, but also, the technologically empowered consumer is  more likely to engage with a brand when the emotion it satisfies and the mood they are in align (and ignore it when they don’t).

The laddish, twenty something male engages with a beer brand (say Heineken), which satisfies his need for sociability when he’s in a sociable frame of mind,

The loving, early thirties mum engages with a motherhood brand (say Persil) when she’s in a belonging frame of mind

The powerful CEO engages with a status brand  (say Bentley ) when he’s in a successful frame of mind.

While technology has transformed and will continue to transform our lives, it’s important we get our priorities right

Identify the big motivational driver first

Work out when and where it is most relevant in our lives

Let the motivation guide the use of new technologies and behaviours to create the emotional connection and drive the decision.

Technology has changed behaviour, but we shouldn’t let the technological tail wag the emotional dog.

The brands we love (and buy) will be those that marry the timeless motivation (the why) with the new behaviours in media (the how).


7 thoughts on “Timeless Emotions and New Behaviours: What Shakespeare teaches us about planning today

  1. I like this – though I would say though that Jonathan Haidt would have preferred his original quote! Great blog Malcolm. A book maybe…? There are so many great texts that relate to the advertising world that some work is needed to draw that into an indicative text – maybe you are it!

  2. I would say that advertisers constantly overestimate the ability of advertising and media behaviours to leverage the emotional connection/motivation

    • Hi John,

      Do you think this is really true, especially over the longer term. If Johnny Walker is held up as the IPAs number one example of great brand building and communication with ‘Keep Walking’ at it’s heart, what is more emotional than the quest to keep striving for success.

  3. Very interesting Malcolm.

    I think the assertion that fundamental motivations haven’t been changed by technology is certainly true, though I think perhaps as yet unproven – for example there is interesting research on the effect of super-heavy technology usage on the composition of the brain (increased short term memory, reduced long term access) which almost certainly does affect fundamental elements like spirituality and emotional affect. But it’s new science and Greek gods are still pretty relevant!

    I can’t remember all the places I’ve read about this, but this is one of them:


  4. I really enjoyed reading this and have now subscribed to your blog. I very much agree with the point you are making–that behavior is driven by emotion. It seems similar to how I, as a psychotherapist, think about a client’s presenting problem. I always look for the “Big Emotion” driving the client’s behavior, beliefs, etc. Underneath there is usually fear or anxiety at the root of the situation. When that is recognized, we can look for the solution.

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