The Right Curiosity

By Adam Morgan, 13/05/2014

One of the most frequent pieces of advice one sees handed out to young communications planners is ‘be curious’.

I used to say the same.

But I’ve changed.

What I now recommend to a young planner is not curiosity but the right curiosity – that is, the right balance of curiosity. Because what I frequently find is too great a curiosity about what’s happening on the edges, and not enough about what’s happening at the centre.

Let me explain. We all know that curiosity about the edges is key to innovative thinking, to ideas. And it is easy – and delicious – to graze on those edges: they offer rich pickings of novelty and conversation, and the chance to appear smart, interesting, and on the button to client, creative and boss.

But the edges increasingly seems to be the only focus of curiosity. What one sees much less of is planners who are as curious about the centre: who take the time to really understand and explore  the seminal, data-based  research, for instance, by Byron Sharp and by Field and Binet into how marketing does and doesn’t work.  The things that really keep their Marketing CMO up at night. To take an even more specific example, one sees a great deal of curiosity about Big Data as The Next Big Thing (the new front edge) , but not enough about what the evidence (such as Field and Binet’s learnings in ‘The Long and The Short of It’, for instance) tell us about the circumstances in which Big Data will represent either a springboard or a landmine to their client’s marketing success (the centre of the issue).

The media imperative around innovation has made us obsessed with the new; planners are just reflections of their agencies in this regard. And any obsession creates an inherent imbalance, which is not healthy. We need to be aware of the new, but with a deep understanding of the centre.

We need not curiosity, but the right curiosity.

This article first appeared in Campaign Asia Pacific

Follow Adam @eatbigfish


2 Responses to “The Right Curiosity”

  1. Catherine Davis says:

    Great post Adam. I agree. I think the focus is too often on cultural insight and not enough on brand insight. While this often makes for interesting work, it is often work that people say they love but can’t remember which brand did it. The tough assignment is to marry the two in a way that makes the brand difficult to forget.

  2. Phil Adams says:

    Hi Adam

    Totally agree about applied curiosity rather than pure curiosity. I posted the article below recently (hope you don’t mind me sharing here) about how planning needs to be more than the voice of the consumer. Amongst some other voices I propose are the voices (or curiosities) of commercial purpose (be more curious about WHY?) and of HOW it works (be more curious about the science and economics of advertising in all its guises).