At Madex 2019, John Vlismas stated that we’re just evolved apes who are easily manipulated. Picture: SUPPLIED/MADEX
At Madex 2019, John Vlismas stated that we’re just evolved apes who are easily manipulated. Picture: SUPPLIED/MADEX

The Fundamentals Seminar theatre at this year’s Madex 2019 (#TheOGMarketingExpo) held in Sandton, Johannesburg, was packed throughout the show. With industry heavyweights in the lineup, the seminars alone proved to be worth the cost of the ticket for visitors who didn’t leave their seats from the first session until the end of the day.

Speaking on day one of the expo, John Vlismas not only brought the entertainment but also offered deep and important insights. Representing Upside at Madex this year, Vlismas spoke about happiness as part of his Happiness for Cynics talk.

He explained that he had been making people laugh for a long time but over time realised that happiness was short-lived. He and a handful of people formed Upside to help companies and people learn about the nature of happiness, the role the brain played in sustaining it, and what businesses could do to keep people for a long time. “Happy people lead to happy, profitable, sustainable businesses,” he said.

Citing studies that have proven the human brain is less flawless and evolved than we’d like to think, Vlismas said we were just evolved apes that could be (and were) easily manipulated.

He talked about:

  1. the "Invisible Gorilla" study, where a focus group that formed part of a selective attention experiment completely missed a man dressed in a gorilla suit walk among people;
  2. Yuval Harari’s research that proved inter-subjective entities depend on communication among humans rather than on the convictions and feelings of the individual humans; and
  3. Jordan Peterson’s belief that every object or situation can be perceived in an infinite number of ways, and each action or event has an infinite number of potential consequences.

Vlismas and the team at Upside share the belief that our perception has been hacked. Companies have been hacking our brains for as long as advertising and marketing have existed, he said.

The things we think we need to make us happy are potentially toxic. We have access to more information at a faster pace than ever before and while we’re online looking for things, they are looking for us. Data is becoming more organised than ever before and is being used to manipulate our brains into believing it needs things to be happy. Facebook’s “utter randomness” is strategic – you check in on your likes more frequently and are thus exposed to more advertising.

As a result, we want more: more money, more stuff, more youth, more success – and when we find it, it makes us happy (for a while) but we always quickly go back to the flat 70% happiness level that most human beings maintain.

Upside says the things that contribute to actual happiness are altruism, gratitude, belief, connectedness and partnership, and none of these involve a product.

Vlismas said: “We know how to build and sustain human happiness and we’re spreading the news. We can talk to each other without fighting or becoming polarised. It may seem completely insane but the fact is that SA is primed to be the laboratory that solves racism – we just have to get on the same page as far as this happiness story is concerned.”

Fine. I’m fine. No, really, I’m fine.

Jacaranda FM general manager Kevin Fine discussed the content ecosystem as it used to be, what it looks like now and how content should evolve to address every area in the ecosystem.

Newspapers are dead, Fine said, after he checked the room for members of the old guard (of which there were none), but he added there were a few bastions that realised early on that they’d have to adapt their content offering to survive. There may be paper in their hands, but their news is online, and it includes podcasts, tweets and Instagram-worthy images.

The content economy, as Fine calls it, is a system of cogs that cannot turn without one another; it includes a brand that talks to radio, the web, podcasts, mobile, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube. If you hit the sweet spot at just the right time, you’ll see your business soar, he said.

In the past, marketing experts would take a brand, put it online and monitor “eyeballs” on the site. Today, we’re more interested in bounce rates and heat maps. The ecosystem has changed.

“Spend on podcasts in the US last year ran to about $314m with an expected increase of $1.2bn in the year to come. People are choosing to listen to good content – are you tapping into that?” said Fine.

“Videos running on screens in banks are a waste of money unless those banks are sharing these to online platforms. [Place] the full video on YouTube, a shorter, neater snippet for Twitter or Facebook, and you have an effective piece of content that has been shaped for each platform – suddenly, 100 eyes turn into 2m.”

In closing, Fine urged visitors to get their hands dirty, to play with content possibilities and to learn and share because business success in SA depends on content evolution today.

For more information, visit www.madex.co.za, call +27 11 835 1565 or email info@madex.co.za.

This article was paid for by Specialised Exhibitions.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.