Things have changed. What are you going to do about it?

Introducing MAD//Masters - the hybrid course where you discover how to turn creativity, innovation + behavioural science into competitive advantage alongside the legendary Rory Sutherland.

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Full module breakdown

1. Introduction: How can we raise the status of marketing?

In this introductory episode of MAD//Masters, Rory Sutherland sets out the focus of the course and the challenge to marketers - to raise the influence of marketing in business and wider society. Key discussion points include:

  • Why human perception and reality can be two different things
  • The essential role of experimentation for the ambitious marketer
  • The power of data and statistics - and their limitations
  • How behavioural models help us to understand why people do what they do
  • The importance of taking a creative leap of faith
  • How marketers can combine data, behavioural science and creativity to be more successful and respected
2. Beware marcomms! Why we need to change the perception of what marketing is and how it works

In this second episode, Rory explains why classic marketing phrases can be self-limiting and why businesses should recognise the value of creativity, experimentation and instinctive leaps that do not necessarily fit neatly into 'scientific' data-driven decision making. Rory also introduces the 'Broken Binoculars' concept in which our lens for seeing the world can actually distort reality and cause us to attribute incorrect meaning to customer behaviour.

  • Why the notions of 'marcomms' and 'proposition' are limiting for marketing and marketers
  • Why breakthroughs in business and marketing are often irrational, accidental and serendipitous
  • The problem with marketing and why it doesn't fit into 'scientific' business practices
  • The need for creativity, experimentation and instinct in business
  • Why just because something makes sense it doesn't necessarily mean its true
  • 'The broken binoculars' - why your business lenses can sometimes provide a distorted picture of what is actually happening
  • How the opposite of a good idea can be another good idea
  • Why doing the obvious thing may not be the best solution and why business culture doesn't reward bravery or eccentricity
  • Why following market research and mainstream economics can be a risky business and rarely lead to major breakthroughs
  • The importance of using a 'third eye' of creativity and behavioural science
3. Getting to know how your brand smells, heuristics and why you need to learn to talk to the elephant

This week Rory introduces the concept of heuristics - imperfect but generally sound rules that help us to make decisions quickly that are right most of the time. Rory goes on to talk about why thinking marketers can control the behaviour of customers ('the elephant') can be a risky misconception.

  • The peril of 'met un-needs' and how focusing on them can lead to the misdirection of effort
  • Why the deluded conscious brain thinks its the Oval Office, when in reality it's more like the press office
  • The difference between factual information and emotional stimulus
  • The importance of heuristics: why making good decisions quickly is sometimes more effective than making perfect decisions
  • Why famous brands are in the eyes of consumers to be less likely to make rubbish products
4. Should you trust data? Why we need to experiment + embrace discovery if we want to get lucky

This week, Rory nerds out on data, which he considers to be a vital component of creativity and marketing innovation. But are we using data in the right way? Should we reappraise our relationship with data? Is an overreliance on making decisions based on data - which may look like sensible business practice - attributing incorrect meaning and limiting our ability to discover marketing goldust?

  • Why marketers need to exercise caution when attributing meaning to data
  • Why the model of efficiency means you're less likely to 'get lucky'
  • What marketers can learn from bees - the importance of maverick discovery roles and the 'explore, exploit trade' off
  • The measurement trap - how it over values behaviour that's close to the point of purchase and undermines long-term activity
  • How representative is your data? Why most data is a poor reflection of reality and reflects the past, not the future
  • 'The Wolford paradox': why digital advertising models can lead to misdirected spend and effort Why need to get better at understanding non-linear complex systems
5. Finding your competitive advantage + gain theory: why failing fast can be a risky strategy

In Episode 5, Rory discusses the limitations of 'snapshot data' + why looking at long-term behavioural trends can be a more valuable source of competitive advantage.

Themes include:

  • Defining your source of competitive advantage + gain theory
  • The pros + cons of 'fail fast' as a business strategy
  • Why brands + psychology are essential for innovation
  • The benefit from pursuing ideas that you know will annoy the finance director
  • How data has a subjective meaning based on how you're looking at it
  • Why distinctiveness + brand really matters - but only if your product is good
  • Why people in marketing are weird + don't represent customer behaviour
  • Repeat purchase + usage - more reliable indicators than overall sales growth?
6. Dare to be different + annoying! The importance of creativity + diversity in elevating your offering

This week Rory discusses why distinctiveness, creativity and occasionally being annoying can help boost your brand and business.

Topics include:

  • The relationship between creativity + innovation
  • The vital importance of creativity in answering a question to which you don't know the answer in advance
  • Why it is important to reframe + redefine a problem in an interesting way
  • How to 'dare to be different'
  • Why having a diverse team will aide solving problems creatively
  • How you can elevate your product of service in a way that resonates with consumers
  • Why creativity is not a magic bullet but is the key ingredient in making a breakthrough for all briefs
  • How you and your product can gain attention
7. Herd behaviour - How behavioural economics can help you speak to your board + help you become a better marketer

In episode 7, Rory examines the role of behavioural economics in marketing and how it can enable marketers to communicate effectively with both senior business decision makers and consumers.

Topics include:

  • Understanding how behavioural economics + nudge theory are the missing links between data + creativity.
  • Why creativity needs to be anchored in data
  • Understand why marketers should worry more about how the world feels and not how it looks
  • How to employ behavioural economics to gain a key insight and solve a problem
  • How you can inject the psychology of perception + behaviour into the c-suite
8. Inside the mind of the challenger: Shamil Thakrar, Co-founder, Dishoom

This week’s lecture is a little different as Rory attempts to understand the mindset of the entrepreneur by interviewing Shamil Thakrar, Co-founder of the legendary Indian-Irani Dishoom chain. The origins of Dishoom are far from conventional and bold ideas, creative storytelling and fast innovation have enabled the business to establish an all day concept that has become a destination restaurant across the UK.

Themes include:

  • How rethinking restaurant formats has enabled Dishoom to thrive and secure all day custom
  • Launching in a crowded marketplace: how Dishoom successfully cut through and won the hearts and minds of consumers
  • The advantages of creative storytelling when building a business
  • Growing pains: why overexpansion can be a risky business
  • Driving innovation: how Dishoom successfully adapted to the pandemic and shifted the business in-line with accelerated change
9. Maximising your relationship with your consumers - why it pays to understand your customers

As the great magazine publisher Malcolm Forbes said, “the best vision is insight”. This week Rory’s attention shifts to how brand marketers can reap rewards by building relationships with their customers and understanding the way they behave.

Themes include:

  • The MINDSPACE framework + how to integrate it into your marketing strategy
  • The SCARF model + how you can use it to maximise relationships with your customers
  • The COM.B model of behaviour + how you can identity what needs to change consumer behaviour to alter
  • Two way brands + relational capitalism: How you can make your customers care about you
10. Inside the mind of the challenger: Alexandra Depledge MBE, Founder and CEO, Resi

This week Rory speaks to Alexandra Depledge MBE in the latest of our interviews designed to help marketers understand the mindset of leading entrepreneurs. Resi, an online architectural practice, is Alexandra’s second business, after successfully exiting in 2015. In a far-reaching interview, Rory and Alexandra discuss themes including:

  • Noticing a problem to be solved: how to spot commercial opportunities
  • Getting the timing right: understanding when to innovate and disrupt
  • The art of the pivot: knowing when you need change your approach
  • Why entrepreneurs disproportionately have a background in management consultancy
  • How to create a transformative business
  • How to build a brand
  • Why maintaining a disruptive edge and buccaneering spirit is vital as start-ups scale up
11. Mind readers - How behavioural science can create better + more exciting innovation

This week focus is on how marketers can leverage behavioural science to innovate. Discussion points include:

  • Maximising the potential for future + exciting innovations by using behavioural science
  • Understanding how innovation can help sustain the environment
  • Premiumisation: why status is important
  • How to better understand innate unconscious human motivations + needs
  • Why understanding that value is created in the mind is the key to success
  • Why you should use choice architecture to change people's behaviours
  • How to translate corporate ambition in to individual behaviours
12. How to reassert the influence of marketing within your organisation + think like a human, not a consultant

In the final episode of the course, Rory digests his view on how marketing can regain its influence by embracing a more humanistic approach. Discussion points include:

  • How marketers can elevate their status in their own organisation
  • Understanding why human behaviour trumps technology
  • Why thinking differently about how humans think opens up a new array of more creative and effective solutions for marketers.
  • Being able to have language to talk credibly about marketing to non-marketers
Special bonus episodes!

Rory Sutherland meets Ritchie Mehta, CEO, School of Marketing: How to get ahead in marketing

Rory couldn't resist the opportunity to speak to School of Marketing CEO Ritchie Mehta for this special episode on what aspiring marketers can do to boost their careers and remain relevant in this fast-moving, sometimes dog-eat-dog industry.


Do you want to think differently, learn how to take intelligent risks that at least make you original, and leverage behavioural science and creativity in what you do?

Well this is exactly what you'll learn in our fast approaching November intake of MAD//Masters. Better still we have added a drop-in session with Herdify’s CEO & Founder, Tom Ridges, to enhance the perspective on applying behavioural science in the day-to-day.

Herdify is the world’s first behavioural analytics platform that shows brands where real-world communities are influencing growth. Humans don’t make logical decisions – we’re herd animals (hence the name Herdify!) and are more likely to trust something we see or hear in our community.

Herdify’s AI analyses a brand’s first-party data to detect where brand communities are the most valuable. And its behavioural segmentation insights will get the creative cogs whirring… They can be fed into any online or offline channel, as well as strategic activations such as pop-ups and store locations, to exponentially improve growth and ROI.

Live Mad//Fest London masterclass

Come along to MAD//Fest London on 2-4 July 2024 and you can attend a special in-person masterclass from Rory Sutherland focused on how businesses can apply innovation, creativity and behavioural science to marketing challenges.


Disruption is changing the face of the marketing game + could be the biggest opportunity for your brand, business + career. MAD//Fest + legendary adman Rory Sutherland have teamed up to curate a new hybrid course + community to help you make sense of complexity, adapt to accelerated trends + gain a competitive edge. Click here for more info.

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