Evolutionary biology applied to creative strategy
Data-driven marketer with $50m spent and 8,000 experiments run — Michael Taylor — shares a powerful approach in a new book on improving brand performance through creative testing. Learn how to break campaigns down to their component parts, or ‘memes’, and remix what works to drive growth. Find the right combination of memes and you win.
- Read the introduction Chapter 0: Start Here
- Read what I’ve written so far Essays
- Or scroll down to learn more 👇
Everything is a Remix
Despite advancements in technology, our brains still work the same as they did back in the Stone Age. With a finite number of ways to hold our attention, everything we 'create' is a combination of what came before.
Keep a Swipefile
Most marketers try what worked for them before, or what they heard worked elsewhere. They either get lucky, or they get it wrong. You can improve your odds by building a collection of tested and proven ideas.
Every creative work can be broken down into its component parts, or 'memes'. If you do this enough, you’ll start to notice patterns: tactics that work again and again, across multiple campaigns.
Viruses of the Mind
What is a meme
No Unique Snowflakes
Nothing is original
Nurture is Nature
How memes evolved
In Defence of Marketing
The value of memes
How memetics is used
How memetics is abused
How to use memetics
Memetics as a science
Memes in the Machine
The future of memetics
Winning meme combinations
About the Topics
About the Author
I’m a data-driven marketer and former agency owner, with $50m spent, and over 8,000 experiments run. I’ve had this idea stuck in my head for 6 years, but have always been too busy to share. I owe a large part of my success in growing Ladder to 50 people to thinking about marketing memetically – those familiar will remember the Playbook, 800 proven growth tactics that formed the core of our service offering. In writing this book I hope to pass on the best of what I learned: replicate my most successful memes, so to speak.
“Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catchphrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches. Just as genes propagate themselves in the gene pool by leaping from body to body via sperms or eggs, so memes propagate themselves in the meme pool by leaping from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called imitation.” – Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
After reading “The Selfish Gene” by Dawkins I was blown away. Here was a book that came out in 1976, and coined the term ‘meme’, but is still largely unread by the marketing community. Once I saw how powerful the ideas behind evolutionary biology could be when applied to marketing, I started to see it everywhere. Learning to reverse-engineer the memes behind successful campaigns, became my single most important skill. It led me to work with an impressive roster of brands, and get mouth-watering results in difficult competitive situations. Now you get to benefit from it too.
Where did you get this idea?
I first got interested in this topic after watching “Everything is a Remix”, which inspired my Medium post “Nothing new under the sun” in February 2016. I realized the power of the idea 2 years later, after reading The Selfish Gene by Dawkins in March 2018. Over the next 3 and a half years, I built up 75 pages of notes on the topic. When I finally wrote about it again in November 2021, it quickly became the most popular post on my site. So I committed to writing the book.
What are your qualifications?
I’m no scientist or academic, just a motivated practitioner. I graduated with an MSc in Economics before my first marketing job in 2010 at Efficient Frontier (acquired by Adobe). I co-founded an agency called Ladder in 2014, and grew it to 50 people before leaving in 2020. I also taught marketing at General Assembly, Startup Institute, and LinkedIn Learning, where 185,000+ people have taken my courses. Recently I’ve been consulting and building new products (vexpower.com).
When is the book coming out?
I have been writing at least 4 x 250 word essays per week since the first week in January 2022, which gives me 52,000 words by the end of the year. Then my plan is to pull everything together into a coherent structure and self-publish when it’s ready. I expect my essays to form the core of the final book, combined with additional unpublished content.
You can read what I have written so far below:
“Who controls the memes, controls the Universe” – Elon Musk