Wanted: Marketing Mutants

  |  September 16, 2010   |  Comments

We need people who feel more than they think...who trust their guts more than their calculators. We need creatives. People who can invent new ideas out of thin air.

Here's the punch line to save you some time:

Marketing optimization will make your company more successful, but only a marketing mutant can create an earth-shattering, mind-bogglingly astonishing, and long-lasting promotional concept that resonates in the hearts and minds of a target audience.

If you disagree, read on. If you agree and need some support to convince others, read on. If you agree and feel that this premise is obvious on its face and you simply don't need to read further then I'd like to talk to you about other stuff sometime, because we clearly see eye-to-eye.

I believe in a measured, logical, formal program of marketing optimization. Marketing has been in the hands of the "creatives" since the beginning and that most advertising and marketing is based on religion and politics. I believe that taking a measured approach to marketing optimization will increase sales, lower costs, increase customer satisfaction, and allow us to finally gauge the value of Super Bowl advertising.

Religion in marketing. You've seen it. The person with their hand on the budget declares that the marketing mix will include three times the investment in TV than print and twice as much for print than online, because that's the way it's always been done and we've never spent anything on social media marketing so we're not going to start now. Religion in marketing is based on the fact that the CMO cut his teeth in one media or another and, by golly, we're sticking with what we know!

Politics in marketing. This is much more common. This is based on which department head has the ear of the budgetary controllers. Those with family connections, a secret dossier on the boss's wife, and courtside, season tickets usually get a larger slice of the promotional budget. This environment rewards those who periodically reread Machiavelli's "The Prince" and watch Michael Caine in "A Shock to the System."

The best alternative to these options is a numerical meritocracy based on optimizing marketing with metrics. Marketing mix modeling to allocate marketing budget based on results; A/B split testing to see whether "tastes great" or "less filling" wins the day; multivariate testing to determine which combination of elements is superior. This is logical, systematic, and rational.

But it won't bring about world peace, end hunger, or win an industry award. It won't produce a single jingle or a solitary slogan that will be remembered for more than 30 seconds. It will only allow the run of the mill to be the best it can be. It falls victim to the mediocrity of the local maximum.

Picture an upwardly mobile grasshopper. With every hop, he strives to be higher than he was in order to get to the highest place on the planet. He hops forward, back, left, and right and discovers that hopping to the left landed him higher than the other directions. So he keeps jumping to the left and then other directions when that stops paying off.

When he finds the point where every direction ends up lower than before, he is at the tallest point... on the ant hill he's standing on. Had he only hopped four jumps forward, he would have found himself at the base of Mount Everest and might have ended up on the top of the world. As it is, he's at his local maximum.

For an earth-shattering, mind-bogglingly astonishing, and long-lasting promotional concept that resonates in the hearts and minds of a target audience, we need mutants.

We need people who feel more than they think, who see more than they read, and who trust their guts more than their calculators. We need creatives. People who look at one thing and see another. People who can invent new ideas out of thin air. People who get that gleam in their eye and say, "I know, how about..."

Just Do It.
Where's the Beef?
Apple's 1984
Don't leave home without it
Finger lickin' good
Got Milk?
Old Spice Guy

Please understand my dedication to numbers and metrics and machine learning and automated marketing. I am one devoted numbers guy. But I am in awe of those who hit it out of the park. Not just because I never could, but because nobody can consistently. Just like nobody can always buy low and sell high, nobody can always pick the winners at horse races, and nobody can always get the girl. But when somebody does, it blows the numbers out of the water and leaves us all wondering how we can get that brilliance gene and become marketing mutants ourselves.

Don't stop measuring, but don't forget to look up from your spreadsheet now and again to see if you're on top of a local maximum and there might be an Old Spice Guy just four steps to the left.


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Jim Sterne

Jim Sterne is an international consultant who focuses on measuring the value of the Web as a medium for creating and strengthening customer relationships. Sterne has written eight books on using the Internet for marketing, is the founding president and current chairman of the Digital Analytics Association and produces the eMetrics Summit and the Media Analytics Summit.

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