Preface: Science == “the ability to produce solutions in some problem domain”, “the ability to accurately predict outcomes of processes in a given domain based on a set of established originating conditions in that domain”
I’ve spent a chunk of 1Q09 working with a variety of folks (mostly students, I admit. They don’t cost much) solving math and logic problems. It started out with one student and grew to several. The logic problems were my favorites. You’ve probably seen or remember similar ones. They have the general form of:
Five people are sitting around a table; Alice, Bob, Carol, Dave and Ed. Two of the people are married but not to each other. One of the people is engaged. The other two people are taller than the rest but shorter than each other. Two of the men are males, the other is short. On every other Tuesday, Bob checks the height of his watch.
Who is sitting on Ted’s right? And what did that person have for lunch at 2pm on Wednesday?
What started out as sharing principles on logic, reasoning and explaining some elementary problem solving methods turned into a fun study for me. I got to watch reasonably intelligent, reasonably educated people’s cognitive resources slow to a crawl and often stop completely. For most of them the problems were overwhelming. In some cases, literally exhausting.
I’ve seen very similar responses when I explain marketing as a science. That’s not a slight to marketers, by the way.
I can completely understand why lots of marketers, designers, etc., that I talk with prefer to go with their gut as a barometer of what’ll work and what won’t. Eric Peterson’s famous quote (one of, anyway), “Web analytics is hard!” may or may not be true. My personal philosophy (one demonstrated many times during 1Q09 working with these students) is that if a problem is difficult to solve then chances are it’s not being framed (“thought of”, “considered”) in the best form. What I’m thinking is that marketing isn’t being considered in the best form such that problems can be easily solved.
Then again, I’ve been analysing and measuring how the brain-mind responds to information for mumbledy-mumbledy years now. And I’ve stated publicly and online that I believe the future will involve a synthesis of analytic models.
What would happen if marketing really became a science, meaning, it had direct accountability? My first thought is that many so called world-class marketers would be out of a job. Let me give you an example of marketing as a science.
The Problem Stated
Let’s say we have a site that we’ve spent lots of money on (we’ll say US$100,000) designing for a female audience (and I’m simplifying things here to make the math, etc., easier). There’s a three page navigation to closure and standard analytics provides the following visitor information: Page 1 – 100,000 visitors. But only 40,000 of those 100,000 click through to page 2 and only 2,000 end up at the closure page. You’ve just spent US$50/close.
Adding some science
What we discover is that the male to female population on each page is…umm…interesting. Especially when we were told the US$100,000 we paid was for a site designed for a female audience, don’t you think? I mean, heck, the Male:Female visitor ratios are 3:7, 1:1 and 3:1.
Analyzing with science
Now let’s analyze the web pages to determine who they’re really designed for. Not what we were told when we paid the bill, but let’s use some elements of psycholinguistics, neuroscience, anthropology, etc., to determine who will actually respond to the information on each page of our mythological site.
Your pages are actually successful
Congratulations! What we learn by applying some science to marketing is that your pages are working perfectly. They were actually designed to appeal to a M:F audience in a 75:25 ratio and they do! You actually spent all that money to drive away your female audience! Congrats to you!
The good news is, it’s fixable
Yes, this problem is easily solvable. It’s already been solved many times and no, I’m not going to explain how to do it here. What I will share is that the problem was preventable…usually much better than solvable after the fact, it’s preventable before the fact. Proper design could have altered the cost from US$50/loss to under US$4/close.
Marketing can be a science. In this economy, don’t you think it needs to be?
Please contact NextStage for information regarding presentations and trainings on this and other topics.
Links for this post:
- I’m teaching a Masters Class among other things at the iMediaConnection Brand Summit 7-10 June 09 in Colorado Springs, Colorado
- and doing a presentation on Machine Detection of and Response to
User Non-Conscious Thought Processes to Increase Usability, Experience and Satisfaction – Case Studies and Examples at the Towards a Science of Consciousness 2009 11-14 June 09 in Hong Kong, China
- and presenting a formal research paper entitled Machine Detection of and Response to
User Non-Conscious Thought Processes to Increase Usability, Experience and Satisfaction – Case Studies and Examples at The 7th International Conference on Computing, Communications and Control Technologies: CCCT 2009, The 2nd International Multi-Conference on Engineering and Technological Innovation: IMETI 2009 10-13 July 09 in Orlando, Florida
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