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November, 2013 - Contenteurs

The New Marketer Said to the Veteran Marketer, “You’re Basing Your Big Decision on THAT?”

Posted by | Marketing Testing | No Comments

Young Woman Confused Recent graduates don’t get it.

As marketing students, they’re taught to sample in representative ways – and build adequate sample sizes. They learn the hazards of receiving misleading feedback – and relying on misinterpreted responses.

Then they get entry-level marketing jobs and are invited to sit behind a one-way mirror and observe a famously unreliable (but properly catered) event considered by many a staple of marketing research.

The focus group. Where a collection of strangers join a moderator and become – for one magical moment – armchair critics of advertising concepts or even completed advertisements.

Need C-level executives with authority to approve an enterprise security solution with a six-figure price tag? No problem, according to focus group facilitators.

Focus groups offer qualitative advantages, but the problems with these artificial arrangements include sample sizes too small to yield projectable results; atypical prospects recruited through cash payments; misleading responses resulting from the presence and behavior of peers; and reports for marketing agencies and clients based on misinterpreted feedback.

Amazingly, marketers often make decisions involving millions of dollars based on these flawed exercises with a tiny number of consumers or business prospects.

Very often, a better alternative is live testing of completed advertising.

In the real world, we’ve quickly tested as many as three new campaign directions against an existing approach, using a call to action. Rather than rely on what people say they’ll do, we make decisions based on how they actually behave in the marketplace. We’re talking about controlled experiments with sample sizes large enough to project rollout results with a high degree of confidence.

Testing this way helps ensure that superior campaigns get out there. They often account for the difference between red and black ink.

Online testing is fairly new (Google launched AdWords in 2000), but split-run testing is, well, time-tested. Claude Hopkins, reportedly America’s highest-paid copywriter in the early 1900s, discussed split-run testing using a call-to-action in his 1923 marketing bestseller, Scientific Advertising. The technique was embraced by Claude’s contemporaries including John Caples, author of Testing Advertising Methods and BBDO’s direct response genius-in-residence for decades. David Ogilvy said Scientific Advertising “changed the course of my life.”

I’ve yet to figure out why the technique isn’t more widely used. Live, controlled, low-cost testing options are available across online and offline media. All it takes is marketers willing to think like recent graduates. For perennial students of the craft, there’s no better way of keeping score. And continuously improving.

Marketing Lessons From a Graffiti Artist

Posted by | General Marketing | No Comments


Thousands of artists live in New York City. Each year, thousands of others visit. But one managed to capture the attention of New Yorkers — and a substantial chunk of America — throughout October.

His name, or pseudonym, is Banksy — a British graffiti artist, social commentator, and provocateur who recently completed what he called “an artist’s residency on the streets of New York.”

Tonight, when I Googled “Banksy,” I got back 23.3 million results. On October 31, bidding closed at $615,000 for a thrift shop painting he reworked. The banal landscape, featuring a Nazi officer added by Banksy, was appropriately dubbed “The Banality of the Banality of Evil.”

What should marketing pros and other creative people take away from the Banksy phenomenon?

OVERNIGHT SUCCESS USUALLY TAKES YEARS. Banksy began as a graffiti artist in 1990 — almost a quarter century ago.

IT’S GOOD TO GO BIG. Banksy’s traffic-stopping mobile installation, “Sirens of the Lambs,” depicting toy farm animals heading to a slaughterhouse (the artist called it a statement on the “casual cruelty” of meatpacking) required 60 plush toys, 4 puppeteers, and a slaughterhouse delivery truck with driver. Its YouTube video presently has more than 3.6 million views.

CONTEXT MATTERS. When Banksy put his paintings up for sale on a street with a sign that read “SPRAY ART” and another with “$60” in a starburst, hardly anyone noticed. The day’s final tally came to $420 for paintings that may have been worth more than $1 million. The medium is indeed the message.

FREQUENT POSTS PAY. Banksy didn’t just create a work of art each day of his New York “residency”; he posted details daily on a website called “Better Out Than In.” Some marketers worry about posting too often; most don’t post often enough.

LEADERS TAKE A STAND. In an op-ed The New York Times rejected, Banksy railed the design of the new World Trade Center. It pissed some people off, but he considered it important to speak out. Great ones aren’t afraid to tackle controversial topics.

PEOPLE LOVE SURPRISES. Each day, New Yorkers eagerly awaited Banksy’s next move. No one knew where his artwork would pop up next. The mysterious artist never showed his face, but he seemed ubiquitous. Excellent marketing is never predictable. It’s often surprising.

EXPERIMENTATION IS ESSENTIAL. One could think of this “residency” as one big social experiment. It included graffiti that made Banksy famous — along with work that clearly required the artist to stretch. “Sirens of the Lambs” was considered a tour de force, but some of his words fell flat. That’s how it tends to go. We’ve often said the best marketers are the best testers.

Friendly suggestion: Try being more like Banksy.