Wednesday, March 18, 2015

norman whitfield and barrett strong are here to make everything right that's wrong

Our good friend @MarkSareff had a pop at the growing tendency for some sections of the marketing world to be bewitched by 'neurobollocks' in a post over on Linked in.

And rightly so.

The infamous Martin Lindstrom 'You Love Your iPhone, Literally' article is a particularly salient example.

In any case the idea that individual human brains, studied in isolation from other factors can predict future buying behaviour is pretty flawed.

Studying how and why people behave the way they do in real buying situations over time, and how they act within the broader culture and environment is far more important.

Indeed much of what passes for - and is acceptable as - standard 'market data' - derived from surveys, focus groups, satisfaction scores and the like - is equally flawed, and suffers from many of the same limitations.

Small sample sizes invariably produce more extreme results.

Separate small groups often produce results that bear no resemblance to each other’s.

And, most importantly, lab or focus group outputs are not an analysis of real world behavioural data because the environment has no similarity to the one in which buying decisions will actually be made.

Neuroscience is an important science, there's no doubt about that.

However, as with every new shiny object adopted by the marketing community in an attempt to shortcut real planning rigour, cherry picking and misusing a few 'sexy' techniques off the top and then using the outputs to jump to conclusions is neither correct nor advantageous.

I commented on Mark's piece, noting that we should again be mindful of Sturgeon's revelation (that 90% of EVERYTHING is shit).

For advertising, there must be a middle way, however.

On the art side of the art v science debate is the Bernbach-ian dictate of taste, artistry and magic so venerated by creative departments. But this is not satisfactory either.

In Paul Feldwick's recent book 'The Anatomy of Humbug' - a compendium of popular advertising theory from the last hundred or so years - he correctly points out that all those words exist to close down discussion rather than open it up.

That's not to say that intuition and gut feel aren't useful to guide advertising decisions. In fact there's some pretty decent science to back up the value of smart heuristics.

If I were to open a market research company I'd name it Whitfield and Strong.

A small section of the lyrics from 'I Heard it Through The Grapevine' tell us most of what we need to know.

'People say believe half of what you see, son,
And none of what you hear,
I can't help bein' confused,
If it's true please tell me dear?
Do you plan to let me go,
for the other guy you loved before?'

Believe nothing that consumers tell you they they do.
Believe about half of what you see them do.
And believe nearly all of what the behavioural/sales data tells you they have done, because that's best indicator of what they might do in the future.

Though, you still can't be sure.

All of which is a decent excuse for this...

blog comments powered by Disqus