I don’t blame them. For one thing, I don’t know anyone else who uses the term. I shamelessly ripped it off from the medical profession.
For another, they’re not far off. Most marketing isn’t evidence-based. Marketers usually make choices from gut feel (“I have an eye for what works”), focus groups (not the least bit predictive), in-person, phone, written and online surveys (ditto), recall scores (from which they mistakenly think they can infer causation), concurrent sales (ditto), informal feedback (like, “everyone I know loves it,” which is useless), etc., etc.
Rather than assume an ad is successful because it’s popular or easily recalled, our shop devises ways to track its performance right down to the final transaction. It lends a bit of science. You begin to see which techniques work best, and which tend not to work at all. You’d be surprised how many popular ads aren’t very effective. You increase your odds of selling more with an evidence-based approach.
Here’s an example. One of our clients wanted to know whether to continue to market under its own, well-known brand, or under the better-known brand of its parent company. The question was not which brand would be better liked, but which one would produce more sales—a scenario in which management’s opinions, focus group feedback, interviews and surveys could yield suggestive but not conclusive answers. So we put together a scientific test. We mailed a series of identical offers to the client’s best and most frequent customers, and to prospects who closely resembled them in terms of demographics and psychographics. But one-third of the mailers were marked with the lesser-known brand, one-third with the better-known brand, and one-third with an unknown brand. Then we counted the results, and repeated the test a number of times to rule out flukes.
The result surprised our client and us. It may surprise you as well. In this case, the brand made no difference in sales. In fact, the only tested element that affected sales was the nature of the deal we offered—and the difference was dramatic.
Caution: I’m not saying brands don’t matter. I dare say that an offer from Disneyland will fare better than the same offer from a no-name amusement park. This was one test, for one client. Nor do the results suggest that the brand for this client or its particular vertical is irrelevant. But they certainly indicate that neither brand had the power that the client thought. The biggest take-away, of course, is that this client’s customers cared more about the deal they were offered than about who offered it.
As for those on the client side rooting for one brand or the other? Neither side was happy. Only the commission-based salespeople were thrilled.