Your Opinion Doesn’t Matter
BY BROOKE NIEMIEC – CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER
Marketing has long been a subjective space. It’s not difficult to imagine people in conference rooms wrestling on a conference table over which creative treatment was better. Arguments would rest upon personal preferences (“I always go with cats over bunnies”), gut feelings (“Trust me—I can just tell this one will work”), random facts (“Let’s use red, the color of action”), or unexplained feelings (“I don’t know why, I just like this one better”). In the absence of data, these were probably all equally valid arguments.
Thankfully, we’re no longer operating in that absence of data—we’re practically buried by it now. The ubiquity of big data, the evolution of quicker and cheaper testing platforms, and the expansion of marketing into less expensive forms of media have all theoretically made the subjectivity of marketing obsolete.
A few companies have started to get this right by taking a more scientific approach to marketing. Instead of guessing, they use hypotheses to test everything they put into the market. Literally everything. Each creative execution comes in multiple versions, and the versions compete against each other until a statistically significant winner emerges. The beauty of this approach is that, because everything is tested, no arguments can ensue. The objectivity of this approach can help you eliminate those uncomfortable conversations about who is right. It no longer matters what you think; it matters what your customers think.
While a handful of exceptions have adopted this approach, there is still a lot of room to improve when it comes to taking the subjectivity out of creative decision-making. So, how do you make your marketing decisions more objective? The following five steps can help you take your opinion out of the equation and focus on what does matter—how your customers think and respond to what you do.
1. IT’S NOT AS HARD AS YOU THINK TO CREATE MANY VERSIONS TO TEST
Every customer’s behaviors, attitudes, and characteristics represent easy means of creating versions—each of these are messaging or channel components that could be modified. Are there geographical differences? Channel preference differences? Price sensitivity differences? If you were testing across 5 countries, 4 marketing vehicles, and 3 levels of product offerings, you’re already at 60 potential tests. The trick is to narrow down the components that are most likely to drive differences in behavior and focus on creating those first.
2. IT’S OK TO BE CHEAP
It might seem obvious, but it’s worth stating that the 60 versions you identified in step 1 don’t all need to be turned into TV spots. Start with something fast and inexpensive, such as Pinterest or Facebook advertising. Use that platform to help narrow the 60 ideas down to the 5 most effective concepts, then move those to a more expensive platform. By the time you get to a global marketing campaign, you should have multiple test results that confirm you’re making the right decision.
3. IT’S NOT OK TO COMPROMISE TEST QUALITY
60 versions of a creative concept being tested on an inexpensive platform are pointless unless you can achieve a big enough sample size to interpret the results. Again, this might seem obvious, but we continuously run across marketing teams who are stuck presenting “questionable” or “inconclusive” findings because they forgot to make sure they could achieve the sample they needed.
4. KPIS MATTER
Be careful of what you set yourself up to measure. Are you aiming for the highest brand recall? Lowest skip rate? Highest click-through rate? Greatest brand affinity? The same creative concept won’t—and can’t—win at all of these. Every key stakeholder needs to agree before the test what the measure of success will be, or you risk replicating the conference table arguments post-test—this time about the best metric rather than the best creative.
5. PROMISE TO ACCEPT THE RESULTS
If your favorite idea doesn’t win, drop it. If your customers tell you they want the boring ad with a white background and purple text by responding with a higher conversion rate, go with it. The goal of this process is to enable you to quickly learn what customers like and respond to. You will gain more credibility internally by accepting the winner and keep the process moving.
At first, it might be hard to admit that when it comes to marketing, your opinion doesn’t matter. However, your ideas are still a critical component of getting the customer experience right—keep the ideas coming, and make sure you listen to what your customers are telling you. In the end, they will reward you with behavior that improves your bottom line.