Each of you can write the rest of this story. We live in a world where more and more businesses are run by number crunchers — or worse, creatives who report to number crunchers.
I had occasion to work on a project this past week that was truly fantastic — a brand marketing play that made total sense. Not to give anything away or make the client feel stupid, but the goal was simple. Associate the client’s product with a well-known brand, and create a win/win outcome for both client and brand. Simple. Right?
So this morning I get a call from the client asking me the following: Is it a good idea to associate his product with a well-known brand? Will it really help his clients make a decision to buy his product? How will he know which brand is best? How can he convince other executives in the company that this is a good idea? And, my favorite, how can he make sure that if this doesn’t work, my company gets fired, not him!
Before I could answer with some Yoda-like, pithy response, the client informed me that the answer was research.
Great! Let’s do some research. We can start with an omnibus study to get some baseline numbers, then we’ll get some existing users of your product in a focus group, then we’ll get some people who decided not to buy your product in a different kind of group. We’ll do a few one-on-ones with selected individuals and create a report that provides a balanced analysis of the quantitative and qualitative results. Give us four weeks and $X dollars, and we’ll get started today.
Only one problem.
$X dollars is too expensive. It turns out that the big boss doesn’t believe in research. You know where this is going. We’re going to have the nightmare scenario — cheap research. Ugh! If you believe in consumer research, the only thing worse than no research is cheap research. It’s truly the worst of both worlds. So, the client is going to handle the research with a freelancer and an in-house research person, and let me know how it goes. They’ll save a bunch of money on the research, but then what?
Let me state for the record (and to avoid mean e-mails and postings) that I do believe in research. I also believe that if you are going to do it, you should do it right.
That being said, I also believe that this story is not unique, and it illustrates a sad shift in the business of marketing. There is something to be said for people who “feel” marketing, people who know their customers and understand how to emotionally communicate to them. These marketers can almost always be found a small companies, but in big corporations they are a dying breed.
You can blame this “numbers only” trend on several different things: accountants and lawyers in marketing positions, operations guys doing marketing, the Peter Principle, etc. But I’d rather just call it what it is — people without marketing skills trying to take personal risk out of their jobs.
Add the census-based, hyper-accurate results afforded by advanced media and Internet marketing vehicles to this mix, and you’ve just increased the fear factor geometrically. Research has a place — it’s important. But it is misused so unbelievably often, it’s a wonder anything of real value gets done.
You may have a very different tale of two marketers. I’d love to hear them. Use the first paragraph of this column as your starting point, click below and add your paragraphs — it will be a good way to vent and a great way to get a laugh.