I once worked in a building that housed a photo studio. The good news was that we often rode in the elevator with pretty, pretty models. The bad news was that they often seemed flummoxed by the elevator button panel and would hover over it, looking for the 12th floor.
Yes, human models have a reputation for acting dumb. By the same token, computer models often act dumb, too. As a result, marketers need to take caution when employing models.
It would be wrong of me to use a picture of a pretty young lady just to get clicks.
As a blogger, I try to cover a lot of ground in marketing and marketing data. My posts range from how-tos to POVs to the occasional bit of humor. And then everyone once in a while, I like to go completely “out there” and tackle a marketing issue with a decidedly off-kilter approach. This will be one of those times.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how people shop, both in-store and online, and it’s given me some potential insight into how marketers might be able to develop more appealing experiences for customers.
Behold, Schroedinger’s Cart:
No cats were harmed in the creation of this extremely arduous pun
Physics Nobel Laureate Erwin Schroedinger (or Schrödinger, if you must have the umlaut) famously posited a thought experiment about a cat in a box. Schroedinger asked the reader to imagine that a a random event inside the box would release a poison gas and kill the cat but that the outside observer would have no idea whether that random event occurred. He famously asserted that the cat was both alive and dead until the observer opens the box.
This is ridiculous, of course. Except this thought experiment perfectly describes how we often shop.
A few days ago, I had the privilege of recording an episode of the Inspiring Action podcast with my old fellow traveler Mark DiMassimo (I’ll share a link when it’s published). Among other things, I discussed simple ways to bring data-centered thinking into marketing without making yourself or your team crazy. Then Mark asked me a simple yet insightful question that honestly had never occurred to me: what did I mean by mathematical model?
OK, I would have preferred “what can you tell us about the rumors of your hook up with Sofia Vergara?” or “what was it like crushing a grand slam to win the World Series?” but the question forced me to articulate something most people gloss over. We often talk about “the model,” but what does it actually entail? If I wrote more clickbait headlines, I’d say “the answer will astonish you.”
Heavy duty mathematical modeling requires a sophisticated statistical approach backed by computing power and software know-how. However, everyone reading this post has access to his or her own surprisingly effective model: your own brain.
In short, you think in math even when you don’t think you do. Surfacing this sub-conscious math can make you a better marketer.
In my last post, I discussed how age cohorts may have a major impact on the future of baseball in America. As a result, I’ve paid more attention to cohorts (Generation X, Millennials, etc.) in my daily peregrinations.
Enter Count Leo Tolstoy, whose War And Peace I’ve been reading. (Yes, I’m reading a hoity-toity classic; it’s cheaper and has a greater chance of being worthwhile than trying my luck with new books.) This quote stopped me in my tracks:
…mentioning “our days” as people of limited intelligence are fond of doing, imagining that they have discovered an appraised the peculiarities of “our days” and that human characteristics change with the times. (translation by Aylmer Maude; emphasis by me)
In other words, Count Leo considers a fool anyone who believes that generations differ fundamentally from one to the next. Should we agree with him?
Michael Lewis’s 2004 book Moneyball documented a revolution in how baseball teams evaluate players. More than a decade after the book, all Major League teams use statistics like WAR, Fielding Independent Pitching and Range Factor per Game. Now, Major League Baseball wants fans to get in on the act with Statcast, Using both radar and special cameras, Statcast gives incredibly detailed information on nearly every movement on the field.
Not pictured: Explanation of how a Major League infielder flubs a cutoff throw
If Guinness World Records had a category for Most Confounding Marketing Audience, I’m pretty sure that small businesses would win.
I’ve worked on countless projects for large businesses that can’t afford to call on small businesses (SMBs) with traditional sales staff and try to use digital marketing to fill the gap. When asked for more detail about these prospects and their motivations, the marketers tend to shrug. At best, they can give a size range of businesses that fit into the SMB categories. Sometimes, firms with 50 or fewer employees make up the SMB category; other times, they run up to 99 employees. In addition, some marketers recognize the SOHO, or small office/home office category (1-5 or 1-10 employees) as a separate group entirely. Or not.
Defining your business audience as “businesses with 5-50” employees helps about as much as defining a consumer audience as “people aged 5-50,” which is to say, not at all.
In the absence of more definitive firmographic data (business type, region, firms’ customer type), time actually describes the small business audience better than employee count.
Trippy, but he makes a point
Small businesses don’t have time, and the marketers who cater to this lack of time will succeed.
Manufacturers put on exhibits at auto shows because they want to sell cars to adults, but sometimes they recognize another key attendee group: kids. Subjects of “My Super Sweet 16” aside, the kids don’t buy cars, of course, but they do have immediate value to the exhibitors for two reasons:
Kids attend the auto show in droves ($7 tickets help) and drag adults with them. As in, adults who potentially buy cars
While a lot of brands offer kid-friendly exhibits (Jeep had Camp Jeep and other booths had video games), not as many have anything specific for the kids. Let’s look at one that did have something for the kids, Ford Trucks, and what they did well and not so well.
Good: Hands-on brand experience
My Research Assistants
Ford Trucks let kids 12 and under built snap-together models of their halo truck, the Raptor.