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Marketing is Not Math

Will Herman led me to this post earlier this week. It’s a good read and the message is very important – the best marketers are the ones that have the most contact with the customer, they will have the greatest understanding of what motivates them. Mr. Herman is closer to the mark than the original post (which states “Marketing is Math”) when he mentions Marketing as Art.

Although you can apply mathematical analysis to marketing, that doesn’t mean that it’s a scientific pursuit. All of marketing is based on human behavior and human behavior is irrational. Marketing falls into the same category as economics – most economists can use mathematical analysis to explain the past but none of them to their chagrin can predict the future and profit from it. Can’t you just see MTV’s “Cribs of the Supply Siders” now? (Disclosure (because disclosures are all the rage right now) – I am an economist)
In marketing the math is filled with uncertainty – two campaigns are mailed, exactly the same content one happens to bog down at the USPS sectional sort facility, the first hits homes on Friday, the second on monday. The same action, different results. 2+2=4 here, but only 3 there.

(Now hardcore mathematicians could step in here and say “If you had the guts to go beyond calculus 2 and get into the funky stuff like Ring Theory, and other stuff beyond your tiny brain, you’d see that you can mathematically handle uncertainty”. If you’re that smart please get back to working on my flying car and cold fusion instead of reading this.)

Start working in probability and statistics – we sent out this message and it got the attention of x% of our customers. This creates 3x the splash over that. This banner kicks 2% out of their snoozing beta brain state. You need to try and guess human behavior, and that’s an art. Some people are conversationalists or public speakers and others aren’t. You can do some scientific analysis and make some improvements (in fact, that’s the essence of your job and duty), but some public figures will motivate the masses, others will have “365 stupid quote” calendars made for them. See if you can keep your calendar limited to one edition.

Ultimately you need to take Mr. May’s advice – stop looking for consultants (unless you have money for me, of course), and start testing ways to talk to your customer.