Marketing is a combination of science, statistics, and a bit of gut feeling.

Marketing is a combination of science, statistics, and a bit of gut feeling.

Some say marketing and design is an art form. Others argue it’s based in behavioral science, psychology, statistics, and visual studies. And a last group will simply tell you it comes from the gut. Well, I think they’re all right (and subsequently all a little wrong).

We’re creatures of habit

It can be shown that our psyches can be influenced by our five senses. Moreover, how others react to certain stimuli can affect our own reactions. Empirically, it’s clear we all can be influenced by advertising or infomercials wouldn’t be so successful. Admit it, you have some useless gadget or gimmick sitting in a drawer some place.

So doesn’t this indicate marketing is all about manipulating our psychology? By using behavioral science against us? To train us to be good consumers? Thereby lending credence to the "marketing & design are a science" argument?

Well, yes and no. Since not everyone reacts to the same emotional triggers or behavioral influences - it’s still a mostly a shotgun approach when it comes to neural marketing. Even if you build a detailed profile for your target customers - and even if that prospect is in a very narrow niche - no single approach will be completely successful. Our behaviors and psyches are shaped by our individual experiences.

I consider it this way. Therapy is generally done individually or in small groups. Why? Because in larger groups the communication pathways break down. You can’t get personal. You can’t form an intimate bond and discover what motivates an individual if you’re dealing with a large collection of people.

Enter the statisticians

Personalized marketing, data mining, and statistics are very popular in marketing and design currently. The wealth of information that can be collected, pooled, and used to build a very specialized and likely personalized profile for individuals is rather alarming. We’ve all heard the story of the irate father heckling Target for marketing prenatal vitamins to his teenage daughter, only to find out their data mining had alerted them to her pregnancy before she’d told her parents. And yes, this can be a powerful tool. But it’s also not foolproof.

First, statistics can be a matter of interpretation. Sure the numbers don’t lie, but what trends or patterns they depict can be spurious or influenced by the observer. I’m not saying they don’t help in making decisions - statistics are a valuable part of the equation, as is all incoming data. But it’s not as clear-cut a line as some would like you to believe. Statistics A indicate this, so we should do B, and therefore C will be the outcome. It’s simply not that foolproof.

It takes some guts too

The best and smartest marketers that I know and admire seem to rely on their gut instinct as well as data and psychology. They recognize that humans are fickle creatures that are highly skeptical of – if they don't outright despise – marketing today.

So it’s intelligent use of all available information mixed with a “gut” understanding of what motivates your prospects and/or customers and the “guts” to try new tactics and to abandon failed strategies without looking back that seem to bring the most success.

The need to rely on all aspects of marketing via psychology, behavior, statistics, data mining, and one’s own gut feelings will likely always be the case. Since you can’t expect every person will react the same to your messaging, design, or marketing. We humans simply aren’t that easy to collectively “figure out” or to persuade - our brains & hearts just don’t work that way.

Feb 12, 2015

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