Psychopaths in Marketing

Marketers spend a lot of time discussing and judging ideas, usually taking into account the following:

  • desired brand reach
  • desired level of engagement
  • desired sales outcomes

Factors cleaved off from emotion, cleaved off from creativity and cleaved off from psychological insight.  What is increasingly not given serious weighting is any individual’s desire to actually do any of the actions the marketer wants of them.

Like psychopaths, some marketers spend very little time taking into account their audiences motivations, sometimes they don’t even particularly care.  This is because marketers’ best friends have become those paper-based prisons called spreadsheets. Spreadsheets containing made-up figures to achieve made-up targets. The world of marketing has gone Vulcan – numbers in a column of a spreadsheet have come to hold massive significance, ahead of that former holy grail, The Big Idea and ahead of strategies rooted in any level of behavioral psychology.

I have sat in meetings where marketers have gone granular asking for figures of predicted retweets to go into their spreadsheets.  Instead of asking why someone would be persuaded to retweet something or take any action for them – they ask instead the number of retweets they should they aim for.

As a result of this shift, empathy is rapidly becoming an undervalued quality in marketing circles, whilst the ability to reassure with an Excel spreadsheet is given absolute presidence.

To quote Rory Sutherland whose thinking you may have guessed I have a great deal of respect for:

 “There’s this strange double standard, which is if you have a creative idea it’s very heavily policed by rational people. But the same does not apply the other way round. If you come to a rational conclusion; or you have a spreadsheet or anything with a number attached… you are not policed by really whacky people… there is fundamentally an asymmetry, a double standard, and actually I think it may be crippling us.”

Marketeers if you are not already, I think it’s time to start passing for human again, not Vulcan.

(I appreciate this may sound hypocritical coming from a bloke who developed a measurement tool for more scientifically evaluating PR activity – but I am shouting out for regaining the right balance between understanding the cold-end data and not being governed by it)

A response to this post:

Stefanie

Right! You need to find a healthy balance between what the metrics are telling you and what your gut is telling you. Metrics should be used directionally not lead the strategy. You can’t dismiss the psychographics of a community simply because the numbers don’t show you the evidence. Marketers need to remember, advertising existed long before any metrics were available, and you know what, they still worked! Do the research, read the numbers, and trust your gut.

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One thought on “Psychopaths in Marketing

  1. Right! You need to find a healthy balance between what the metrics are telling you and what your gut is telling you. Metrics should be used directionally not lead the strategy. You can’t dismiss the psychographics of a community simply because the numbers don’t show you the evidence. Marketers need to remember, advertising existed long before any metrics were available, and you know what, they still worked! Do the research, read the numbers, and trust your gut.

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