Research continues to be something marketers do – and agencies recommend – only if “affordable”. During the last great boom in print advertising, this tendency to be penny wise was much strengthened as more people outside Madison Avenue came to know about how much one of the gods, William Bernbach (godfather of many immortal campaigns, including Volkswagen and Avis Rent-a-Car), abhorred the wholesale worship of audience research.
No doubt that inspired campaign for Avis (“We’re No. 2…We try harder”) would never have seen the light of day had he not rejected the pre-test findings that readers would find the tack defeatist. But the intuitions of genius cannot justify the prejudices of mere mortals.
Much of this penny-pinching in India is defended on the ground that India is not like the US. (Part of this attitude derives from misplaced pride that we know better than these crazy big-spending Americans, though their economy is the strongest in the world. The other part has to do with rationalising failures, especially when the desi members of the marketing team have failed to implement an international campaign that they themselves had hailed before. But then, we are like that only.) Even visiting overseas honchos fall for these lines of patter.
Ad agency creatives – especially the stars of branding – ape Bernbach because so much of their output sells no one but their clients and, maybe, the local Ad Awards judges. Testing would only expose their creative mortality. And hardboiled marketers know that apart from the critical element of name registration that comes from well targeted marketing communications, the name of the game is still sound pricing and distribution.
The fact remains that what doesn’t work is an avoidable waste. We are not saving money if our advertising has less than the impact required for effective marketing. And not even Sir Martin knows what works and what doesn’t unless it is tested. If excuses can be made for not pre-testing the message in traditional media, there can be none whatsoever on the Internet. Online media are so trackable and multiple executions of content can be delivered at so little incremental expense – no printing, no materials, no MR agency, no gophers, even tabulation is automatic, bar the printouts. The only expense really is on web analytics. No doubt, audience demographics are harder to gauge, but the impact of messaging – the bottomline for marketing communication – is not.
The reward for incorporating analytics is huge. As a recent article in Silverpop confirms, “… crafting these highly-relevant email messages can generate nine times more improvement in revenue and as much as 32 times more improvement in net profit over undifferentiated broadcast campaigns. Even after including additional Web analytics spending, the use of Website clickstream data as a targeting attribute still significantly improves both topline and bottom-line results.”
In other words, besides the cost-related economies, the returns too are juicy. Our online marketing will, one hopes, some day graduate from the waste of over-dependence on massive overkill (and boredom for readers, untold irritation for recipients of junk mail and spam and mind-numbing TVCs) to the economies of targeted messaging. We need to re-learn the truths of direct marketing as they are applicable to the Internet. Let us not have to re-invent the wheel.