Mastering the art of scientific marketing

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If you knew with 100 percent certainty that an investment of $100 would give you an ROI of 200 percent, would you make it? If you could clearly identify the cause and effect of your successful marketing activities, would you do it? Surprisingly, the answer to both questions for many marketing departments is no.

Few marketing leaders take a deliberate and systematic approach to plan, execute, and review the success of their marketing activities. Even fewer truly understand the underlying reasons for their successes or failures. Management by ‘gut feel’, prior experience, or pure luck is still widespread among marketers. So why are they surprised when they must fight to win the support of the CEO and other senior management?

In a recent survey of 1,200 CEOs globally by the Fournaise Marketing Group, a shocking 80 percent of CEOs admit they do not really trust and are not very impressed by the work done by marketers. In comparison, 90 percent of the same CEOs do trust and value the opinion and the work of CFOs and CIOs. In the survey, 80 percent of CEOs believe marketers are too disconnected from the short-, medium- and long-term financial realities of the business.

More than ever before, today’s marketing chiefs influence critical parts of the business, including product research and development, sales, customer experience, etc. Yet while companies invest in new capabilities for manufacturing, procurement, finance, and even HR, rarely do companies make significant investments in developing and institutionalising their marketing capabilities. Marketers must deliver the art of the craft with the science to back it up. Many know this, but can’t move beyond their marketing comfort zones to spur innovation.

As a marketer, chances are you wish you were advertising or marketing around the hit television sitcom The Big Bang Theory. The show revolves around the exploits of four scientist friends. So why not take a lesson from the nerdiest of the bunch - Dr. Sheldon Cooper - and let science drive your decisions?

Scientific marketing is the systematic study and application of marketing activities and their impact on customer behaviors. In other words, scientific marketing is a more thoughtful approach to marketing. It is learning from the past, dissecting marketing successes and failures into its individual components, and taking advantage of the insights gained from them. It might not be as exciting and fun as traditional marketing, but if done well, it resonates with marketers and achieves measurable results in ways traditional marketing can’t.

Ideally, companies should document everything they learn as they work on different initiatives, and then institutionalise the successful methods they derive. Other disciplines such as finance, IT, manufacturing, and others tend to follow very structured and deliberate approaches to their operations. This has given birth to many rigorous modus operandi (e.g. TQM, ISO, etc.). But marketing departments have yet to embrace that level of sophistication and standardisation.

A scientific approach allows marketing initiatives to be repeatable, predictable, consistent, and institutional. Those attributes may not be fashionable but they are extremely important to a company’s bottom line. By being repeatable, marketers can leverage a past approach to duplicate the success of a new product launch, pricing strategy, or promotion. A predictable initiative means that the expected returns become more reliable. Delivering a consistent product, brand, and customer experience are what drive customers to choose and stay with companies like Amazon.com, Emirates, Bose, Apple, or BMW over competitors. And with institutional programmes, companies become less dependent on any one person and can leverage a high level of institutional knowledge and practices with both old and new employees at any time.

The benefits of scientific marketing are evident in organisations such as Apple, which many predicted would disintegrate after the death of its charismatic leader Steve Jobs. Yet, Apple has since fared well as Jobs successfully institutionalised a strong culture that follows a more rigorous and systematic approach in all areas, including marketing. The way Apple does business and makes management decisions is explicitly documented in internal case studies, and implicitly inculcated in employees to ensure Apple maintains its culture. There are just things that define how Apple does business, e.g. simplicity, premium pricing, high-end branding, rare compromises on product quality, etc. The same could be said of other companies known for their disciplined approach to marketing, such as consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble.

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