Empirical Marketing

The New SRH Empirical Marketing Dispatch


Remember when we used to send you a weekly “Dispatch”? Where have we been? Oh, just on a noble quest to solve our most existential problem …

Making the case for courageous marketing in c-suites and boardrooms.

All roads led us to the field of marketing effectiveness, which we call “empirical marketing” — principles driven by decades of research into the way markets actually function and the way humans really make decisions (spoiler alert: it’s not rational … more below on that).

Some empirical marketing principles turn long-standing marketing “wisdom” on its head, while others finally validate with data what we’ve known all along (such as great creative returns every penny and then some).

New research is coming out daily from the likes of WARC, the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute and IPA.

Just like medical practitioners must translate the latest research into more effective treatments for patients, we must translate this research into more effective strategy, creative and media practices.

The SRH Empirical Marketing Dispatch will reveal what we’re learning and how we’re using it.

Because half of all marketing dollars still go to waste in 2024.

We can do better than this!

But only if we accept The Truth…

“To Err is Human”

Our job as marketers is to influence decision making at scale, which requires a keen understanding of how humans make decisions. Unfortunately, too much marketing “wisdom” is based on outdated understandings.

Scientists first believed human beings make rational decisions by carefully weighing the probable costs and benefits of choices from “should I marry this person” to “which brand of peanut butter should I buy?”

The marketing funnel was built on this premise: awareness leads to interest, which drives desire and ultimately action aka “AIDA.” It’s a logical and linear path, which is why it’s so seductive.

Two Israeli scientists flipped this model on its head in the 1970s when they pioneered research on heuristics: the process by which humans use mental shortcuts to arrive at decisions.

They discovered that humans rely on two systems to make decisions:

System 1 thinking is a near-instantaneous process; it happens automatically, intuitively, and with little effort. It's driven by instinct and our experiences.

System 2 thinking is slower and requires more effort. It is conscious and logical.

Here’s the rub: even when we think that we are being rational in our decisions, our System 1 beliefs and biases still drive 95% of our choices.

Accordingly, as marketers, we must aim 95% of our efforts at building convenient mental shortcuts to influence our human consumers.

  1. How do we disrupt their expectations to even get noticed in the first place, as system 1 is trained to ignore the familiar?

  2. How do we appeal to their instinctive drive for safety, certainty, comfort and convenience?

  3. How do we make it easy for them to remember our brand when it’s actually relevant?

Notice the tension between #1 and #2 — the need to both disrupt AND comfort.

That’s what makes this job so damned hard … and so damned fun, too.

Over the next few weeks we’re going to walk you through the foundations of empirical marketing and what it could mean for marketing leaders like you. And after that? We’ll keep going.

Ready? Let’s do this.

Further Reading:

System 1 & System 2 Thinking

Of 2 Minds: How Fast and Slow Thinking Shape Perception and Choice