Neuroscientists aren’t the only people trying to make marketing more scientific. A Detroit marketing firm, Prism, is attempting to use the same techniques as Six Sigma quality control to make marketing more cost effective. Six Sigma is a popular, if somewhat geeky, way of using statistics and continuous process measurement to improve product quality. Prism builds in measurement techniques so that the performance of an advertising or marketing effort can be measured.
Quantitative analysis of marketing efforts is no big news to direct marketers – they’ve been doing it for decades. Nevertheless, many marketing expenditures, like event sponsorships, are traditionally considered nearly impossible to evaluate in a quantitative manner. Quoted by WIRED, Prism CEO Ray Bednar describes an example of how the effectiveness of event sponsorships (normally quite nebulous) can be quantified and tracked. Rather than coughing up a million dollars to be the automotive sponsor of the Texas State Fair (and have various exclusive rights to market in Fair venues), Prism’s client, a Lincoln-Mercury dealer group, took a guerrilla approach. They distributed coupons outside the Fair that could be redeemed at the group’s booth. By varying the reward on the coupon (e.g., fair money or a return pass) and measuring the response rate (the percent of coupons redeemed), they were able to quickly target the most effective reward.
How much of the Six Sigma approach is hype, at least when applied to marketing? Probably quite a bit. Many marketing efforts can’t be precisely measured, or would have to be modified so much to make them measurable that their very nature would be changed. Perhaps Chevy’s million bucks at the fair really was a great deal, even if its effects are hard to measure. Still, “Six Sigma” has a nice ring to it – “We’re experts in statistical quality control, and now we can apply the same Six Sigma techniques to your advertising” sounds better than a generic, “We only market when we can analyze the results.”
Still, I think the emphasis on scientific evaluation of marketing is a good thing. A lot of advertising is unaccountable – nobody knows how well it worked, or if it worked at all. Neuromarketing has the same goal – replacing (or at least augmenting) the “gut feel” of a few decision makers and ever-dubious consumer self-reporting with hard data. Expect to see a serious emphasis on more scientific evaluation of advertising in coming years – whether it’s hyper-accurate Nielsen/Tivo data, fMRI brain scans, web traffic monitoring, or even just counting coupon redemptions. Now, let’s see some neuroscience-based ad pre-testing followed up with an accurate statistical analysis of the results of the campaign…