As we wrap up Digital Marketing Academy 3.0 and I look at the fine work that my mentees have accomplished in their experiments, I’m reminded how many advantages we have today as experimenters that weren’t possible just a few years ago.
Take product testing for example. Up until recently, product ideas would likely be tested in a focus group. A facilitator would gather together some target audience members in a room, cue up the two-way mirror with the company wanting the feedback on the other side, and ask a lot of questions about how people felt about the different product options.
Now, I like a good focus group as much as the next guy. But they are not great for innovation, because when you ask people the equivalent of “how can we innovate so that you’ll buy this,” people often don’t know what they want. On the topic of innovation and the creation of the automobile, Henry Ford is often quoted as having said “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’.” Turns out he apparently never said that, but you get the idea – it’s hard for people to break out of their boxes and come up with a more innovative solution. Also, people often make confident but false predictions of their future behavior for potentially all sorts of reasons: a wish to please the moderator, or the fact that their lunch is disagreeing with them. You just never know. So what’s an arts marketer/experimenter to do?
At the National Arts Marketing Project Conference in Austin, Texas, U.S. this past November, I was happy to sit in on a session called Embracing Dynamic Frameworks To Drive Organizational Change led by Arts Marketing Association rockstars Cath Hume and Carol Jones. In 60 minutes, they gave the crowd a working knowledge of agile marketing methodologies, and the idea of doing small and rapid product tests, analysing results, making changes, and testing again. Agile is sweet, and it just so happens that it is one of the backbone concepts of the Digital Marketing Academy.
In a nutshell, rather than asking people how they would react to a product in the marketplace (with all of the challenges listed above) we instead see how they actually respond to that product being in the market, through small tests such as Facebook ads or Google Adwords, clicks on “buy now” buttons, analytics, and more. “Would you buy this” leaves a lot of wiggle room for people. Actually seeing who buys is a more accurate predictor of future behaviour. Through rapid testing, several ads can be tested for response, and the best one picked to move forward.
That’s where the advantages we have today come in. Before digital media, the cost of running these tests was often prohibitive. You might have to mail a ton of postcards to see which message worked, and pay for each postcard. In digital advertising on a per-click basis, you only pay if there is a response… you literally can try as many versions as you like. This simply allows for a level of testing sophistication – by observing actually buying behaviour – never before possible.
This is a glorious time to be a marketing person in the arts, because there are so many options available, and the ability to tailor campaigns and rapidly modify to improve them over time is something the generation before us could do, but at a much slower pace. So pick one of your marketing messages and change it up. Try something wickedly different and measure your results. Most of all, have fun with it. Studying human behaviour is a fascinating and rewarding process, and we may never fully understand what makes us tick, but we can learn a little more each day.
My thanks to the CultureHive Digital Marketing Academy and the Arts Marketing Association for their facilitation of another round of fantastic learning and experimentations by some of the most interesting cultural organisations in the UK!