Marketers Love Numbers, Traffic-lights Help Them More

Marketers Love Numbers, Traffic-lights Help Them More
Photo by Carlos Alberto Gómez Iñiguez / Unsplash

A good researcher helps shape smarter decisions by not feeding marketers' love of numbers. Researchers do this by understanding consumers’ behaviors and the market context. It is evident that the final business decision-maker is the marketer, but for insight generation, she/he should trust the researcher’s experience and let him drive.

As I think of the most significant breakthrough in the advertising creative measurement research practice at Mars, a single change comes to mind: the moment we stopped giving marketing numbers and forced them to decide based on a four stars scale effectiveness rating. You could call it an intelligent traffic light; at each level of the scale, the next action to be executed was crystal clear, with no room for interpretation. Similar to every organizational change, it wasn’t easy, but the new common language and direct actions were transformational for Mars marketers. A decision to restrict access to details is fixed.

Why did it work?

  1. Yes, marketers love numbers, but raw data numbers require a deeper understanding of statistics, variance, confidence intervals, of probabilities. Most marketers, with all due respect, are not trained to play with those concepts. As a researcher, keep ambiguity of data interpretation on your side and tell them a clear message they can act.
  2. Traffic lights or a star rating scale are simple constructs present in our day-to-day life. From car traffic control flow to hotel bookings or online ratings, we got trained to read quality scales without too much training. What matters to a marketer is the correct next action: make it binary, simple, and decisive.
  3. A strong endorsement from the CMO is helping. Convince a senior marketer who can become your spokesman with things that matter to him. Show how meta-analyses are easier to manage, how internal behaviors could be shifted more easily, or how positive competition gets triggered between units using a common simple language.

How can you talk to a marketer who loves numbers without giving her numbers?