In the marketing realm the stakes for innovators are high. Wasting precious company resources on an innovative initiative that doesn't pan out does not bode well for career advancement. It's no surprise that gaining internal support for marketing innovation is difficult.
What's more typical is to follow in the footsteps of others or to dust off previously run programs for another go-around. Or at a minimum, decisions about which programs to activate are based on some kind of quantitative rationale, like "our competitors ran a roughly similar program last year and generated a 5% increase in sales."
Relying on historical data from analogous projects has its limitations. It's a bit like navigating down a road by looking in the rear view mirror. That approach doesn't offer much guidance in an environment of changing consumer habits, rapidly emerging new media platforms, and advances by competitors.
Like historical data, consumer research also doesn't always actually help predict what is going to happen in the market place. Coke's classic blunder with New Coke in 1985 is an oft-cited example of how the best research and quantitative support can lead you in the wrong direction. At the other end of the spectrum, Steve Jobs led the development and introduction of the mega-successful iPad without any market research. Jobs likes to quote Wayne Gretzky who once said, "I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been."
Of course not every organization is led by a person with Steve Job's intuition and instinct. And that's not to say that research and quantitative analysis should play no role in marketing decisions. P&G's shower gel campaign was based on consumer research that led to the "Smell like a man, man" campaign." Yet when the campaign went viral on YouTube last year, it's doubtful that decisions about how to exploit the social media phenomenon were based on research. P&G, along with their agency Weiden & Kennedy, reacted spontaneously, with enormous creativity, to spin-off a series of attention-getting social videos.
Decisions based on instinct can have as much chance for success as those based on data. Somehow the word "instinct" has taken on a negative connotation in certain marketing circles. Instinct isn't flipping a coin - it's basing a decision on prudent judgment and experience. Successful marketers seem to always find the proper balance for their instinct with every factual decision they make.
Ronnie Perchik is a seasoned professional with over 25 years of experience spanning consumer promotion, marketing services, and Internet-related programs. He started PromoAid in 2008 after years of experiencing the difficulty that consumer companies and agencies have connecting with marketing service suppliers.