Want To Excel At The Art And Science Of Marketing? Don’t Think Like Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs and Ricky Gervais never met a focus group they liked.
Steve Jobs (right) and Ricky Gervais (above) never met a focus group they liked.


Have you ever searched online for “Steve Jobs market research” or “Ricky Gervais focus groups?”

Neither was a fan.

Here, Gervais, the comedian and creator of The Office, says, “If you do what you do and you’re uncompromised, you don’t listen to focus groups.”

In this interview, Jobs said, “We do no market research.”

These two reached the pinnacle of their professions, but you’d be taking some career risks by trying emulate their disdain for the intersection of marketing’s art and science: market research. That’s because though it’s not without its flaws, we need the discipline more than ever.

Over the decades, the power within marketing has swung from creative directors to the data scientists, and for good reason. Data enables precise audience targeting and the ability to predict consumer behaviors based on past actions. Data also feels tangible compared to creative.

Still, without creative that engages, including visuals and copy, no amount of data can save a campaign from mediocrity. The best way to ensure that a campaign features creative that works: relentlessly testing it with target consumers.

Mobile marketers, many of whom entered the profession amid data’s ascension, need to be especially wary of the temptation to overly rely on data. Mobile banners, video, and in-feed ads all require a specialized creative talent to produce. As much as any other channel, mobile advertising needs testing.

In my experience, here are the five most common reasons marketers pass on testing their creative.

  1. They don’t they have the time.

  2. They can’t afford it.

  3. They don’t believe it will result in significantly better outcomes.

  4. They fall in love with their creative.

  5. They convince themselves that because Steve Jobs didn’t do it, it must not be worth doing.

Don’t have enough time? Share it with colleagues in the office who haven’t worked on the campaign and ask them what the creative says to them. Does that match what you need it to say?

Can’t afford it? Try using social media to recruit 10 followers to review it. It won’t cost you more than your time. A few additional, qualified eyes and opinions are better than none.

Don’t believe it will make a difference? Commit to testing the creative for one campaign and compare it to the performance of an untested campaign and see which one wins.

Fallen in love with your creative? Just once, try breaking up with it long enough to invite others to share their opinions.

Deploying the Steve Jobs defense? Just know that many leaders with his charisma and refusal to solicit consumer input end up failing. It’s exceedingly hard to consistently guess right over the arc of a career. If you ever get to the greatness of Steve Jobs, you, too, can say “no” to research. For the rest of us, research can be a gold mine that can help compensate for the absence of genius.

These days, companies like to talk about how they embrace the art and science of marketing. The ones that truly live by that principle walk the talk. They know how to test their creative – sometimes thousands of variations – so that only one voice determines what’s best. That voice usually doesn’t belong to the CEO.

It belongs to the customer.

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