The job of marketers is to attract new customers. Simple. But 60% of marketers create one new piece of content every day. In the hurried age of social media and up-to-the-minute analytics, some can’t see the forest for the trees.

Rather than evaluating the quality of content, marketers are increasingly hung up on counting page views, likes, and follows – so much so that some try to ‘game the system’ and buy their way to a larger followership.

To secure their positions, marketers focus on the numbers, collect page views, and chase likes.

… today’s data-obsessed marketers are at risk of cultivating only half a brain. Marketing leaders must remember that true brand intelligence lives at the intersection of head and heart, where the emotional self meets the analytical self. Jake Sorofman and Andrew Frank

The truth is that these digits in and of themselves don’t contribute to any meaningful engagement or ‘buy-in’ from brand loyalists.

Conducting research after the fact, by way of A/B testing or monitoring web traffic cannot provide a reason as to why things aren’t working. You’ve simply got a bunch of numbers – well done.

The ultimate goal – to attract and nurture new customers (preferably loyal, paying ones) – has fallen by the wayside.

Marketing is near-becoming an administrative task. Let’s take a look at the differences between research as an afterthought and research as a source of meaning.

Marketing: Your Former Arts and Crafts Department

Marketing was bullied in its former years. The department was viewed as nothing more than ‘arts and crafts’, painting pleasant pictures and writing quippy sentences to get feet in the door.

And for decades, there was no hard-and-fast way to measure their success (other than imbuing assumptive equations upon sales figures).

Conveying the value of marketing depends on demonstrating successes to those outside the department. Long before an overreliance on social media analytics, market research traditionally involved more time in direct conversation with consumers – which was a more straightforward way of garnering value.

Nowadays, as many as 30–50 million websites use Google Analytics, and marketing departments can immediately deploy creatives deemed likely to skew the data in their favor. But for tangible long-term effects, it’s not the data that wants skewing! 

Many kinds of marketing materials – good or bad – warrant clicks or page views, but if this engagement doesn’t extend beyond likes into conversions, nobody’s really getting what they want.

Click here, click there, click anywhere – just make sure you click!

Back-End Analytics: Prove Your Worth  

Monitoring web traffic and running A/B testing is cheap and easy and it gives a great indication as to what works and what doesn’t (e.g. if your picture of a cat doesn’t do well, try dogs).

But it cannot explain why dogs trump cats, or why the particular cat you used in didn’t resonate with your target audience.

There is no end of tech solutions offering all angles on data and digits – the marketing technology landscape has grown from 150 companies in 2011 to more than 7000 this year – but data and digits can only tell you so much.

It takes valuable time and energy to decipher what these results actually mean. Any action taken should ultimately contribute towards a positive consumer journey. But how can you display these experiences as data?

Front-End Analytics: Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Front-end consumer-led research offers user-friendly, validated analysis of its data. This alleviates the habitual production of unprofitable, experimental work and it informs future marketing strategies at the same time.

To establish the meaning behind users’ interactions is crucial in shaping how your company learns to promote itself. If you test to find meaning, you’ll supercharge your content with meaning.

A/B testing says if your picture of a cat doesn’t do well, try dogs… but why?

The aforementioned cat picture might simply have been published to an ill-fitting platform – there’s no way of knowing without first understanding why it didn’t work.

Preemptive research might have persuaded you to trial the ad elsewhere, because its algorithms (infused with the expertise of those who have experience in the field), and an expanding library of historic tests, dictate that’s where it’ll perform better.

So, meaning helps avoid or rectify dud content.

Randomly pushing quickfire content into the social sphere can backfire, especially if you’re not confident that it’s relevant or tonally appropriate.

Cinnabon experienced online backlash for their Carrie Fisher tribute image

Missteps have the potential to tarnish a brand’s reputation for far longer than it would take to test in the first place.

Catch Your Breath: Put Quality Over Quantity

What’s known as ‘vanity metrics’ is quickly becoming a grade-A sin in marketing circles.

Why? Because splurging huge chunks of your budget on ad tracking without establishing any proper understanding of its results isn’t helping anyone.

What does good practice look like?

  • testing at each stage of the creative process to riff off consumer opinion
  • iterating using research based on business goals (with your vertical’s averages top of mind)
  • adjusting, re-testing, and perfecting ideas until you launch
  • sharing experiences, consumer insights, and your results with the wider business
  • cross-comparing new and old ads to keep track of the most effective deployment strategies

It is ironic: quicker research slows the creative process down a notch, but it also minimizes overall risk and establishes predicted, larger, returns on investment.

Marketing is for humans, not robots

Faster front-end analytics and structured, strategic approaches to research methods will triumph over absent-minded number-crunching.

This is good news for marketers and consumers alike: what we consume will better appeal to our tastes, and marketers can have the pleasure of knowing their work has never been more relevant.

Start by better understanding what you’ve already learned through previous insights. Enable the innovators and creatives in your organization to truly unlock their potential, and avoid spending time and resource in areas that have been proven don’t work with consumers. – Ryan Barry, Zappi’s CRO

Marketers should remember one key irrefutable fact as they scramble for customers in 2018’s chaotic social sphere: marketing is for HUMANS more than it is for ROBOTS.

There are advantages in styling content to improve SEO rankings and click-through rates, but if you’re doing your job right, it’ll guide meaningful human engagement and a positive user journey.


Zappi, together with Kantar, conducted a research study to determine the trends and creative traits that help advertisers maximize efficiency. Read our key takeaways.

A James Hodges

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A James Hodges

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