In April 13’s “Direct Mail Testing in 2010 — Copy, Offer, Lists, Formats, Personalization and More” webinar, we heard from two prominent direct marketers — Grant Johnson, president of Johnson Direct and author of “Fairytale Marketing,” and Steve Cuno, chairman of Response Agency and author of “Prove It Before You Promote It.” Both have rosters of big and small clients that still test, and both discussed why testing is more important than ever in the current climate. (The webinar is available for the next 90 days via on-demand; click here if interested.)
During one section of the hour-long webinar, Steve Cuno illustrated, in his colorful fashion, “five irrational leaps” that marketers use every day in their businesses, thus demonstrating in a fun way why everyone must test!
Leap 1: “Everyone knows”
Cuno gave the example of 10 things that “everyone knows.” Then he asked which five are the myths?
1. Eating chocolate makes acne worse.
2. More babies are born when the moon is full.
3. Red cars get an unfair share of speeding tickets.
4. Bats are blind.
5. Each year, lemmings drown themselves en masse.
6. When countries go to war, capitalistic trade between them is often a contributing cause.
7. Erin Brockovich proved that water pollution by Pacific Gas & Electric caused cancer.
8. Stress causes ulcers.
9. Acupuncture has been clinically proven to be an effective medical treatment in some cases.
10. Crime in the U.S. has been on the increase for the past 25 years.
Okay, ready for the answer? All are myths.
Leap 2: “My tummy tells me … “
I admit that this one immediately reminded me of Stephen Colbert’s send-up of former President George W. Bush at the White House Correspondents Dinner (“That’s where the truth lies, right down here in the gut. Do you know you have more nerve endings in your gut than you have in your head? You can look it up. Now, I know some of you are going to say, ‘I did look it up, and that’s not true.’ That’s ’cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, look it up in your gut. I did. My gut tells me that’s how our nervous system works.”)
Cuno used FedEx and the Beatles as examples of a business and a band that many prominent folks said would fail. Meanwhile, despite big endorsements for New Coke and the Edsel car, both proved to be major flops.
In other words, your gut can be dead wrong.
Leap 3: “Surveys and focus groups show … “
Survey and focus groups can be very popular, but Cuno says you should be very wary of their data. It’s much more important to rely on what’s truly established, because you cannot trust the market to self-report. Test and track actual consumer behavior to determine what they DO, instead of what they say they might do. Watch what they do and count!
Leap 4: “Sales are up … “
A often didn’t cause B. As Steve has said, “Crediting a sales surge to a prior campaign with no more criteria than relative timing is like deciding your neighbors painted their house because you painted yours. Without more information, all you know is that you might be right.”
Leap 5: “Yeah, but … “
Or call this “Moving the Target.” Cuno remarks that even if your direct mail campaign won a Clio, if it didn’t tell anything, it didn’t sell anything. Don’t pick one little thing in the mailing that went well. Stick with the original objectives and hold the campaign accountable.