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Are you counting on magical marketing?

I’m old enough to remember when all you needed to do to persuade an executive about an issue was to show him some data in a spreadsheet. “The computer is always right,” they thought, so they went along with whatever you presented. (OK, I am older than dirt.) Now people quickly started to realize that you could manipulate a spreadsheet in a million ways to make the calculations come out your way, but there is still plenty of magical thinking going on, where we believe whatever the computer says instead of using our own judgment. If you are counting on magical marketing, you’ll probably have a problem sooner rather than later.

Top hat as an icon for magic

Image via Wikipedia


I see many different clients engage in magical marketing every day:

  • One company I know pours enormous effort into multivariate testing, but relatively little into the creative work that gets tested. So, they pick the optimal answer among a number of poor choices.
  • Another company uses social media listening platforms that provide totally algorithmic analysis and wonders why their current algorithmic platform gives different answers than their old algorithmic platform. Just because both platforms use computers doesn’t mean the data collects and counted the same way. [Full disclosure: I serve as Chief Strategist at Converseon, which uses human and algorithmic analysis for social media listening.]
  • Still another company allows paid search algorithms to manage its entire budget based on return on advertising spending, reducing spending on poorly selling products instead of first investigating why they are bombing. So, new products get lower budgets than existing products because their sales pitches are less polished.

These are just a few examples where we fool ourselves in thinking that the computer can do our job for us. We have many reasons to use computers to analyze data, and they are very good at that, but we can’t expect that they will magically run our business for us. It’s amazing to me that we’ve gone from a situation where many marketers would never dream of relying on numbers to make any decisions to one where some marketers are letting computers make bigger decisions than they are capable of.
As difficult as it might be, an all or nothing approach won’t get it done. You can’t avoid using computers to run your statistics completely but you also can’t turn over everything you are doing to a robot. Understanding the limits of what technology can do is just as important as understanding what technology is good at. Your m marketing results are at stake.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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