Be Less Aristotelian; The Marketing Industry Needs Value Experimentation Over Assumption

By Srinivas Gattamneni

Chief Executive Officer, ADA

With the upending of historic marketing fundamentals in the data and digital world, we need to recognise that for too long, marketing fundamentals in media planning and creative have been largely hypothesised instead of proven with repeatable experiments.

Let me start with a short history lesson about how science changed from the times of Plato and Aristotle, to the great Galileo. For over 2000 years, humankind was in the dark. It was common belief that the world was made up of earth, air, water, fire and, the universe despite the atomic theory proposed by Democritus in circa 500 BC.

It wasn’t until the turn of the 17th century, when one Galielo Galilei decided to stop ‘assuming’ and start doing something about it. Thus began the new age of experimental science. He studied how objects moved on earth, how they reacted to different forces and how they fell to the ground.

Convinced that a relevant mathematical law must exist, he dropped objects of different weights and measured the outcomes as precisely as he could. The result was momentous.

Contrary to popular belief at the time, objects did not fall at the same speed. However, the acceleration was constant in every experiment he conducted. Galileo was able to calculate this constant to approximately 9.8 m/s2 – what we now know as gravitational force.

This revelation became the first mathematical law for earthly bodies and from that point in time, the dominoes began to fall. One revolutionary discovery after another started to surface from brilliant individuals including Newton, Maxwell, Faraday, Einstein and so many more.

Now as we venture into 2021, what do the observations of Aristotle and experiments of Galileo have to do with the digital marketing matters at hand? The answer is quite simple – everything.

Be Less Aristotle, More Galileo

For too long, the marketing world has relied on what I would call the Aristotelian approach to the world, i.e. engaging in observational procedures and making hypotheses instead of performing real experiments and analysing the results. For too long there has been a disproportionate focus on pitches and plans instead of implementations through to their tangible outcomes.

For so many decades, the marketing industry has been plagued by fancy theories. It has become even more apparent as templated media plans on awareness and activations have been challenged, older marketing mix models lack relevancy and consumer behaviour has significantly evolved.

However, I understand. There is beauty in theories. They are mystical and mysterious. But in the same vein, there is beauty in a flawless equation like E=mc2. It is an equally stunning example that may lack mystery but offers greater clarity instead.

Despite digital and data opening a window that allows us to MEASURE, QUANTIFY, and CODIFY every brief through to its execution, there is still disenfranchisement of the digital and data assets obtained. Especially if we choose to be satisfied based on theory alone.

Why Experiment? Because There is Real Value to be Found!

Experimentation has taught us at ADA a great amount in the last 3 years. From discovering the real value of data and driving tangible outcomes, to leveraging on insights, maximising media platforms and developing solid creatives.

The more we experimented with data, the more amazed we were by its beauty and variety. But what surprised us is that when we looked even closer, we were able to study the minute details of every data asset and discovered even more potential for applicability.

As for third party data, the possibilities have been endless for a plethora of industries like telecommunications, banking, electronics, automotive and even the retail sector. It’s mind-blowing how we are now able to use data insights from a telecommunications provider, to provide real business value to the banking sector via applications like credit scoring for loan provisions.

At the intersection of digital media and data we are able to drive real business outcomes; from improving conversion of abandoned carts, to conversion improvement through dynamic personalisation, to improving conversion lead time, to many more and equally positive results.

With that said, this would not have materialised had we not embarked forward together in the spirit of experimentation. From client servicing and business insight strategists, to the media performance and the data science teams, everyone embraced the spirit of ‘trial and error’.

This organisation-wide exercise yielded a deeper understanding of correlation, causation and codification of every data insight or business insight theory we had ever put forward.

Technology is at the Ready!

On your journey of experimentation, there is an abundance of software and digital tools that can assist you in optimising your marketing efforts across multiple marketing channels. At the core, there two main types of tools you should be looking for:

Data amassing tools for aggregation dissection & experimentation:

Analytics & Attribution

These tools track and collect user behaviour on every touchpoint, understand the traffic and measure omnichannel attributions.

Customer Data Platform (CDP)

These create a single customer view to help give a holistic view of the consumer to help decide the next best action.

Data & AI Models

Output-proven tangible intent audiences built for various industries.

Technology for optimisation of consumer touch points, journey orchestration and personalised engagements:

Touchpoint Management

These allow you to plan and automate the sequence of communication based on customer interactions across your various channels.

Personalised Engagement

These enable conversational interactions across all instant messaging channels.

Of course there are many more tools out there just waiting to be discovered, but the functions stated above would be a great starting point.

It’s 2021 now and I hope you get to share the journey that we have been on by emulating Galileo and simply making a promise to go beyond theories and hypotheses.

Here’s to new discoveries for all of us in 2021, Good Luck!