The science behind marketing

There is so much of what we all do as business people every day that can feel instinctive, and I think that this especially applies to the different ways in which we market our products and services. We find that we often just take a particular approach because we have a sense that it is the right way to do things. Maybe it has worked in the past, and we trust that it will work again.

And, often, I’ve found over the years that this is sometimes the right approach – in some cases we get these things right, and in others we don’t. But in recent years we’ve been given more and more ways to actually collect real data, not just on the ways that our customers react to and interact with our products and services, but also how the whole experience actually makes them feel. This presents a huge opportunity for us as marketers – and offers some fascinating scientific backing to some of the intuitions we all have about the ways in which our customers operate. Here are just a couple of areas in which studies have done just this.

Being positive just feels better, doesn’t it? M

Positivity works

arketing campaigns that take a positive approach feel like they are the right way to go about things – but there is also some hard and fast research that shows that there is a scientific basis to this hunch. I was fascinated to read about how positivity is actually contagious, according to a recent Facebook study.

Facebook removed positive posts from the news feeds of nearly 700,000 users and found that as a result those users then made fewer positive posts and actually created more negative ones. When the negative posts were taken out of their news feeds, they did the opposite – creating more positive posts as a result. I think that this is a fascinating result because it backs up something that does seem so intuitively right – namely that we are very strongly influenced to match our feelings to the prevailing mood. For marketing professionals, this research also reveals the highly contagious nature of emotion – a contagion that can act even at a distance, online, as well as face to face. It’s an important insight because it underlines just how strongly we can influence the people who interact with our marketing, and how their reactions, positive or negative, can quickly spread to others.

Proper conversations really do matter

In the past, it often felt like marketing was very much a one way process. You put your content out there, you tell people about how you can transform their lives with your product or service, and you hope the ideas stick and help to generate new customers for your business. It’s become increasingly clear however that social media and the whole technology-enabled communications revolution we’ve gone through in recent years has changed all of this. I’ve seen – as we all have – how marketing has evolved far more into a conversation. End users are often now able to interact directly with companies – sometimes not even just with a customer service department, but actually with the real people who help to create the products and services they’re using.

This is a powerful development, and the research shows that this kind of conversational engagement has a big impact on how people feel, not just about the business, but actually about themselves too. The research, by Dr Stephanie Tobin of The University of Queensland, measured how much active participation on Facebook – for example liking or leaving comments – has a positive effect on users’ sense of connectedness and wellbeing. People who weren’t allowed to contribute or join conversations with others on the network felt negative effects on their self-esteem and wellbeing.

There’s a big lesson there – that by engaging our customers in real conversations about what we offer them, we’re genuinely helping them to feel better, both about themselves and our business. That, ultimately, has got to be good news for our bottom line too.

Saad Raja