Lesson for Marketers: ‘Blink’ and You’ll Miss It
Conference Speakers Emphasize Fact-Based Rather Than Intuitive Strategies

Use your data, not your instinct. This was the message of the marketing practitioners’ conference, “Don’t ‘Blink!’ Use Fact-Based Marketing,” held Nov. 12 at The University of Texas at Dallas’ School of Management.

Dr. B.P.S. Murthi, coordinator of the school’s marketing programs, and Dr. Brian Ratchford, Davidson Distinguished Professor of Marketing, joined marketing and communications experts from such companies as Cisco, Southwest Airlines and PepsiCo in presenting case studies and research at the daylong professional event. Dr. Kevin Clancy, chairman of the Copernicus Corp., emphasized that “the correct marketing strategy is so strong it can change a brand’s trajectory, career path, entire company and sometimes industry as a whole.” More often than not, said Clancy, such transformational marketing is fact-based, not gut-based.

He and other speakers, including social media strategist Paul Gillin and Jeffrey Jarrett, global director of digital marketing for Kimberly Clark Corp., spoke against the idea of going only on instinct, as suggested in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book stresses the importance of intuitive response. Instead, presenters focused on tracking and measuring success based on tangible data.

Clancy said that emotional, transcendental marketing strategies have zero effect on return on investment, whereas the most powerful messaging of the last 60 years has been tangible and product-based. Some examples he provided: Coca-Cola, with a message of “authentic, real, original”; Burger King, “have it your way”; and Apple, “easy to use.” As Clancy mentioned, the Coke slogan, “The Real Thing,” is 25 years old, and it’s the one most people remember, even though new slogans come out every three years. Today, marketing leans heavily on transcendental, instinctual messaging, he said, but it is not creating the desired results.

How to get those results? Clancy suggested that simulated test marketing is “the most validated tool in all of market research. You can measure a response to a sales pitch or ad campaign, and enter it into a mathematical model to predict results.”

Said results could include a possible move to social media, which Gillin, who gave a crash course on leveraging social media in a business-to-business and business-to-consumer environment, emphasized was not necessarily the goal: “If it doesn’t make sense to reach your customer, don’t use social media. If you have a Twitter account and don’t know how to use it, you look clueless. And it’s worse to look clueless than not to use social media at all.”

But useful or not, social media has changed society, Gillin said. Before, there was no way to block advertising messages — everyone got the same news from the same networks with no filters. But today, with Tivo, the iPad, the Internet and more, audiences have countless channels and ways to block what they don’t want to hear. Gillin said it is important to be useful and to get around those roadblocks. People don’t have to listen anymore — so find ways to make them listen.

According to Gillin, “Blogs are the best way to communicate expertise business-to-business. It is long form, not sound bites; it’s flexible, and it’s optimal for searching.” He said customers search for the problem, not the product (such as typing in “snow removal,” not “snow-blower”), so businesses should emphasize the problem when thinking of keywords for searches.

For business-to-consumer communication, Gillin recommended social networks — Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, primarily. These allow a business to deal with customer service directly and eliminate the middleman, thereby fostering new relationships and strengthening existing ones.

Conference speaker Ashley Pettit, communications analyst for Southwest Airlines, knows firsthand the value of social networking, and aims to retain customers by keeping them engaged and informed via a variety of social media outlets. Southwest has both a Facebook and Twitter account, which are used to announce corporate news, fare sales, and simply to interact with clients. Pettit reported that the airlines’ birthday sale, which was supported strictly by social media (without any paid advertising), “generated 8,000 bookings, which resulted in more than $1.6 million in sales.”

AAF Dallas President Gayle Boone (left) presents the AAF-Morris Hite Center Graduate Scholarship Award to MBA student Kristin Steed.

MBA Student Wins Morris Hite Award

The conference also included an award presentation: UT Dallas MBA student Kristin Steed received the $1,500 AAF-Morris Hite Center Graduate Scholarship Award.

Formerly the Dallas Ad League, AAF Dallas is the local chapter of the American Advertising Federation, an organization for professionals in advertising.

The chapter donated $3,000 for two merit-based scholarships. Half the money was earmarked for a graduate marketing student (Steed), and half —which will be awarded next spring — for an undergraduate marketing student.

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].