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Internet Marketing and Web Development in Higher Education and other tidbits…

It Doesn’t Matter What YOU Think

11 Sep 2012

written by Karlyn Borysenko

It Doesn't Matter What YOU Think

I once got in an extremely heated debate with several people who were passionately opposed to one idea: Flash mobs. They argued their point for a good half hour, raising their voices, climbing up on chairs, accusing me of catering to the lowest common denominator. You would have thought I kicked a puppy.

What they didn’t seem to understand is this key point: What we, as marketers, think personally does not matter. What matters is what our audience thinks. And if my goal is to create a marketing piece that is going to get likes and comments and shares and forwards, then there are a lot worse ways to do it then a flash mob.

Don’t believe me? Do a simple search for “university flash mob” on YouTube and you’ll find the following statistics:

And this is just on the first page of the search. Now, to be fair, are there also horrible flash mobs that get posted that get no views? Sure. But if we dismissed tactics that can illustrate failures as well as successes depending on execution, then we’d all be sitting in our offices twiddling our thumbs all day with nothing to do.

Do I like flash mobs? Do I forward on all those annoying emails I get saying “OMG, this is SOOOOO COOL!” Eff no. I think they’re dumb, would never participate in one and have not once (to the best of my recollection) forwarded an email in gleeful excitement. But what I think doesn’t matter. What the numbers tell me does.

The point I’m trying to make is this (and it doesn’t really have anything to do with flash mobs specifically): The minute we become personally enamored (or disgusted) with a specific marketing tactic is the minute we lose our ability to make objective, data-driven decisions. That’s why people who’s videos get a few thousand views at best can turn up their noses at a video that gets over 2 million views – they’ve lost their objectivity.

What you think doesn’t matter when it comes to marketing strategy. What matters is what will get results. It’s easy to dismiss something because you don’t like it. It’s much much harder to say “how can I take this idea…that I don’t personally like but clearly appeals to the masses…and adapt it to make it awesome?” Answering that question will push you past the surface and force you to really consider why these things are successful.That’s when you can push past what you think and use the tactic to meet your goals.

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About the author

Karlyn Borysenko

Karlyn is loving life as the marketing manager for Eduventures and as a staff writer for .eduGuru. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Communication from Boston University, a Master of Business Administration from Norwich University, and is pursuing a Ph.D. in Psychology from Capella University.

To quote a friend of hers: "Karlyn is a super rad ninja marketing genius who will make your target demographic submit to your every whim through sheer willpower. Oh, and she's smarter than you."  We're not sure about the smarter part, but "super rad ninja" is true enough.

Compulsory disclaimer: The views expressed in Karlyn's posts are hers and hers alone, and do not represent those of anyone she earns a paycheck from. Yes, it's true - the girl has a mind of her own. 

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This post was written by - who has written 60 posts on .eduGuru


  • Aaron H

    Reminds me of the section of Krug’s DMMT (Chapter 8 of the 1st edition): “The Farmer and the Cowman Should Be Friends”: Why most web design team arguments about usability are a waste of time, and how to avoid them.

    His conclusion, under the rather ambitious header “The antidote for religious debates”:

    “And there’s really only one way to answer that question [: Does ____ create a good experience for most people who are likely to use this site?]: testing. You have to use the collective skill, experience, creativity, and common sense of the team to build some version of the thing (even a crude version), then watch ordinary people carefully as they try to figure out what it is and how to use it.”

    “Where debates about what people like waste time and drain the team’s energy, testing tends to defuse arguments and break impasses by moving the discussion away from the realm of what’s right or wrong and into the realm of what works or doesn’t work” [p137. Krug, Steve. Don't Make Me Think, 1st edition]

    Which is pretty much exactly what you said above. :)

    • http://twitter.com/KarlynMB Karlyn Borysenko

      I feel like you just made me sound super smart :-)

  • http://www.downes.ca Stephen Downes

    I don’t like making objective data-driven decisions. Yes, I know, the data are always right. But data constitute a lagging indicator. The future is underdetermined by the data – not in all ways, but in enough ways to be significant. It’s not that depending on the data le3ads you astray. It’s just that it will never lead you anyplace worth going.

    • http://twitter.com/KarlynMB Karlyn Borysenko

      Stephen, you and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this one :-)

  • http://twitter.com/fienen Michael Fienen

    I would say that you are mostly right, with maybe one caveat. That being be careful, because data in a vaccuum is also not by itself a perfect driver for decision making. Numbers are one of the great lies of marketing (and virtually anything that seeks measurement), because they can be so easily manipulated to reinforce a particular viewpoint, based on the context you choose to give them in the moment.

    If you’ve seen the movie Moneyball, it makes me think of that. Playing the numbers and making strategic decisions based on what is ultimately smart mathematically is a good way to ride the fence, because then you’re making decisions based on what works “on average.” You’re unlikely to fail, but it’s also less likely that you’ll really blow something out of the water. In the flash mob example, you’re right, you’ll probably get a lot of views. But how often do we talk about the value of 100 really good leads vs. 10,000 worthless ones? Great, you make a video, it gets a million views. Just like everyone else. You get brand awareness, like every other campaign that’s run. The numbers might be impressive, but ultimately the results far less so.

    Sometimes taking a risk and putting your heart into something that the numbers tell you won’t work is the best way to hit a home run. And the difference maker won’t be stats, but rather how hard you work and how much heart goes into it. Or you’ll fail miserably. But no risk, no reward. Success isn’t necessarily the product of objectivity, but rather working your ass off.

    • http://twitter.com/KarlynMB Karlyn Borysenko

      Fienen, the thing of it is I wouldn’t ever judge the success or failure of a video based on a number of views. There are unknowns here. For instance, we don’t know what the goals were. Maybe it was a fundraising thing and it got shared around and increased donations….or maybe it got shared around and didn’t. We don’t know either way because we’re not seeing the context this video was presented in, so we don’t know.

      Yes, data can be manipulated but more times than not when I hear the “data isn’t everything” argument, it’s more as a way to say “I want to do what I want to do regardless of what the data says”. In other words, it’s a cop out.

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