Is our data-driven era driving out the magic of marketing? More importantly, is it possible that being 100% data-driven isn’t actually supported by the data? It’s a bit of a mind-bender, which is why John Koetsier and I decided to tackle the data on data in our latest installment of Retention Masterclass. 

“The idea of a customer journey is a grotesque oversimplification, usually,” says our guest Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy, and author of Alchemy: The Dark Art and Curious Science of Creating Magic in Brands, Business and Life. “But nonetheless, if you have anything sequential going on in behavior, it makes sense to optimize from the end backwards. So, my argument would be if you’re an organization, get your repeat purchase and your retention fixed before you start worrying about acquisition.” 

But getting your retention fixed is all about data, isn’t it? Well… maybe. 

Listen to the podcast:

Subscribe here:

The Art of Behavioral Science 

“People have this huge argument about behavioral science. Is it a science?” Rory asks. “And in the sense of engineering on Newtonian physics, no, it isn’t. Right? I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say with complete certainty, ‘Do X, it will definitely work.’ What I can do is use behavioral science to massively widen the solution space by saying, ‘If I suggested you do X, you would look at me as if I were a lunatic, but given the potential gains of doing X, believe me, there’s enough I know from behavioral science to know that even if I can’t guarantee it will work, it’s emphatically worth testing.’” 

What’s Rory’s point? Don’t confine yourself by only testing the things that you think should be important. When you do so, “you’re narrowing your solution space dangerously.” 

“And in fact, there’s evidence of this which shows from people in the programmatic space,” he adds, “which shows that the more things you test, the more extraordinary successes emerge.” 

Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb, test something that may seem silly, and wait for the results to roll in.  

Marketing may not be a hard science, but that’s to your benefit. Because, just like in psychology, “if you change the context of something to a tiny degree you can completely change its meaning, the emotional response it generates, and therefore, for example, the sales it generates.”  

Rory gives us an example: “‘Avis is #2 in Rental Cars.,’ That’s actually an ad for Hertz, standing on its own. You add, ‘So we try harder,’ and it’s an ad for Avis. Suddenly you’ve turned, literally, lead into gold because you’ve turned a weakness into a strength.” Data can’t tell you how people will respond, but what you know about people gives you a good idea that people—especially those who prefer a craft brew to mass produced swill—will prioritize quality over quantity. 

To learn more about how Rory applies this to retention, read the transcript below.  

Show Transcript