Hiding Behind The Veil Of Experimentation

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As the early Baby Boomers (or should I just say people born between 1945 and 1955) come of presidential age, we’re sure to hear more politicians admit to having “experimented” with marijuana in their college days.

As if experimenting makes that OK. Is it OK to “experiment” with grand theft auto? How about “experimenting” with treason? OK, fine, those aren’t fair comparisons. And my point here isn’t political, but marketing-related.

My take: Too many marketers (online marketers, in particular) are deploying questionable tactics, hiding behind a veil of “experimentation.” Example: User-generated content campaigns.

I don’t doubt that a large bank that’s currently running a UGC campaign will succeed in pulling in a thousand, if not a couple of thousand, entries. But I can’t help but wonder if they’ve established targets for and are measuring:

  • The mix of entries from prospects and existing customers
  • How many prospects are converted to customers
  • The up-sell/cross-sell success for customers who submit entries

And I also wonder what marketing would say if the CEO or CFO asked:

What other potential initiatives — which were not funded — were deemed less important than this one, and why?

A marketing exec at the bank said (on another blog) “this is a test, so we’re not certain either how it will turn out, but we feel it’s worth a try.”

Worth a try based on what? A desire to be one of the cool kids? To be able to say “we’re a cool brand because we did a UGC campaign”?

It isn’t only the lack of economic rationale that’s bothering me here, but a more fundamental issue which is prevalent in all-too-many marketing departments: The absence of a rigorous test-and-learn discipline.

I’m all for “experimenting” (in a marketing context, that is). But a marketing group that creates a disciplined test-and-learn agenda establishes key questions that it wants to find the answers to.

Understanding whether or not consumers who submit entries into a UGC contest are good (better?) candidates for acquisition/cross-sell may very well be a valid question. But I’m willing to bet that: 1) most firms have more burning questions to address, and 2) the bank in question did not establish this question as part of a test-and-learn agenda.

Experimentation is not a way out of accountability. And considering the accountability issues that so many marketing groups face today, hiding behind a veil of experimentation doesn’t make things better.

Technorati Tags: Marketing, Banking, User-Generated Content

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