A/B Testing: Knowing What Works Doesn’t Tell you Why

A/B Testing: Knowing What Works Doesn’t Tell you Why

I read a great post today called “Throw Everything you Know About Ads Out the Window”. The author describes how he ran a very simple test of two ads to see which would work better. You can see the two ads here. The first ad was very professional looking with good looking graphics, nice fonts and a green call to action button. The second ad was in his words “some shit ad I made in 5 mins in Microsoft Paint.” The ad was a hand drawn picture of a car with the hand written words “Need for Speed!!! Play free!!”  He tested the 2 ads for 15K impressions each and found the low tech ad generated a clickthrough rate of 0.137% versus 0.049% for the more professional looking ad. Whoa. That’s quite a difference. His conclusion that, “every idea you have is worth testing no matter how crappy it is”  is a smart one in my opinion, but also trickier than it might sound. Your Test Results Tell you What Works but not Why So we know the second ad generated a better CTR. Now what? Here is a list of reasons the second one might have gotten more clicks: Novelty – we are inundated with ads and something that looks very different is interesting and click-worthy. Free – research shows that this a bit of a magic word for folks and it appears much more prominently on the second ad. Less Text – the second ad had much less text and is easier to read. Single Image – A single image might make the ad easier to process. Simplicity and Flow...
Startup Marketing Vs. Art

Startup Marketing Vs. Art

On the weekend I watched Art and Copy, a 2009 documentary featuring interviews with influential folk in the advertising business past and present. One of the themes was that great creative advertising people saw their work as “art” in the sense that it was about much more than selling product.  In their minds it was “a performance” and “culture”. Good advertising, they reasoned, could make a car company more than a car company. Good advertising, according these folks, aspires to drive culture (or at least teach us something about it). If your Ads aren’t doing that, according to these folks, your marketing is crap. The examples used in the movie were campaigns for big companies (Apple’s ads, Nike’s “Just do it”, the “Got Milk?” campaign etc.). It got me thinking – are startup marketers missing something by not striving to connect with prospects on a more “cultural” level? How many startup campaigns aspire to do more than drive clicks or registrations? Should we? If we don’t, does our marketing stink? In the Land of Art, Revenue is Optional, For Startups, it’s Oxygen. In the movie there was very little talk about the results of the campaigns in terms of sales. “Success” was defined by how much people liked or remembered the ads themselves. In the movie the advertising folk admitted that selling was important yet nobody offered an example of how their ads actually drove revenue.  For example, the movie hailed the “Got Milk?” campaign as a great success yet the California Milk Processor’s Board describes the results of the campaign in terms of awareness of the ads only...

The Google Superbowl Ad: Why Now?

Google launched their first ever major TV ad last night at the Superbowl and thinking about it I had a moment where I thought – “Oh dear, I’m watching the beginning of the end.” I’ve worked at tech companies that spent a fortune on TV ads and I have always been a skeptic.  Unless you are doing pretty sophisticated brand tracking to measure the changes in the perception of your brand, the effects of tactics like that are almost impossible to measure and even then, trying to connect those results back to a specific TV ad is impossible.  If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it as Drucker would say.  I always had the feeling in the big tech firms I’ve worked in that TV ads were run largely out of fear.  We did them because we had always done them and nobody had the guts to pull the plug on a tactic that nobody could be really sure did something or not.  I always assumed that if we were starting fresh, the TV ads would never have happened. Then Google does a TV ad.  At the Superbowl. Why?  Is it to reach some part of the population that’s never heard of them? Unlikely – this is the United States we’re talking about.  Was it to show off a new feature that maybe we hadn’t heard of?  Nope, the ad didn’t do that.  To launch a new product?  Nope again.  So what did the ad do? The ad, in a word, was sweet.  It was a love story.  It was designed to have you reaching for a tissue...

Can B2B Products be “Social Objects”?

A couple of weeks back I attended MeshMarketing and Hugh MacLeod of Gapingvoid was the keynote speaker.  In his talk he discussed “social objects”.  By his definition a “social object” can be a thing a person or an idea that people talk about.  Hugh talked about working at an ad agency where customers would ask them to get people talking about products like it was as easy thing to do.  His comment was (I’m paraphrasing) “Getting people talking is magic!  They were asking us to perform magic but their perception was that we were just pulling a lever.”  His described how people talk about things they are passionate about and how creating that passion in customers is about more than mere features and functions. “It’s not about features or what you build, that’s important,” he re-iterated “it’s about how people talk about what you produce that matters.” This isn’t a new concept for traditional marketers.  One of the folks on the panel I moderated (Barry Quinn from Juniper Park) gave the example of car companies sponsoring Formula 1 racing as a way to get people socializing around a brand.  However, that thinking has historically come after the product is delivered.  After it’s released, traditionally companies just had to pay the ad agency to pull the “make people talk about it” lever. I’ve seen some products coming to market where the social aspects are a key design point, particularly on the B2C side but I haven’t seen much evidence of that type of thinking in B2B.  Rypple (case study here) is a great example.  But frankly, for B2B, those products...

Keep Your Filthy Brands off of Me

I haven’t had a serious rant on this blog yet so today is the day!  Corporate marketers at big companies, you can just ignore this post, it’s not for you.  I’m talking to you product marketers at little companies or you folks that own marketing budget for new products at bigger companies.  You know who you are. Lately I am hearing the word “brand” so much it’s making me ill.  Seriously.  Worse than having to watch people use the word brand inappropriately all over the place, is when I see “branding” used as an excuse for bad marketing. Maybe it’s because I spent so many years of my life marketing database software but I am a bit of an analytics nut.  In my world if you aren’t measuring it you aren’t managing it and if you aren’t managing your marketing spend then you might as well hand out $20 bills on the street asking for sales calls. So you have a marketing budget.  It’s puny.  In fact your CEO and your Finance guy are probably in a room right now cutting it as we speak.  Why are you still spending money on things you can’t or don’t measure and calling it “Branding”? Oh I can hear you right now – “April, we have to run those ads – we are building our brand!”  “We have to be at those tradeshows, it’s important for our brand!” “We are spending tens of thousands of dollars on graphics and art and colors and logos and naming, and all that because we are building a brand!”  So how exactly are you tracking that? ...