Category: The Science of Marketing

Musings on interdisciplinary scientific research, trends and findings that affect (and, in some cases, effect) the way we market goods, services and opportunities.

18 Mar 2011

Ad Spending Improved

According to Stuart Elliot writing in the New York Times, the recovery in advertising spending continued in the fourth quarter last year, according to a report that is to be released on Thursday morning, resulting in a solid full-year gain compared with the results of 2009.  Ad spending in the United States in the fourth quarter increased 7 percent from the same period of 2009, said Kantar Media, a unit of WPP that tracks marketing activity in major media. That, added to the results from the first three quarters of 2010, combined for a total increase of 6.5 percent compared with 2009.

In 2009, ad spending fell 12.3 percent compared with 2008 as the poor economy led many marketers to cut back their spending for advertising.  The gain of 7 percent for the fourth quarter was an improvement from the increase registered in the first three quarters of 2010 compared with the same period the previous year, which was 6.4 percent.  The fourth-quarter increase was, however, smaller than the gain in the third quarter of 2010 compared with the same period of 2009, which was 8.7 percent — the largest quarterly increase measured by Kantar since the fourth quarter of 2004.


12 Mar 2011

Digital Screens are about to get big . . . REALLY BIG!

As reported in Nature, researchers in Korea have created a new metamaterial with the most extreme positive index of refraction yet – a whopping 38.6. The metamaterial operates at terahertz frequencies and the team believes that it could find use in a number of applications including high-resolution imaging.

So, if you didn’t specialize in optical physics in school, this probably means very little to you.  Hang in here with me and you’ll see the payoff.  First, a bit of explanation.  The refractive index of a material defines the angle through which light is bent when it travels between a material and the vacuum. Ordinary materials such as glass have refractive indices between one and three at optical frequencies, with a few materials like silicon approaching four. Over the past decade or so, physicists have been developing artificial materials with negative indices of refraction. These metamaterials bend light in the opposite direction to normal materials and can be used to make invisibility cloaks and superlenses.


08 Mar 2011

The next evolution in digital screens

According to Richard Stevenson, a freelance science and technology writer based in Chepstow, Wales, writing for the IOP, researchers in South Korea and the UK say that they have produced the first large-area, full-colour display based on red, green and blue quantum dots. The technology could spur the launch of colour TV screens combining a vast colour range with an incredibly small pixel size.  Both attributes stem from the intrinsic properties of the quantum dots, which despite being just a few nanometres in diameter comprise several thousand atoms that form tiny compound-semiconductor crystals. When electrons inside the quantum dots recombine with their positively charged counterparts, known as holes, it can result in the emission of a narrow band of light.


02 Mar 2011

Think local – act local

The recent rise in daily deals Websites (like Groupon) and the rise of mobile applications has proved to small businesses that an online presence does drive in-store traffic.

I’m not really sure why this seems revolutionary, people in our industry have been claiming that for years.  I think it’s because there is so much more money in national clients that we, as an agency, simply don’t bother going after the little guys.  That might be a mistake.  Just a few years ago, small businesses spent $96bn on local advertising – only 4% of that was for online advertising.  The rest went to TV, radio and print, despite the fact that 50% of media consumption was done online, according to a 2009 report from Forrester Research.  Now analysts estimate the local online ads market could be worth more than $35bn by 2014, according to the Kelsey Group.


26 Feb 2011

Dial 5683 for Love!

A psychological scientist in Germany has found a way that cell phones, and specifically texting, have hacked into our brains. Just by typing the numbers that correspond to the letters in a word like “love,” we can activate the meaning of that word in our minds. The results are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.


22 Feb 2011

The eyes have it!

Eye tracking isn’t a new concept to advertising, but the technology used for eye tracking is – and it’s getting better.

James Breeze, usability specialist and CEO of Usable World has a blog about eye tracking (and other things) – it’s really good, go check it out.  Anyway, I’ve seen tons of studies about eye tracking and how people interact with Websites and movies and digital signage, etc.  We’ve done it ourselves for some of the Websites we’ve built.  I like it – I think it’s accurate and a valid form of analysis, but, to me, it has always seemed a bit limited.


21 Feb 2011

Love and Marketing

One of my best friends is just about the greatest salesman you’ll ever meet. We got to know each other long ago when I was working as a copywriter at a software company and he was, naturally, working in the sales department. Most of the sales people who worked there were either on the obnoxious, overconfident side (compensating for something, perhaps) or they were the kind of pitiful, desperate need-to-make-the-mortgage-please-buy-from-me type of sales person (think Gil on The Simpsons).

Jason is not like that though. He has a calm, cool demeanor; he’s helpful without being cloying and gives you room to make your decision without being aloof or disengaged. I’m pretty sure he told his fair share of customers to go buy our competitor’s product if he really felt it would serve them better. Knowing Jason, his motivation to do so is two-fold: not only does the customer get what they want, but he doesn’t have to deal with them down the road when they’re unhappy with the product.

What makes him distinctly different from most salespeople is that he has a true passion for the art of selling. And to him that doesn’t mean just getting people to buy something, but rather helping people get what they need in a mutually beneficial relationship that makes both parties happy. He studies sales like an art. He understands what makes people tick and how to manage those relationships to everyone’s advantage.

We’ve been great friends ever since those days at the software company, even doing a little writing on the side together (anybody want to buy a couple of screenplays?).

Before Jason got married, we’d talk a lot about romantic relationships: finding them, what makes them work or not and how to game the system to have the most success in them. In talking about these things, we realized that managing sales and marketing relationships wasn’t all that different from how you pursue and manage romantic relationships. The steps to doing either are the same.

16 Feb 2011

Is your website content playing its part?

Ask even the most seasoned Search Engine Optimization (SEO) specialists and they’ll tell you that the rules of the game are constantly changing. Your website is at the mercy of the search engines and their algorithms. Google, Bing, Yahoo, Ask – they all keep their cards held close to their chest as far as what, exactly, causes one website to rank higher than another in their search results. Aside from Bing looking at what Google’s results give in order to augment their own results, nobody really knows the rules of the game.

But one thing that is clear is that your website content, i.e., the words on the page and behind the scenes (metatags, titles, captions, etc.) play an important role. Besides helping you rank higher in the organic search results, the words on the page are also crucial in influencing the people who actually wind up on your page – however they wound up there.

15 Feb 2011

The science of stories

Advertising is really about telling a story.  The way we tell the story depends on the length of time we have to tell the story and the method by which we are telling the story (TV, radio, etc.). but the simple fact is that we are all captivated by a good story.  Jessica Marshall recently investigated what makes some narratives so compelling, and what she found could impact the way we create advertising.


10 Feb 2011

Will crowd-sourcing change how we create ads?

I was reading an article by Jim Giles about crowd-sourcing.  Crowd-sourcing is one of those buzzy new technology trends that I generally try to avoid writing about.  It’s not that I am against it or anything, it’s just that a lot of people have already written really good articles / blogs / books about it.

But in reading his article, I realized that I had missed something about crowd-sourcing – that it’s quite possible that humans are being managed by machines.  Now, this isn’t “Soylent Green is made of PEOPLE!” level of surprise, and maybe you already knew this, but I didn’t.

According to Giles, Boris Smus, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, used software to post a request to Mechanical Turk, an outsourcing Website run by Amazon.  The same software also posted editing and writing jobs.  As the results came in, it farmed the text back out for further checking and editing.  The result was an encyclopedia entry on New York City, produced by humans but managed by machine.