Thursday, June 11, 2015

Let's make it complicated.

Years ago I not-so-famously quipped that a “customer journey is a journey no customer ever takes.”

For the past two days I’ve been in meetings that have made my offhanded remark, I must admit, seem more and more brilliant.

Half the meetings talk about advertising as if it were an if-then proposition. If we do something, then a predictable something will happen. This is advertising, not Newtonian physics. There are plenty of immovable objects (potential customers) but not so many irresistible forces (creative.)

The other half of these excruciating sessions have been about calculus. Someone has done all the math and now knows how to optimize angels dancing on the heads of various pins.

As George Parker so often and so lustily points out, Mad Men have been replaced by Math Men.

I guess what’s happening is similar to what happened to the French when they fought and lost in Viet Nam. They tried to apply military science as taught by the finest academies and practiced by the most be-medaled generals to a people’s war. Surely if the North Viet Namese fought in the style the French had always fought wars, the French army would have mopped the jungle with them.

Consumers are free agents.

They don’t respond magically because you’ve placed a “click here” button adroitly or culled the list of fields you’d like them to fill out to seven.

This is a business, as Dr. Samuel Johnson said so many centuries ago, whose soul is built on making a large promise to consumers.

It’s not built on math.

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