Beware unicorns!

Beware unicorns!

Currently I am finding myself bombarded with messages about ‘unicorn’ marketing tricks – if you just download this set of ‘high conversion emails’ or follow that Facebook marketing plan, you will never have to do any other marketing ever!
 
I do read these articles – mainly because I’m always interested in new and innovative marketing angles (insert marketing nerd alert here), but partially because – how great would it be if there was just one sure-fire technique? I could just do that forever and retire on the proceeds!
 
However, it always turns out, when I read them, that the offers are flawed. When it comes to marketing, there really isn’t much new under the sun. 
 
I can understand how people might get the impression that they have beaten the system though: 
 
Say you’re a business owner. You’re slogging away, trying to fit marketing around your core business. You try many different options and channels. Finally, you hit on the jackpot. It’s the method that seems to deliver high numbers of well converting leads. You’re a marketing genius! Perhaps this is the marketing holy grail? You should definitely think about selling your method to other business owners – if it worked for you, surely it will work for everyone else!?
 
Do you see the problems here?
 
Firstly – there’s the ‘recency bias’. You know when you find your keys – they are always in the last place you look? This is a similar thing – the people spruiking these services think they’ve found the most successful marketing technique because they stopped trying new ones after they found one that worked for them. 
 
Then – there’s the ‘bandwagon effect’ – or the attempt to imply that because this technique has worked for lots of people, it will work for you. Marketing isn’t a one-size-fits-all science. The variables are endless – different products, services, quality, target audience, delivery method, geographic location, price etc. etc. etc. So just because a marketing approach worked for someone else does not mean that it will work for you. 
 
When you read about all the ‘success stories’ of other people that have used this technique, remember, you’re not hearing from the vast numbers of people who tried the technique unsuccessfully. Who knows how often it actually does work? This is anecdotal evidence at best. 
 
Then there’s ‘false cause’ – confusing correlation with causation. By ascribing all the impact to this last marketing technique, you discount any effects of the previous campaigns and channels. Famously, the ‘Rule of Seven’ says that a prospect has to see your brand seven times before they will consider buying (in actual fact, it seems to be between 5 and 12). But without evidence, we don’t know whether that final, successful marketing approach would have had the same impact without the previous, seemingly unsuccessful approaches, or whether any other marketing approach at that time would have had a similar or better result! 
 
Claims like this cherry pick the evidence. They appeal to people’s confirmation bias (where you seek out information that verifies your existing beliefs) and promote false consensus effects (where you overestimate the extent to which others share your opinion). 
 
Sadly, just like miracle weight-loss programs and do-it-yourself-would-you-believe-this-is-a-grandmother anti-wrinkle “tricks”, there is no such thing as a ‘unicorn’ marketing technique. 
 
What works for you won’t work for another brand or product. Good ol’ fashioned marketing takes time and effort analysing, testing and learning. And even then, a marketing campaign that worked wonders once, may not have the same effect again – because people change, fashions change, needs change. Data is boring, but it is the only way to build a good marketing strategy.
 
So if you want a marketing plan that’s tailored to your business, budget, objectives and target customer – talk to us at Atomic Tangerine. We won’t try to sell you a ‘unicorn’ – because, let’s face it: unicorns don’t exist.
 
Sybil Williams
Founder & Growth Catalyst
 
Special thanks: To Bec Hanson and Eran Sergev for their technical advice on cognitive biases and logical fallacies.