Be Less Aristotelian: Marketing Needs Value Experimentation Over Assumption

With the upending of historic marketing fundamentals in the data and digital world, we need to recognise that for too long, marketing fundamentals in media planning and creative have been largely hypothesised instead of proven with repeatable experiments.

Let me start with a short history lesson about how science changed from the times of Plato and Aristotle to the great Galileo. For over 2,000 years, humankind was in the dark. It was common belief that the world was made up of earth, air, water, and fire  despite the atomic theory proposed by Democritus circa 500 BC. It wasn’t until the turn of the 17th century, when one Galielo Galilei decided to stop assuming and start doing something about it. And so began the new age of experimental science. He studied how objects moved on Earth, how they reacted to different forces, and how they fell to the ground.

Convinced that a relevant mathematical law must exist, he dropped objects of different weights and measured the outcomes as precisely as he could. The result was momentous: contrary to popular belief at the time, objects didn’t fall at the same speed. However, the acceleration was constant in every experiment he conducted. Galileo was able to calculate this constant to approximately 9.8 m/s2 – what we now know as gravitational force.

That revelation became the first mathematical law for earthly bodies and from that point in time, the dominoes began to fall. One revolutionary discovery after another started to surface from brilliant individuals including Newton, Maxwell, Faraday, Einstein, and many more.

As we venture into 2021, what do the observations of Aristotle and experiments of Galileo have to do with the digital marketing matters at hand? The answer is, everything.

Be Less Aristotle, More Galileo

For too long, the marketing world has relied on what I would call the Aristotelian approach to the world, i.e. engaging in observational procedures and making hypotheses instead of performing real experiments and analysing the results. For too long there has been a disproportionate focus on pitches and plans instead of implementations through to their tangible outcomes.

For so many decades, the marketing industry has been plagued by fancy theories. It has become even more apparent as templated media plans on awareness and activations have been challenged, older marketing mix models lack relevancy and consumer behaviour has significantly evolved.

However, I understand. There is beauty in theories. They are mystical and mysterious. But in the same vein, there is beauty in a flawless equation like E=mc2. It is an equally stunning example that may lack mystery but offers greater clarity instead.

Despite digital and data opening a window that allows us to MEASURE, QUANTIFY, and CODIFY every brief through to its execution, there is still disenfranchisement of the digital and data assets obtained. Especially if we choose to be satisfied based on theory alone.

Why Experiment? Because There’s Real Value to be Found!

Experimentation has taught us at ADA a great amount in the last three years. From discovering the real value of data and driving tangible outcomes, to leveraging on insights, maximising media platforms, and developing solid creatives. The more we experimented with data, the more amazed we were by its beauty and variety. But what surprised us is that when we looked even closer, we were able to study the minute details of every data asset and discovered even more potential for applicability.

As for third-party data, the possibilities have been endless for a plethora of industries like telecommunications, banking, consumer electronics, automotive, and even the retail sector. It’s mind-blowing how we can use data-driven insights from a telecommunications provider to provide business value to the banking sector via applications like credit scoring. We can drive real business outcomes at the intersection of digital media and data, from improving conversion of abandoned carts, to dynamic personalisation, to reducing lead times, and many other positive results.

But that would not have materialised had we not embarked forward together in the spirit of experimentation. From client servicing and business insight strategists to media performance and data science teams, we collectively embraced the spirit of “trial and error”. That organisation-wide exercise yielded a deeper understanding of correlation, causation, and codification of every data insight or business insight theory we have ever put forward.

Technology at the Ready

On the journey of experimentation, there’s an abundance of software and digital tools that can assist in optimising your marketing efforts across multiple channels. At the core, there are two types of tools you should be looking for:

1. Data aggregation, dissection, and experimentation:

Analytics & Attribution: These tools track and collect user behaviour at every touch point, understand traffic, and measure omnichannel attributions.

Customer Data Platform: These tools help create a single customer view and provide insights for you to decide on the next best action.

Data & AI Models: These tools provide output-proven tangible intent audiences built for various industries.

2. Touch point optimisation, journey orchestration, and personalised engagement:

Touch Point Management: These tools allow you to plan and automate the sequence of communication based on customer interactions across various channels.

Personalised Engagement: These tools enable conversational interactions across all instant messaging channels.

There are many more tools out there just waiting to be discovered, but the ones outlined above are a great starting point. It’s 2021, and I hope you get to share in our journey by emulating Galileo and by making a promise to go beyond theories and hypotheses.

Here’s to new discoveries for all of us in 2021. Good luck!


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Chris Wiseman

Head of Marketing Technology

Head of Marketing Technology, Chris Wiseman

Chris Wiseman

Chris leads Marketing Technology, a team dedicated to helping businesses understand growth opportunities. We start by looking at their current business, customer and technology, from this we look at their full marketing and sales funnel to identify growth strategies. We then work to bring these growth strategies to life and continuously optimize them.

With over 15 year’s experience in digital marketing technology. He previously worked in Sitecore as Head Of Alliances, helping over 200 partners in APAC deliver marketing technology solutions to customers. Before that he worked at Ogilvy where he built a CX/UX division from the ground up working across 12 countries and as a digital consultant to help businesses drive growth covering digital channels, CRM, data, mobile and ecommerce.

In his spare time, he sits on the advisory board for Republic Polytechnic to help groom the next generation of Singapore talent from the School of Arts & Technology.