Author Archive

Data Analysis 101: How a nonprofit used data to secure a critical business decision and help find 125 missing children

August 16th, 2016

We all have decisions we’re trying to drive. It may be getting budget approval from your manager. Or, selling a client on a campaign. It could be getting venture capital funding, or signing up the right business partner.

Our effectiveness in securing these decisions can have a significant impact on our success. And one way to make the case is by using data.

“Data adds credibility to the claims you’re making,” said Derrick Jackson, Director of Data Reporting and Analytics, MECLABS Institute (the parent research organization of MarketingExperiments). “It’s like the Fight the Squirrel videos say: It can all come across as opinion. But if you bring numbers, it adds validity.”

In this MarketingExperiments blog post, we look at a basic story of how one nonprofit used data to help drive a decision to see what you can learn from its efforts.


The challenge

BairFind is a nonprofit based in Jacksonville, Florida, dedicated to finding missing children by placing pictures of missing children in heavily trafficked areas of minor league baseball stadiums. For example, here is a picture from a Jacksonville Suns game.


Data Analysis 101

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Email Marketing: Test ideas for five types of email

July 1st, 2016

Testing your email marketing can help power some pretty impressive results – like a 100% increase in clickthrough or a 114% boost in revenue.

But … let’s be real … it is harder to test your email than to just send a single version of the email idea you come up with.

One challenge with email marketing – to keep your customers clicking and coming back for more, you need to endlessly come up with new messages and ideas for every email you send or set in an automation platform.

However, when you test your email marketing, you don’t get to create just one email for each campaign, you now need an A and a B (and a C and a D … etc. … etc. … depending on how many treatments you have and your list size can support).

To give you some new hypothesis ideas for your next email test, I interviewed Mike Nelson, Co-founder and Head of Marketing,, in the MarketingSherpa Media Center (MarketingSherpa is the sister publishing brand to MarketingExperiments).

He brought examples of five key types of marketing email from his site, which is described as a “modern-day museum” full of emails.

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Eight Lessons from the Father of Data-obsessed Marketing

June 6th, 2016

Snapchat. Mobile marketing. Virtual reality. Marketing automation.

As marketers, we have a tendency to focus on the newest, buzziest, most-hyped ideas and look at the giants whose shoulders upon which our industry stands.

Claude Hopkins lived far before any of these buzzy terms. Even before TV commercials. He’s one of the most influential advertising professionals in history, yet many modern marketers have probably never heard of him. After all, his seminal work – Scientific Advertising – was published almost 100 years ago.

Hopkins’ career resided in a sweet spot for influencing our industry. His research pre-dates and informed David Ogilvy and Rosser Reeves (aka Don Draper). In fact, in Ogilvy on Advertising, Ogilvy says, “Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read [Scientific Advertising] seven times. It changed the course of my life.”

Yet Hopkins arrived after earlier pioneers like Walter Scott and Daniel Starch, so his teachings were informed by not just opinion, but data. As he says in his book, “Advertising, once a gamble, has thus become, under able direction, one of the safest business ventures.”

Hopkins’ discoveries enabled him to be very tactical and practical with the advice he gave to early advertisers. This is advice successful marketers are still putting into practice today, such as:


“We learn the principles and prove them by repeated tests.”

Digital marketing has made A/B testing much easier, quicker, and cheaper. And you can see this dedication to testing and learning rolled out across the web today, as in the landing page tests shown below.


Source: Landing Page Optimization: 6 common traits of a template that works

However, it’s easy for digital marketers to forget that testing did not begin with the invention of the internet, as Claude Hopkins discussed the importance of testing way back in 1923.


“The most common way is by use of the coupon. We offer a sample, a book, a free package, or something to induce direct replies. Thus we learn the amount of action which each ad engenders.”

Measuring marketing tests is much easier thanks to the tracking and measurement inherent to digital marketing, something Hopkins didn’t have the luxury of back in 1923.

However, marketers today are still challenged with measuring the impact of offline advertising, like print ads. And coupons or other incentives are still a good way to measure that ROI.

It works in reverse, as well. Some companies, like this small sporting goods store, use online coupons to track brick-and-mortar store purchases, helping to measure the impact of their online channels.


Source: Social Media Marketing: Small sporting goods store sees 1,100% ROI increase with Facebook coupon


“The best ads ask no one to buy. That is useless. Often they do not quote a price. They do not say that dealers handle the product. The ads are based entirely on service. They offer wanted information.”

This quote from Claude Hopkins sounds almost like a very prescient call for content marketing, like the following blog post.


Source: Content Marketing: Multi-channel approach increases organic traffic 97%


“One must be able to express himself briefly, clearly and convincingly, just as a salesman must.”

Unlike other forms of creativity (movies or books) or information (newspapers or magazines), the vast majority of people are not actively searching for ads to read or watch, so the successful marketer must grab attention and convey a message in a very short time.

For example, the classic “Think Small” ad produced by Doyle Dane Bernbach for Volkswagen, which provides a brief, clear, and convincing proposition for a previously unheard of ask for 1959 – buy a small car.


Source: Wikipedia


“Practically all merchandise sold by mail is sent subject to return.”

This was a classic direct mail technique, and Zappos helped bring it into the Internet era.


Source: Zappos


“Fine talkers are rarely good salesman. They inspire buyers with the fear of over-influence. They cater the suspicion that an effort is made to sell them on other lines than merit.”

Instead of a slick-talking spokesperson,’s legendary Super Bowl ad used children reading lines that poked fun at real-world challenges—challenges that resonated with the ideal customer.

“When I grow up … I want to be underappreciated. Be paid less for doing the same job.”


Source: – “When I Grow Up” (YouTube)


“Remember the people you address are selfish, as we all are. They care nothing about your interests or profit. They seek service for themselves.”

When you read this quote, it seems like obvious advice, right? But does your company live it? I mean, really live it?

Since you’re also a customer, you know that so many companies don’t. I recently wrote 10 banks asking them the pre-payment penalty for their CDs. Only two actually answered my question. The other eight linked to a long page of terms and conditions and told me I could find my answer there.

Hardly a frictionless experience. Hardly providing service to a selfish customer who could care less about reading their T&Cs.

This experience is true in advertising, as well. Ads can be filled with friction and talk about things that matter more to the company than the customer. Perhaps they grab attention, but do they inspire the customer to act? Does the customer understand what’s in it for her?

“One product that does a great job of explaining its purpose in a straightforward way is Zzzquil,” said Emily Rogers, Senior Marketing Research Manager, MECLABS Institute. “Its TV ad sticks out to me because it explains the benefit of the product from the customer perspective in about 20 words or less.”



“Don’t boast, for all people resent it. Don’t try to show off.”

This is my favorite piece of advice from Hopkins. And we all see ridiculous boasting every day in countless ads.

Copywriters and agencies feel they must sing the praise of the product. After all, they’re getting paid to do it.

Brand-side marketers feel like they need to made huge claims. After all, they’re spending a lot on media, and only have a few seconds of the prospects’ attention to shout louder and bolder than the ad before and after.

Jerry Seinfeld and Acura do a great job of product placement in “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” specifically because they don’t boast.


Source: Acura Product Placement with Jerry Seinfeld (YouTube)

Fred Armisen: What’s this?
Jerry Seinfeld: Oh this is just some Acura parts. They told me my product placement was getting a little too heavy handed. So I thought, instead of the whole car…

(Acura drives up and honks)

Acura driver:
C’mon man, I’ve got a hot yoga!

(Tires screech, Acura quickly peels out with smoking tires, and anyone in product discovery mode with the intention of buying a sporty car just made a subtle mental note to possibly consider the Acura)


You might also like

Earn a graduate certificate in: Communicating Value and Web Conversion (I came across these lessons from Hopkins because I’m enrolled in this graduate program, a partnership between MarketingExperiments’ parent research organization MECLABS Institute and the University of Florida)

Marketing Research Chart: 75% of strategic marketers use A/B testing to learn about customer behavior

Optimizing Copy: The 7 most common copywriting mistakes we see marketers make

The Difference Between Marketing and Advertising (and Why It Matters)

May 23rd, 2016

Marketing and advertising are distinct majors in college. Most agencies are advertising agencies, and most departments inside companies that promote the sale of product are marketing departments.

Why the distinction? Are these two words synonyms, or is there a real difference?

A high-level, ephemeral topic like this isn’t something marketers spend most of their time thinking about. They’re too heads down, focused on budgets and marketing automation and copywriting. I know I am.

But I recently started taking MMC 5435: Messaging Strategy and the Centrality of the Value Proposition, part of the Communicating Value and Web Conversion graduate certificate created by MECLABS Institute (parent research organization of MarketingExperiments) in partnership with the University of Florida.

And so lately I’ve been pondering the bigger, more existential copies of marketing, such as this one. Marketing philosophy, if you will.


More than just nomenclature

To me, marketing is strategy and advertising is (but one) execution of that strategy. Marketing is the strategy of educating customers about a company’s choices in the marketplace, who their product or service will be a good fit for, and who it won’t. Advertising is then used to take that strategy and communicate it to an audience. This is part of the reason that many universities, UF included, place marketing programs in the College of Business and advertising in the College of Journalism and Communications.

So both advertising and marketing have the same goal. They both are, essentially, helping enable a choice. Usually in the company’s favor to enable reaching a conversion objective, but hopefully to enable the best decision for the customer — even if that best choice is not to purchase the company’s products.

But there is a key difference. Advertising is not holistic of the customer experience with a product. Even intelligent, multi-channel campaigns are impacting just a fraction of customer touchpoints with a brand.

And this is one of the biggest mistakes marketers make today. At least traditional marketers. They are too focused on getting in front of the customer with a conversion objective. But the real question should not be, “what is my objective as a marketer?”

Read more…

Value Proposition: Avoiding the curse of the ‘Why Bother Brand’

May 5th, 2016

Tidal. Yahoo Screen. “Speed 2: Cruise Control.” Your brand?

Some brands are so undifferentiated from other options, so derivative of competitors, the reaction they get from consumers is a shrug of the shoulders and an “Eh, why bother?”

Let me give you an example.


The “Why Bother Brand”

A burrito/Tex-Mex/Southwestern place recently opened in my neighborhood called Barberitos. I’d seen a few ads for it while flipping through local publications, and every time I did, I had the brief “Eh, why bother?” thought. After all, there were already enough perfectly fine burrito places, and this one didn’t seem any different. I always secretly thought about it as the perfect example of a “Why Bother Brand.” But just today, I got some data to back up my assertion …

Walker Ragland, Marketing Operations Specialist, MECLABS Institute (you may remember Walker from his social media test we wrote about in April), posted a Barberitos printout in our office and was boasting about just how good the food was there. That prompted Marketing Events Specialist Susan Warren to look it up on Yelp.

Out of 24 reviews, 15 compared Barberitos to a similar quick-serve restaurant, Moe’s Southwest Grill:

“It’s just like Moe’s Southwest Grill down to the T. The price is the same as Moe’s and so are all the food options (including the salsa bar).”

“Pretty much just seems like a dupe of Moe’s.”

“It’s very similar to Moe’s.”

“I thought it was an off brand Moe’s.”

Ah … so I wasn’t the only one who thought of Barberitos as a Why Bother Brand!

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Transparent Marketing: Research into social media marketing reveals surprising consumer discovery

April 25th, 2016

If you’ve read MarketingExperiments for any amount of time, you’ve seen how clarity trumps persuasion. Instead of trying to sell in marketing emails or on landing pages, help your customers clearly understand the value they will get from your conversion objective.

That’s why I was so surprised by some research I recently came across about sharing promotions on social media, a medium where selling is particularly frowned upon.

You can watch the interview with Dr. Lauri Baker, Assistant Professor in Agricultural Communications at Kansas State University and co-creator of the Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement, where we discuss this specific research along with other social media marketing tips. Below the video, I’ll give you my take on the subject.


Social media is a great channel for transparent marketing.

“There has been a lot of research done on transparency,” Dr. Baker told me. “Everybody wants to see that product from start to finish. They want to see that farmer aspect; they want to see that created in an authentic environment. A lot of that happens from just stories. Highlighting the people that are producing this food or this product, and show the places that it’s coming from. Those are the things that customers are really connecting with and wanting to see.”

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