Marketing Idea No. 264: What the world of physics can teach the world of marketing

Yes, Newton may have more to do with the world of marketing than some of the misguided brand managers of the world. And yes, its funny how the world of physics can teach us the world of marketing. In fact, Dan Cobley (Marketing Director at Google) has given us some great examples of that. One of them is stated below.

Lets start with physics and a law called “Observer effect”.

In science, the term observer effect refers to changes that the act of observation will make on a phenomenon being observed. This is often the result of instruments that, by necessity, alter the state of what they measure in some manner. A commonplace example is checking the pressure in an automobile tire; this is difficult to do without letting out some of the air, thus changing the pressure. This effect can be observed in many domains of physics.

The same measurement principle can be applied in the world of marketing, particularly in the domain of market research. Simply the act of measurement, be it in the Focus Group Discussion or the questions posed through a questionnaire, changes the way human beings will normally behave. While surveyed we behave in a way that is agreeable by mass people, or by the surveyor and often in total contradiction to what we really think or act. In a survey situation we utter our strong commitment to buy environment friendly products while in shops of we actually buy more value for money, non organic options. When we are asked, we act as responsible parents and denounce “junk foods”, while at the same time “junk food” industry is having consistent growth. As a result traditional market research often brings inaccurate results.

A simpler rule of thumb could be measuring what people actually do, not what he thinks, wants or intends to do. And through advancement in technology, such kind of research (i.e. actual monitoring of how web traffic behaves while visiting a website) is becoming more prevalent.

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1 Comment

  1. Good thinking Shahriar bhai.
    I guess, it comes down to having good observational skills and instincts, from the Marketeer’s point of view. Democratic surveys often do not reflect the real nature of the person in life and rather the person ideally he wants to be (which are usually 2 different people).

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