07 Oct 2013

Marketing’s winning secrets

It’s the sizzle in the singer, not the song that scores, says Mike Rigby of construction marketing specialists MRA Marketing.

Everyone likes a good presentation or performance.

We take our hats off to Apple’s masterly packaging of an iPad, and the precision and power of a Porsche. We relish the presentation of fine dining, and the packaging of an expensive wine or single malt. We salute the cool marketing that signals best in class and separates a top brand from the rest. We’re awed by the All Blacks rugby team as they roar the Haka, and we’re swept along by the stage craft of a rock band at a music festival. We are transported by the passion of a concert pianist or virtuoso violinist.

In fact, we’re all suckers for added drama. But that’s all it is, isn’t it? It’s enhancement, not the experience itself?

Well, you might accept there’s a lot of performance in a rock concert. But, surely classical music is immune to superficial distractions, especially when the performance is being judged in a top level competition? However a new study by Chi-Jung Tsay, a concert pianist and researcher at University College London found otherwise. Winning a classical music competition is not just down to the performer’s virtuosity, the research suggests. An artist’s stage presence and showmanship could be more important when it comes to evaluating the recital.

The research found that people shown silent videos of piano competitions picked out winners more often than those who could hear the music.

More than 1,000 volunteers took part in the study. A third were randomly given samples of audio, a third, silent video, and a third were given video and sound combined. All were asked to rate the top three finalists from 10 classical music competitions. The real winners were only correctly identified by those who saw the silent videos. Volunteers who viewed video with sound did no better than chance.

When both novices and experts watched silent videos that showed only the performers’ outlines, they still got it right just under half the time. What they seemed to be picking up on were gestures they thought conveyed passion and gave the performers their edge. More surprising perhaps is that both trained musicians and those without training had said that sound was the most important in their evaluation.

If even experts cannot pick the winner from the top three when they see and hear the performance it suggests that performance and presentation are all important, not mere enhancements.

The findings echo previous research which showed that, when blindfolded, many wine experts cannot tell the difference between red and white wine, and many whisky experts cannot tell the difference between single malts and blends.

Surely building products and building professionals are different? Some years ago, large scale research of four trade paint brands established that in blind product testing professional painters and decorators could not distinguish between the market leader and a budget brand. They guessed that the product they thought performed best was the brand leader, and the product that performed worst in their eyes was the budget brand. In fact, it was the reverse.

These findings may discourage those who prefer life without marketing. But, marketing matters because it creates and manages the cues and signals that really move us, the ones we use to decide, specify or buy – even if we are not conscious of these cues or aware we are using them.

Marketing matters, and the more research is done into unlikely subjects like this the more it is shown to matter.

Agree? Disagree? Want help with your marketing? Tweet @MRAMarketing or email lucia@mra-marketing.com


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