Monday, April 09, 2007

Do You Follow Your Instincts?

While corporate management wants to know the estimated return on every marketing investment, we will shortchange management if science always trumps instincts.

Pure instinctive actions often have paid off in big ways.

Do you recall the famous and historic Avis "We’re Only #2, But We Try Harder" campaign? Research showed that advertisers would never admit to being #2, and the public would turn down their noses. Conventional wisdom was that advertisers should never promote any position other than #1; Hertz occupied that position. Yet, the client decided to follow its ad agency’s — Doyle Dane Bernbach — instinct, and the campaign built Avis into a car rental leader, tripling its market share to 35% and bringing name recognition equivalent to that of Hertz, the market leader.

Other famous campaigns that led to major market share expansions and highlighted the creativity of a single individual with a gut feeling that "this is the right way to go" include:

---Nike: "Just do it!"

---Ivory Soap: "99 and 44/100% pure"

---Clairol: "Does she...or doesn't she?" [color her hair]

---Benson & Hedges 100s: "The disadvantages ..." [of the extra-long product]

Outside of advertising and public relations, artists and writers often rely on inspiration and intuition to create their best work.

It is my contention that instincts often emanate from years of experience. People with experience tend to recognize situations that are similar to, or different from, their earlier experiences, allowing them to form accurate, intuitive courses of action.

Obviously, there may be other reasons for correct instinctive actions: e.g., dreams, assessment of information learned in a classroom, recollections of what people have said or was physically seen, belief in first impressions.

In no way am I diminishing the importance of research and measurement. In fact, I serve on the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Public Relations, the category leader in this area, and I believe strongly in collecting evidence which is persuasive in choosing a particular strategy. But research also shows, as noted by the above examples, that intuition pays off way more than just occasionally.

Technorati Tags: instincts, Avis, Doyle Dane Bernbach, Hertz, Nike, Ivory Soap, Clairol, Benson & Hedges 100s, advertising, experience, Institute for Public Relations, intuition, business, communications, public relations


Blogger Sanford said...

Interesting discussion - I talk a little about this same topic with regard to politics at

Monday, April 09, 2007 12:35:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ken, I couldn't agree more. The Institute for Public Relations defines its mission as the science beneath the art of public relations. The truly great practitioners are those who are best at combining science and art.

Monday, April 09, 2007 3:47:00 PM  
Blogger markrose said...

Ken: It's always a tug and pull. When does instinct tell you to pick up the phone and be assertive and opportunistic; when does prudence tell you to pause and consider. I feel these opposing forces all day long, the balance between instinct and science. You can't teach instinct. In media relations its a "sense of news" - a journalistic instinct. Clients don't want to measure effort, only results. Good topic.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007 4:34:00 PM  

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