I remember my good friend Dan from college. It was the early 90s; I was an econ major and Dan was a chemistry major. Dan was a very smart guy that did exceptionally well in math and science. I remember talking to him about a class, a writing class to be specific. The class was called Little Red Schoolhouse. I don’t remember what the actual class number was, but it’s now a full program at my alma mater, the University of Chicago.
Well, Dan got an A in this writing class where his peers were English and Philosophy majors. So I asked Dan, “how can you be such a good writer, when you’re a science geek?” Well, Dan’s answer was very simple: “I just treat writing like a math problem.” Meaning, his approach was very mathematical, even though he was applying it to creative writing. What he’d do was identify his objective, or main thesis. Then he’d break down the rationale, or the proof, into steps. From this high-level outline, the words would simply fill in the details. But the structure of his writing was very quantitative in nature. Granted, Dan will never be a classical writer (he’s actually a heart surgeon now), but he demonstrated a simple fact. A quant jock will never be a purely creative artist. However, why can’t math be a catalyst in artist thinking?
Fast forward to more recent times where today’s advertising world is steeped with incredibly creative talent. Wonderful creative directors that make us laugh and cry and feel great. However, what if we could inject more math (or analytics) into that creative process to breakdown the problem into a logical progression? Well, enter the idea of hierarchical value maps (also known as means-end analysis).
The idea is simple. How can we use research to create data and apply advanced analytics to understand a very simple yet powerful component of the purpose of advertising – to influence consumer choice. Consumer choice is driven by different parts of the mind. The simple premise is that we, as consumers, don’t simply make purchasing decisions based on product features, but really because of the emotional values they support. For example, based on this analysis, I didn’t buy my Audi because of the horsepower or body style; I bought it because the aesthetics of the Audi make me feel unique and differentiated. As marketers, we tend to focus on the product benefits that we, as marketers, deem as important. But we should, using analytics, identify what the consumer thinks is important, and hit on those themes in our creative delivery. If we can achieve and deliver on this promise, our creative, analytically informed and artistically delivered, will always win.