A bit about CSG...

In the Oscar-nominated movie ‘The Martian’ Matt Damon plays a NASA botanist stuck on Mars. His crew have departed as they have (reasonably) assumed he has been killed by an accident during their mission.

Damon's character survives, and wakes to realises the magnitude of his situation. It will be several years before a rescue mission can reach him and he only has sufficient supplies to last a few months.

But as a highly-qualified scientist, he doesn’t panic. Nor does he give up and accept his fate. He decides to solve the problem in the most effective way possible (WARNING: this video contains a naughty word).

I won’t give away any spoilers here, but suffice to say “sciencing the sh*t” out of the problem helps keep him alive. He consults the notes left behind by his colleagues, and experiments using the limited resources at his disposal (including a highly creative way of growing potatoes).

Not only is it a great movie, but it’s a metaphor for the way science has solved problems in the world we live. The houses we live in, the food we eat, the transport we use. All of these things were developed by scientists using the scientific method.

A hypothesis, followed by a deduction, tested through observation. Then repeat.

In his book ‘How Brands Grow’, Professor Byron Sharp makes the case for ‘marketing science’. He rejects the argument that marketing (and advertising) must be purely creative, and cannot be advanced through adopting a scientific approach. Marketing is not a purely creative endeavour (like art), he argues, because it has the specific goal of influencing behaviour – usually to buy a specific product or service. 

Marketing is more like architecture, he says. An architect like Frank Lloyd Wright can create a beautiful house, which has obvious aesthetic and creative value. But if it didn’t obey the laws of physics, it would fall down. Without this scientific foundation to Wright’s creativity the house would be useless.

Similarly, a marketing campaign that doesn’t obey the observable and provable laws of marketing and behavioural science will not change behaviour. Consumers will not be influenced, and nothing will be sold. As marketing, it is wasted effort. 

And yet…

In the marketing and communications industry far too little work is scientifically proven. In fact, most ‘received wisdom’ runs contrary to evidence. Like the doctors who practised blood-letting for hundreds of years before it was proven to be harmful, marketers and communicators persist in out-dated collective beliefs. Large sections of the industry rely on it, and the urban legends live on.

For example:

  • Marketers often assume each problem faced is unique, and must be planned from scratch every time (wrong);
  • Marketers rush to discovery, spending all their budgets in one go with little to no pre-testing (wrong);
  • When they do test, they assume people can accurately predict how they will behave in the real world (also wrong);
  • And marketers assume that people care enough about their brand to loyally purchase it over all others (almost always wrong), will excitedly tell their friends about it (almost never) and will want to engage with it in social media (very, very, rarely).

No wonder John Wanamaker once said: ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.’ Isn’t it time we found out?

That’s what inspired us to start Communication Science Group. It’s time we took the guesswork out of communications, and started sciencing the sh*t out of it. And, like Matt Damon with his potatoes, use that grounding in science to creatively grow something that will keep your business well fed.

The good news is that there is a wealth of scientific evidence out there, so we have an accurate idea what works. CSG make sure we keep on top of the latest thinking through our network of independent experienced communications professionals, specialist delivery partners, and by working with the leading academics in the UK from Oxford, Cambridge and UCL.

Our behaviour-first, scientifically-led approach can be applied to any field of communications. Because everything communicates, and how you say it matters as much as what you say. CSG have optimised call centre and live chat scripts, website and app UX, advertising and direct marketing copy and layout, environmental and store design, and product and pricing choice architecture. 

But you don’t have to take our word for it (that wouldn’t be very scientific, would it)?

We want you to give us a try, so we offer an initial FREE audit. And once you agree to test our approach, we work on a payment by results basis. We believe in putting our money where our mouth is. Because we know this stuff works, and we can prove it.

That way at the very least you’ve gained a valuable insight for a minimal cost. And when it works – then we can move on to finding out what makes it work even better. ‘Magic bullets’ are rare. Communication (and scientific) success is usually about finding several things to work on and making them incrementally better. Continuous experimentation is critical.

That’s how science built the world we live in today – we believe communication shouldn’t be any different.

Richard Chataway

Founder, CSG

January 2017