Scientific Laws of Marketing

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Scientific Laws of Marketing with Ethan Decker

Ethan Decker, PhD, is president of Applied Brand Science. Ethan unearths and distills the latest and most relevant research on marketing and human behavior to increase the effectiveness of his clients’ advertising and branding efforts. 

He spent a dozen years leading strategy and research at some of the world’s best agencies, such as 72 and Sunny and Crispin Porter Bogusky. He’s worked on some of the world’s biggest brands, including Kellogg’s, Gillette, Duracell, Pepsi, Domino’s, and  

In a past career, he was an ecologist who studied urban ecosystems. But now he is pioneering the field of brand science to help companies that want to embrace a more effective approach to advertising and brand growth.

Applied Brand Science Website

Listen to more episodes of The Business of Business Podcast here

Full Transcript Below

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (00:04):

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the business of business podcast. I’m your host, Roy, of course, we always try to have guests on that can add some value to our solo preneurs entrepreneurs and small businesses. Uh, today we have an awesome guest with us.

It’s Dr. Ethan Decker. Uh, he is a, the president of applied brand science, uh, Ethan unearth and distills the latest and most relevant research on marketing and human behavior to increase the effectiveness of his client’s advertising and branding efforts. He spent a dozen years leading strategy and research at some of the world’s best agencies, such as 72 and sunny and Crispin Porter.

But Makowsky, you’ll have to tell me if I got that close. He’s worked on some of the world’s biggest brands, including Kellogg’s Gillette, Duracell, Pepsi dominoes, and in his past career. Uh, Ethan was an ecologist who studied urban ecosystems, but now he’s pioneering the field of brand science to help companies that want to embrace a more effective approach to advertising and brand growth.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (01:16):

So with all that, Ethan, welcome to the show. It’s a certainly glad to have you, thanks for taking time out of your day. I’m, uh, I’ve been looking forward to this for the last week. Um, you know, and I’m not too shy about saying I’m, uh, I’m a little selfish that, uh, you know.

I always learn something from my guests and this is, uh, this is an awesome combination for me because while I do enjoy sales and marketing, um, you know, I’m really kind of a data guy, uh, an analyst at heart. So when I can ever find anything where, uh, sales and analytics cross, it’s like, uh, it’s a good day for me.

So anyway, right. Yeah. Thanks for being here. If you want to tell before we jump off, uh, you know, getting into what are actually some, uh, what are the scientific laws of marketing may want to expand on just how you got here and, uh, you know, what kind of drives you?

Ethan (02:11):

Well, thanks for having me on Roy. Uh, this’ll be really fun. I’ve been looking forward to this as well. I did take the back roads in some marketing. You could say I started off, as you mentioned, doing ecology and studying ecosystems.

That was fun. That was a passion, but I’d always had, a desire for understanding humans and human nature and creativity as well. I used to do musical theaters, I used to do graphic design. I used to be a singer, these kinds of things. Right. But, uh, but I got the science bug and the science bug took me pretty far until I started to feel like I needed to scratch that other itch for culture.

Yeah. And I went from editing a magazine to doing market research, to doing quantitative market research, to doing brand strategy. Oh, wow. And started to do brand strategy for places like discovery channel. And Nike worked with, uh, the folks at 72 and sunny cut my teeth with some of the best in the industry and just took off from there.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (03:20):

Yeah. And that’s interesting because, um, in my graduate program, a sister program was sociology. And so studying people, human nature, how they act interact. I mean, it’s a fascinating, I know not a lot of money in it, but if I could go back, that’s one of the things that I would certainly consider redoing is that it’s just, it’s interesting and it’s always changing and never ending.

So I assume that, you know, when we start talking about the scientific laws of marketing, I mean, it’s, it’s not, I think it’s probably an evolving science number one, but as our cultures, as our habits, as pandemic set in, I mean, I guess that kind of reset some of the values that may be thank you have just conquered things change.

Ethan (04:08):

Yeah, it’s true. The, the piece that got me compelled to really look into brand science and start, uh, the field of brand science is so many people say that the old laws of marketing are dead. The old laws of business are dead. And in my graduate study and ecology.

I was lucky enough to work with a guy who said, well, there are always differences. This species is different than that species. This population of butterflies is different than that population, but what’s the same. What’s universal. And that’s where you can really start to deduce fundamental laws. And it turns out in marketing, as I pursued the same fervor in the world of marketing, I found a couple universal laws that appear to be global.

They appear to work for everything from, from soap to socks, to sexy watches. And, and so that was really interesting that aid, there are universal laws that don’t change because now we’re all on social media, a and B, nobody knows about them.

Ethan (05:16):

I was shocked that it’s so poorly known in the world of marketing and advertising. Interesting that there is a reason for that. They, they come out of, uh, academics in Australia up until 10 or 20 years ago, even academia was kind of isolated and fractured by the size of the planet.

Uh, so it’s, it’s getting its way out of Australia and it’s getting its way out of academia and slowly percolating into the halls of large companies like Mars, Wrigley, the they own pedigree and they own Mars, chocolates and Snickers. And then companies like Diageo, the big drinks maker that owns Johnny Walker. Uh, and okay.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (05:58):

So what are some of these, um, I guess if are there some, a general set of four or five laws that we can start with?

Ethan (06:08):

There are, uh, the, the place I start is with, with buyers, how do people behave? How do people buy things? Because that determines then what’s possible for companies or brands or advertising. Uh, the first law of buyers is it’s. I don’t like the names, but they’re academic names.

So we’re stuck with them. It’s the love duplication of purchase. That’s what it says. And what it means is that buyers tend to have a repertoire of brands and they buy across that repertoire. The more that they buy in the category, the more brands they tend to buy.

And when they buy other brands, they buy the basically in proportion. So the market share of those brands. So we can do a little thought experiment. What are you? Are you a fan Roy of, um, hot sauce or ketchup or salsa? What’s your

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (07:01):

So also catch up. Yeah. And, um, I will admit I am a brand loyalty for sure.

Ethan (07:08):

All right. Yeah. So, so let’s take salsa. Uh, what’s your top, what’s your favorite brand of salsa?

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (07:13):

It’s got to be picante

Ethan (07:16):

Based the content. Yeah. Yeah. There you go. Yeah. So that’s a pretty popular brand. It’s a big brand. A lot of people buy it, partly they buy it just because it’s super available and it’s just, you know, it’s everywhere. Uh, when you go out to a restaurant, do you demand that they serve you pace salsa? Nope.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (07:34):

Never thought about it, but no, I don’t know

Ethan (07:37):

When you go to a neighbors. Well, when we used to go to neighbor’s houses or friend’s houses and they put salsa on the table with the chips, did you demand pace?

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (07:45):

No, but I will say there were, I knew the friends that served the, uh, odd stuff. So we may pack our own when we go over there.

Ethan (07:56):

So it turns out that, uh, for most people who are into salsa, you know, there are a couple brands you buy, sometimes you switch depending on what’s on sale.

Uh, you might have a favorite, but it doesn’t mean you avoid the others when you’re going out or when you’re at friend’s houses or when your store might be out of your favorite flavor or, you know, your family member picks up a brand to try something else,

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (08:22):

Email. And we just had that and she’s not in the room. So I can’t ask her, but she found there’s a local company here in town that makes relish pickles and, you know, all kinds of condiments.

And they have, I guess they have a line of sauces as well, but this was a fancy, uh, it was a fruit mix type, you know, sweet and spicy type. And she brought it home and I tried it. It’s actually really good. So, you know, I guess I maybe clarify why I stick with the content or the pace when I go to the, that’s exactly what we reach for.

Uh, you know, I will definitely try others, but over, over the last 40 years, it seems like, you know, nothing has stuck enough that we’ve moved away from pace.

Ethan (09:08):

Right. And, and I would call that habit as opposed to loyalty. And I know in branding, we talked about loyalty, but loyalty has got all these emotional social connotations. Like if pace doubled their price, would you still buy pace?

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (09:26):

That would make me stop and think, right? Yeah, yeah.

Ethan (09:29):

Or, or if they changed their flavor profile or if they did something drastic, maybe you’re not loyal, but you’re, you know, it’s a good habit. It’s comfortable. It’s good quality.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (09:40):

Well, you know, Nate, cause they actually did change a little bit from when I was a kid. They put more, I think, preservatives in it. And so not as good. And they came out with a restaurant mix, which was really good. So that kind of got me to move in back back to that. But yeah, I do see what you mean now.

Ethan (09:59):

So loyalty is this concept that’s better, better for dogs and for sports teams, you know, through thick and thin, that’s what loyalty means through thick and thin. For most brands, we’re not going to be there through thick and thin.

The data showed that, uh, we like to say that there’s a big rivalry between Coke and Pepsi, but something like 70% of Coke drinkers also drink Pepsi. And we’d like the same thing with, uh, with Harley Davidson. We like to believe people are rabid Harley fans and that’s all they buy. But if you look in people’s garages, the average Harley buyer also buys other brands of motorcycle and they don’t buy many Harleys.

They might buy one or maybe two. Yeah. So the, the duplication of purchase law pokes a big hole in this belief that people have loyalty and crave loyalty and don’t buy other brands as well. And it may, it gives you a pattern to then see how well does your brand fit that pattern. And how do you maybe stretch out of that pattern about buying other brands?

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (11:04):

So basically, uh, in layman’s terms, we’ll do a little mythbusting in that. So technically we would probably not call what most of the things we do as brand loyalty, as much as just a habit, correct

Ethan (11:17):

Habit, that would be the big piece. And then the second piece is people buy repertoires and the more they buy an a category, the bigger their repertoire. Yeah.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (11:27):

Okay. And could, what, can you kind of expound on that? What does that, what do you mean by that?

Ethan (11:35):

Well, it’s that notion that if I buy a little bit of salsa, I’ll buy one or maybe two jars a year, I’ll buy one or two brands a year. Okay. But if I’m really in the salsa, I’ll buy not only 20 jars assaults a year, I’ll buy five or six or seven different brands. Cause I’ll keep trying different things. Okay.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (11:54):

Okay. Yeah. That’s true. And you’ve hit two of my hotspots already this morning, the salsa and the drinks, because we were out last week at a place that, you know, I’m a loyal or I’m a, uh, uh, habitual Coke buyer. Let’s put it that way.

Yeah. So I know we went somewhere and say, well, we’ll have diet Cokes. And they said, well, we don’t have it. How about diet Pepsi? And I’m like, well, you have diet Dr. Pepper because it, I am one that probably will not, I’m not going to say never, but typically I will find something else to drink besides before I go to a Pepsi.

And I don’t think about it as much as it’s a, it’s the enemy type of thing. It’s just, it, they seem a little more syrupy and sweet or just not my taste, but it’s funny you bring those two up right off.

Ethan (12:45):

And, and that’s, that’s a great example because you might have some stronger preferences around Cola, but you might have weak to know preferences around motor oil. Right. You know? Yeah. So that’s another reason it’s really hard to say that people tend towards brand loyalty is because we only care about a couple of different categories in our lives.

You know, you might have socks and you buy whatever brand of socks is on sale. Whereas for Cola for you, if they don’t have Coke, you’re actually not going to drink Pepsi. Exactly,

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (13:20):

Exactly. But

Ethan (13:21):

It’s hard to tell which categories. Yeah,

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (13:24):

No, that’s interesting. I mean, it really makes you stop and think about these purchases and, you know, um, I guess, like you said, most of it is habit because I think about the things that I use consistently and I always go back to that same familiar thing because it’s familiar, you know, I know that.

And uh, I think the situation is sometimes, uh, you know, do I want to take a chance on something new? Can I afford to not, not necessarily monetarily, but yeah. I mean, do you want to ruin your whole next meal because you got some really bad hot sauce. Yeah. Right.

Ethan (14:06):

Absolutely. Well, that’s what dad is supposed to be for. Right. He’s the garbage disposal. If the kids don’t like the food hilly, whatever, is that right?

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (14:14):

Exactly. So, so how, Oh, go ahead. No, you’re fine. Okay.

Ethan (14:21):

Uh, just, just to wrap up that notion of the duplication of purchase law does bust a couple of myths about how loyal people are and how small brands are supposedly, you know, niche brands with rabid fans that doesn’t really happen and that you can predict that people will buy other brands just based on the market share of those brands. Yeah.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (14:43):

Yeah. Okay, great. So, um, I guess as the, as the brand with loaded, with this information, how does that affect our strategy? And you know, when I talk to people about marketing a lot, Coke, not just because I like them, but because of the name, because they are known worldwide, when people want to cut down on marketing.

I’m always like, well, you know, Coke is still out there. They are still pushing their product and they are still working hard to keep it in the forefront. Now I know, um, there’s another great podcast is called business Wars. And I know that they had a little Pepsi versus Coke deal from, you know, back when they were both founded.

And I think Coke is under a little bit more pressure, not only from other, um, soft drinks, but from other drink categories as well. So maybe times are changing. But the, you know, the underlying message that I have is that if, if a guy like Coke is still out there hitting the pavement every day, marketing is like a smaller guys. We have to do that. We can’t ever let up on our marketing.

Ethan (15:57):

I would say the advice to smaller marketers given the law of duplication of purchase is that first of all, stop believing or trying to fight for a hundred percent loyalty. It’s a myth and it’s a fallacy. And even the biggest brands like Coke, don’t, uh, don’t get a hundred percent loyalty. Right. Right. Um, as I said, 70% of drinkers who drink Pepsi also drank Coke.

So there’s a huge overlap, right. We have a repertoire, um, in, in a cheesy way, you could say, we are brand promiscuous. We’re not brand foil. Right. Um, so, so that will be one thing is stopped believing in that. And then the second thing is, uh, it means as you grow your, your customer base, you should assume some of them will prefer you a little more.

Like people prefer Coke like you, and some of them will prefer you a little less and that’s okay. That’s normal. And you can start to see who you compete more with by looking at, um, how much you overlap with other brands relative to your market share when you bring the expectations

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (17:10):

Brings up to two points. First one is, okay. So, um, I’m using this as an example, this isn’t me, but you know, say I’m a, I’m a really cool hipster and living in a hip place downtown, and I do all the cool stuff. And so you come out with the product or brand, and it was kind of a little, um, niche geographic or whatever.

But as you grow and expand, and now, you know, I’m seeing you on Superbowl ads, do those, um, did the hipsters kind of fall out because they, they don’t want to appear to be using that worldwide brand. Will they go off and try to find another, uh, smaller startups, something like that.

Ethan (17:55):

Right? There are, there are two trends there. One of them is yes, for the people who are hipsters. Uh, they really do chase the new things and they like to be different from the mainstream. And then once things grow mainstream, they’re like, ah, this is no good.

And they, they move on to the next thing. So there is that. Absolutely. But it’s a lot less than you’d think. And what you end up seeing is first of all, the hipsters drinking, the cool Brooklyn brand soda, or sparkling seltzer or something or other, uh, elderberry, uh, those, those hipsters also still drink Coke. Okay.

So again, there’s a lot more duplication than you’d think. Okay. And then on the flip side, a lot of mainstream people with, you know, wood paneling and not hipster places to live, they, they also drink the Kool elderberry Brooklyn, but just not that much because it’s not available.

Ethan (18:54):

It’s not in every, uh, you know, deli and every, uh, uh McDonald’s. Yeah. So there’s a lot more overlap than you would think. Okay. Um, which gets us to, I guess, uh, uh, connected law, which is the law of sharing of customers.

Okay. A lot of people think that if you make elderberry, Brooklyn seltzer, you’re talking to a very different group of customers and the people that make Coca-Cola are talking to a different group. No, it’s the same people, people that want a bubbly, refreshing beverage for lunch, and they, they overlap a whole lot more than marketers think.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (19:37):

Okay. So one kind of back where we were talking about this law of duplication, what about price points? And, you know, you kind of showed me that with the pace, if they doubled, would I still be a habitual buyer? Would I still be a habit buyer?

Um, uh, but you know, cause one thing that we talk about in, uh, in pricing products and more in services is that we don’t always want to be chasing that, uh, cost conscious buyer because the next new thing that comes along, that’s cheaper.

They are going to go away is that sometimes it’s better to set that price a little bit higher, but emphasize the value that we add for the cost of the, uh, product or service. So is there any value, is there any validity to that, that the cost conscious person is just going to continue to move and swap?

Ethan (20:40):

Absolutely. Uh, there are as ag Lafley from P and G once said there’s really only two there’s, uh, a commodity cost cutting strategy and a premium differentiation strategy. Because if you cut costs, then the only thing keeping you being the best option at that price as viable is no one else figuring out how to do it for less.

Right. But once they do your host. Yeah. And so the other way to do it is yeah. Figure out a way to differentiate yourself, to stand out, to provide some extra value that seems unique, whether it is or isn’t, it doesn’t quite matter, but that allows you to then charge more.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (21:28):

Okay. Yeah. Cause, um, and price can be, uh, when I’m thinking that, you know, again, something that just recently happened, we bought something that was the same price, but there was less of it.

And I’ve noticed that, you know, with the pops and with candy bars and other consumables like that is like, you know, instead of having the big price increase, what a lot of them will do is just reduce the amount that you actually get. So the price stays the same, so yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

So even if you’re comparing prices, I think it’s still always good to look at the, uh, you know, a lot of grocery stores now they put per per hour or per unit or whatever it is, they’ll put it on there. So you can compare the gigantic size to see if you really are saving a lot. But absolutely.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (22:16):

So, uh, I guess how we’ve talked mostly about science and marketing is typically a creative venture. So let’s kind of talk a little bit, if you can, about let’s tie science and creativity to cause a lot of people are like, you know what? We can’t go by the numbers.

I mean, I feel this in my gut, so this is what we’re going to do. Or the other one that I hate to hear the most is we’ve always done it this way. So let’s talk about, you know, how can we take science and marketing and I mean, science and creativity and kind of tie those together to be successful.

Ethan (22:54):

That’s a million. Now that’s a billion dollar question because, uh, the, the science in marketing is so hard because marketing is such a complex world. It’s actually easier to make rocket fuel and land someone on the moon than it is to figure out whether your new toothpaste is going to succeed in the market. Right?

Because landing, uh, a jet landing, a spaceship on the moon has fewer variables. And when you tell the rocket fuel to behave in a different way, or to believe something else about itself, it doesn’t change its behavior. But if you tell humans to behave in a different way or believe something else about themselves, they actually do change. Hm.

So marketing is so complex that you ultimately do need to take a big leap from the science, a big leap from the data to the, the creative side of things. And that’s hard for a lot of people who are, uh, who believe in science are hard for people who really want the numbers to tell them what to do.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (24:07):

Exactly. Yeah. And, um, I’m kind of that guy like to look at all the numbers and make sure everything’s lining up. But, um, I think I kind of probably fall on the, uh, not letting enough creativity shine through. So, and I think vice versa from a lot of other side of that, there’s a lot of creative people that it’s like.

I just can’t, you know, when I used to have a friend that I did some work for and um, every time I’d show her like more than four numbers on the same piece of paper, she would just start, her head was slamming and I thought she’s gonna pass out. She’s like, I can’t, I can’t look at all those numbers. I’m like, there’s four on here. What are you talking about?

Ethan (24:44):

Yeah. I work with those people a lot in advertising. Absolutely. There was a cultural divide there and the, the, the, the pencil pushers who liked the numbers, the CFOs, they really want to see the proof. They want to see the data. Right. They’re afraid of those leaps. And then the creatives who want to do something inspiring and inventive and innovative, they’re afraid of those numbers. Yeah.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (25:09):

So let me take your toothpaste example for just a minute, because you know, one thing when we first started talking, I was just thinking like, there’s so many consumers. There’s men, there’s women, there’s age groups, there’s socioeconomic groups, there’s cultural group, there’s all these groups, but let’s, you know.

When we focus, let’s say toothpaste, you know, we don’t really, we don’t really have to get everybody to buy into that. We have to be able, I guess, to get mom mom’s behind the toothpaste, we have to get hurt of mine, unless it’s just so bad. The kids are spitting it out and they’re just not using it. But I guess we can kind of boil these different products down to. We really don’t necessarily have to.

I’m asking this as a question and we really don’t have to learn to target every individual for our product. We need to see who is that person that’s actually spending the money on that product. Yeah.

Ethan (26:08):

You want to do targeting as classic targeting is one of those things that hasn’t died because of the invention of the internet or the rise of social media influencers targeting still matters. There are debates in the science world about how tightly to target.

Should you just go after left-handed moms who are hipsters and only drink elderberry Brooklyn seltzer, right? And, or should you go after as many people in the category as you can, right? And there are strengths and weaknesses to both sides, uh, going from the law of duplication of purchase, knowing that people are more promiscuous than we think they are.

You do want to target a wider audience than you think, uh, because your customer is not different than the other brand customers. They’re pretty much the same people P and G learned this the hard way. They went really hard selling tide and Gillette and Duracell to very, very narrow targets in social media and other ways.

Ethan (27:15):

And they realized they were missing huge, huge swaths of the population. So they’ve, they’ve gone back to say, let’s, let’s get the widest target we can afford to get. Right. That’s the trick is a lot of people are stuck with, you know, modest budgets, especially if you’re a solopreneur entrepreneur.

And in that case, you still want to try and target people who are the most likely buyers, but you want to keep it pretty broad again, don’t assume that your buyer is going to be categorically different than your competitors buyers. And then this is where the creativity comes in.

Because if you can’t buy your way to the reach that you want, if you can’t buy the audience that you want to really connect with, you got to get them some other way. And creativity is often the way to do that. Right. Do something crazy and zany enough if it shows up in the news.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (28:12):

Yeah. And there’s a, uh, he’s out of Austin, Ryan holiday. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of him, but I have the first book I ever, he was a marketer for some big brands. And the first book I ever read was, uh, something like, believe me, I’m lying.

You know? That, that was, you know, what he did was reverse engineer, some things. Just one example was like, uh, it was a motion picture that was coming out. And so instead of just putting up billboards to say, Hey, come and see our movie.

He went to the extreme, I think, and put up billboards that say, this is why they’re telling you not to see our movie, or, you know, they’re having a boy caught in it at peak people’s interest. He’s like, you know, he, he, uh, I don’t know, it it’s, it was a good book, but all these little examples of that creativity that sometimes we have to think outside the box in order to reach people, uh, concerns, concerns me to go to negative.

But you know, there, I guess there is a line of how far to go, but, um, there are a bunch of ways because that’s part of it is I’m hard to reach because I don’t w you know, watch a lot of TV. Don’t I do some internet, but not enough where I get hit with a lot of ads. So, you know, I’m a consumer, I know that you’re difficult, difficult to reach. Right,

Ethan (29:36):

Right. You know, um, Ryan is right. And the, the way we talk about it in the ad business is the difference between paid media and earned media, paid media, you’re plunking down the dollars and they guarantee they’re going to run your radio spot number of times and give you a certain number of listeners earned media is, um, we’re going to do something zany and hope and pray.

People write about it. And we have earned that media by doing that stuff. Uh, the last agency I worked at Crispin Porter Bogusky was pretty famous for this. Um, one of the most recent, uh, stunts and the people hate them, hate calling them that, but that’s what they are this done.

So one of the most recent stunts we did for Domino’s pizza was, uh, something you might’ve even heard of called paving for pizza. No, Domino’s decided that if, if you wanted to carry out your pizza and drive it home safely, uh, we would help fill the potholes along your route to the dominoes, because what is the line, uh, bad roads shouldn’t happen.

Ethan (30:42):

A good pizza. Okay. So we actually put up a website where you could nominate some potholes, and we started hiring local crews to fill potholes around the country. Oh my gosh. And it’s a cockamamie hair-brained idea and what’s it even got Bernie Sanders talking, Bernie Sanders tweeted about it. He says, it’s assume it’s a crime when America’s infrastructure has to be supported by a pizza company.

And it got lot of news coverage to the tune of a hundred million dollars worth of free media, because wow, it’s a funny story. And then the other genius of it is every time Domino’s rolls into a new town that local media covers the pothole. Interesting. And so it doesn’t have to be negative. Like, uh, you know, the story you were talking about, it can be silly and zany.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (31:38):

Yeah. That’s an awesome idea. Cause I imagine, you know, in some places with potholes being terrible, I imagine people, I guess it’s worth the pizza just to see if I can get this pile nominated.

Ethan (31:49):

I think we got about a hundred thousand nominations in the first two weeks.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (31:53):

Oh my gosh. That is something. So yeah. You know, we have, um, we have the gorillas out there and I just you’d mentioned one of them earlier, Harley Davidson, but so how, how did these humongous brands that seem to cut across all lines? I mean, how, how does the, the laws of sine, I guess the scientific laws, how do they affect them or are they just good at using them or kind of what is the deal?

Ethan (32:26):

They are constrained by those laws in the same way that a small brand is. Um, and they have to fight the same basic law of gravity or law of entropy. You could say that every brand struggles against every brand, uh, can easily slip into the abyss slip, into vague memories, right?

Uh, so marketing and advertising and promotion of any type is really a fight against obsolescence. It’s a fight against being forgotten, right? Because here’s another law that comes out of, of studying humans. It’s the law of exponential, forgetting exponential decay is just that notion that, um, you know, you’ve got a big, uh, burst of information and interest like, uh, for the Avengers, you probably can’t escape the Avengers no matter where you are in America.

And there’s a huge buildup to the Avengers end game and it builds up and builds up and then there’s opening week and then boom, it falls off to half and then another half, and then another half until nobody’s talking about adventures today, it’s totally decayed away.

Ethan (33:38):

And that’s how our memories work. You know, something’s important for a hot second and then it just fades away. Right. And so every brand, even the Coca-Cola’s and the Harleys fight against that natural, exponential decay of memory. And so they do, uh, advertising with paid. So they’re constantly on television and they, they make sure that every cup in the movie theater and every cup at the burger King has the Coca-Cola logo on it to remind you. And then they do silly, crazy things to kind of boost your memory by connecting with you in a fun way.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (34:15):

Yeah. Because it’s, and it’s not only decay. I think we fight against, but it’s the, um, who’s top of mine. And this is one thing that I just recommend to, to people that want to market is, you know, they market and they don’t get a response and I’m like, yeah, but immediate response is not always what we’re looking for is we want to stay in front of people.

Right. So when they need the service or product, they think, Oh, I just saw an email or I got something from this company because I’m the world’s worst. I mean, I, you know, it’s like, there may be somebody who I love and, uh, would use in a heartbeat, but because I haven’t thought of them for two years and I just talked to some guy a week ago, that’s doing the same thing.

You know, I go with him because I, you know, really didn’t think about this other person. So you know, that staying top of mind, it’s, it’s really important. So when a purchaser is fixing to make a decision, you know, you’re kind of in that mix of the thought of who they want to go with.

Ethan (35:19):

Amen. Yeah. And being top of mind that another phrase is salient. You have to be salient and increase your salients. Yeah. You, you do that again by paying your way there. So, uh, Nike and Coca Cola do that. They’re top of mind because you avoid their logos, you can’t avoid their ads, but they’re also, Domino’s make sure that they’re top of mind by doing outrageous things like paving, potholes.

Right. And makes you think of them. So when you think, ah, I haven’t ordered a takeout pizza in forever or carry out pizza, but my kid’s having a birthday party and wants to do, you know, pizza and a movie. Well, you know what, I’ll do dominoes this time.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (36:01):

Yeah. Yeah. And, uh, you know, I talked to a gentleman he’s in the, um, uh, he has martial arts studios. And so one of the things is the power of persuasion is that they were running some, a YouTube ads and what they found out. He didn’t get any response for two, three weeks. And what they found out was that, like, it, it was kids that were watching these action videos on YouTube.

So they didn’t have the purchasing power. I mean, they were little kids, seven, eight, 10 years old. Right. They didn’t have the purchasing power to come to a studio. It couldn’t drive themselves there either. But, uh, but what he did. Yeah. But what he did find out was after three or four weeks of these kids, harping on mom and dad, I want to go here. I want to go here. I want to go here that they finally caved in.

And that was the message. The parents actually told him when they walked into the studio was like, Oh my gosh, we had to bring them in. Just so they’ll quit asking. So anyway, you know, sometime there’s like that delayed, uh, response graphic cation, just because, uh, the influencer is still working on the one with the purchasing power.

Ethan (37:12):

Yeah, absolutely. And this drives, this drives marketers nuts because you can’t tell really if it’s working for a long time sometimes. Right. Right. And as you’ve pointed out so beautifully, there are these long gaps between when you see a brand and when you might buy the brand. Right. And the brand has to somehow make sure it’s around enough or sticky enough or memorable enough that it, that it shows up again in your mind after that gap. Yeah.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (37:43):

Because a lot of times we forget, I think in the business world, we forget the, the, the old, uh, agricultural sequence of, you know, we have to, uh, plant and then we have to take care of, you know, water, our crops. And then we harvest at some point in the future.

It’s not just, I’m going to send you an email and you’re going to be like, Oh my God, I’ve been waiting on you to email me now with consumables. I think, you know, the soda pops, candy bars. Yeah. They may have a little bit more instantaneous, but, um, I’m selling, um, I don’t know, I’m selling chainsaws and maybe you’ve got one that’s working perfectly good right now.

You don’t really need one, but I can’t forget about you as a consumer because in a year from now, if your breaks down or you need to, you know, I still need to be top of your mind. So you think, Hey, know who to call to get my next chainsaw. So those are things I think we need to remember patients, patients, the, you know, I admit that I have fewer now than I started with, but, uh, we just have to really relax and have those patients so well,

Ethan (38:51):

It’s so true. Okay. Yeah, go ahead. I was just going to say that, uh, especially with the world of digital and digital marketing, having gotten so big in the past 10 years, people think that they can connect the dots a to B to C and there is this thing called attribution models, or last click attribution to know where did that sale come from?

Yeah. And even big companies like Adidas have recently said, you know what? Those models are wrong. We’re only giving credit to that last click because we can’t really measure the power of that. Long-term branding and advertising.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (39:33):

Yeah. And it’s hard doing, um, sometimes we do the buyer surveys, where’d you hear from us? And I worked with an industry that, you know, they did radio, TV, mailings and all this stuff. But typically what people would say was I saw the sign because that’s the last thing they remembered when they drove into the property was they saw the sign.

But, you know, they had been dripped on with these other campaigns for the last six or eight months. And so not that that necessarily forced each one to come in, but, uh, I think that the sign was probably not the key that made them turn into it. It was things that had been planted before.

Ethan (40:14):

Right. So correct.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (40:16):

We do have to be careful interpreting that, but so, um, I appreciate you being with us. Uh, I w I guess kind of a takeaway from this is, you know, how can we solo preneur, smaller companies, uh, maybe a startup, you know, what are some takeaways that we can use to apply to our products and services?

Ethan (40:38):

Sure. One of the key takeaways is that you’re at a disadvantage because you’re small and you’re not going to end up with a small Cadra of amazingly loyal buyers. You are going to carve off buyers whom you share with lots of other brands, and that’s fine.

And therefore your job fundamentally is to increase your penetration. Not, not focus on loyalty. I mean, focus on loyalty, if you want, in the sense of making sure your product is good enough, people want to come back. Right, right. If you make soda, or if you offer tax services, make sure that they’re really quality products or services, so that that’s not the problem. Right.

But then the only real way to grow is to get a bigger and bigger proportion of all the category buyers. And you’re going to share those buyers with other brands, but you’re going to win some heavy buyers as well as some light buyers. Okay.

So focus on the whole category, don’t assume that your buyer is different, uh, and make sure that you are doing paid and earned activities that keep your brand salient and top of mind in between those long stretches of buying occasions. Yeah.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (42:04):

And I think the earned that you’ve mentioned before, I think that’s one category that a lot of people don’t think about. We, we tend to focus on the bide, but there are a lot of opportunities, uh, just doing, if you can do a public service and get the local news station to come out and cover you, you know, they’re more than welcome to tell them what business or what company that you represent. So there are a lot of great things out there. Just do a little research on, on that.

Ethan (42:32):

Yup. Yup. That’s where the creativity really comes in for the earned. Yeah. Elon Musk put a Tesla in space. That was one of his ways of earning media, but a car into space on one of his rockets and people hear about Tesla cars.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (42:48):

Yeah. And I just read a, an article yesterday or day before that he catapulted up to the light number two on the gazillionaires list because of the value of that. So, yeah. All right, Ethan. Well, thanks so much for taking time out of your day. This has been interesting.

And I’d love to have you back to, I could talk to you about this for a couple more hours, but I know we need to let you go. So tell me this before you do go is, um, so what is a tool or a process or a habit that you have in your daily life? It can be business personal, but what’s just something that you can’t do without, or you feel like adds a lot value.

Ethan (43:26):

Uh, one thing I would do well, the one thing that I do do that I, I would recommend is thinking about what I call input and output. It’s a really coarse, broad way to say. I make sure that I read and consume things.

So I get input. I make sure I’m learning every single day, something new and then output, which is what am I creating or making or putting out there. And I make sure that I balance each of those. And sometimes the output is I just write a couple pages of ideas.

I write about business ideas and about brand science. Something like that, I write about human nature and culture. Uh, it’s funny, you said you, you had, uh, a sociology, uh, degree next to your degree. I studied sociology as an undergrad. Okay. And so I learned about social science and culture, but I balanced input and output, and that has served me well.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (44:23):

Okay, awesome. I was just noticing, you’re going to go ahead and answer this for the listeners and viewers B uh, for the, uh, flood me with, uh, all kinds of emails, but what kind of an animal is that hanging on the wall behind you? There? It looked like almost like a Jack lopey.

Ethan (44:42):

That is a mule deer, Lester mule deer. So it’s pretty common. Uh, you could tell, cause the mule deer is their antlers fork consecutively and the white tail deer, the antlers spiral around like a spiral staircase.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (44:57):

It may just be the angle that we’re at, but it almost looks like a bird head with, uh, antlers on top of it. It just the way that, that narrow nose and it’s kind of big out there.

Ethan (45:08):

Yeah, no, I found that in the Hills of Wyoming, outside of Casper. Oh, nice. Nice.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (45:14):

Yeah. All right. Well, Ethan, if you wouldn’t mind, uh, just wrapping up, go ahead and tell everyone, you know, who is your customer, what you can do for them. And of course, how they can reach out and get ahold of you.

Ethan (45:25):

My company applied brand science can be found at I help small to medium organizations with their branding, understanding the science and creativity of marketing. Since I’ve been doing marketing strategy for about 20 years now and help them grow their business in ways that, uh, cut out a lot of the waste that usually comes from trying to fight for the impossible and achieve things that the scientific laws just don’t let you achieve. Okay.

Roy – The Business of Business Podcast (46:02):

Awesome. Well, y’all reach out, put Ethan to work for you. This is a, it’s really an amazing, uh, area of study. So once we can apply these laws of science and maybe, uh, increase our results from our marketing. Thanks again, Ethan.

Uh, look forward to talking to you soon again. My name is Roy and this has been the business of business podcast. You can find us on, uh, uh, iTunes, Google, Stitcher, uh, and Spotify. I think we just got notified where you’re back on Pandora and also on Amazon. So find us on any major platform that you get your podcasts from.

You can reach out to me at Roy at the business of business podcast. Be glad to answer any questions and see about getting you to be a guest on the show as well until next time, take care of each other. Thank you very much.

Applied Brand Science Website

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