Replicate or Die
We call this trend “replicate or die.”
Most people are unaware, but the social sciences – fields like psychology and economics – are currently in the midst of what they’ve dubbed a “replication crisis.”
The replication crisis stems from the fact that 40% of studies in the social sciences fail a replication test, when the study is run again by another scientist. This replication crisis has led academics to review the rigor of their process and results more closely.
The word “replication” isn’t used much – if at all – in marketing, so it’s worth spending a minute discussing what replication is and why it is so fundamental to scientific rigor. Replication is the ability to reproduce the same results of a given study, no matter where you are or who you are. For example, whether you drop a feather in Mexico or Morocco, it falls at 9.8 meters per second. Additionally, whether you drop a feather or a hammer, it falls at 9.8 meters per second. Because this result can be replicated no matter where or who you are, we call this a law of gravity.
Now that we’ve established what replication is, let’s establish how critical replication is. In fact, as noted scientist Seymour Epstein concisely explained: “There is no more fundamental requirement in science than the replication of findings.”
Just like replication makes for good science, replication also makes for good marketing. However, replication is neither known nor practiced by the broader marketing community.
In fact, it is just the opposite.
Marketers actively seem most attracted to ideas that do not replicate. Marketing’s fascination with new ideas, with disposable ideas, with non-replicating ideas leads us to believe – and to assert – that there’s an even bigger replication crisis in marketing today.
Ideas like “The Dunk In The Dark Tweet” and “Whopper Sacrifice,” which can never be replicated (even by the brands that ran them originally), are the ideas du jour. These ideas are celebrated at Cannes and during Advertising Week. However, pursuing these ideas is no different than buying a lottery ticket. No one in their right mind would bet their annual salary on the lottery as a way to get rich, yet marketers at companies both large and small happily bet annual budgets on the luck of the draw every year.
If marketers looked harder, they would find strategies that have been shown to replicate for many companies in many industries over many years. One of replication strategies that we like is called the 60/40 rule.
The 60/40 rule, coined by marketing effectiveness researchers Les Binet & Peter Field, says that companies that grow the fastest (in both the short-term and the long-term) spend 60% of budget on brand building and 40% of budget on sales activation.
We have confidence in the 60/40 rule because the research looked at 10,000 campaigns in a variety of industries over a 30-year period. In addition, we’ve been able to replicate the results in our own marketing and so have our clients.
To be clear, brands practicing the 60/40 rule don’t just achieve marketing success. They achieve financial success, outperforming peers in market share, sales volume, profit margins, and cash flows. That’s marketing that even a CFO would support.
LinkedIn recently replicated the research results from Binet & Field for B2B, which I encourage you to read here.
Now that we’ve shared how companies can invest in a replication strategy, let's also cover how a company might employ a replication tactic.
One of the most famous examples of replication marketing is Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends franchise, which gets 10,000,000+ views per year. You might be asking yourself, how in the world does a single report get 10,000,000 views a year?
The answer might surprise you: by producing the same franchise every year for 23 years. As we like to joke, Mary Meeker is an overnight success 23 years in the making. Not surprisingly, because the Internet Trends franchise is essentially the same report in name, structure, and data, it has been replicated by Mary Meeker at three different firms: Morgan Stanley, Kleiner Perkins, and now her latest venture, Bond.
Edelman has also produced a similar franchise for 18 years: The Edelman Trust Barometer. Not surprisingly, the Edelman Trust Barometer is among the most well-known and highly-cited pieces of research in the PR industry.
Replication marketing is also highly effective in B2C marketing.
• De Beers coined the tagline “A Diamond Is Forever” in 1947 and every year since has run the same tagline in every campaign and in every market.
• Nike settled on “Just Do It” in 1988 and every year since has run the same tagline in every campaign and in every market.
• Mastercard released “Priceless” in 1997 and, you guessed right, has run the same tagline in every campaign and in every market.
And guess what?
These replication campaigns are among the most famous campaigns of all time.
We’re often told that we need to change our marketing and freshen our campaigns to achieve success. That is largely myth.
In fact, we argue that when building a brand, you should do the exact opposite: agree on a campaign and keep certain elements like logos, taglines, and characters the exact same – year after year.
Great brands are built on consistent exposures over long periods.
Brands don’t wear out, brands wear in.