February is always the high point of the movie season. Oscar nominations are out and people are rushing to catch up on the movies they have yet to see. To date, I am 3 for 9. Not a very good average, but not bad if I were a left-handed power hitter.
Of the three I have seen, Moneyball really struck a chord. I liked it not only because I’m a life-long baseball guy and a fan of the book, but also because the message rang true for the current state of advertising.
One scene particularly resonated, in which Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), General Manager of the Oakland A’s, is speaking to Paul Podesta (Jonah Hill), his assistant GM, about the idea of using sabermetrics to draft players for their team.
BILLY Why–You’re not the only computer science major who likes baseball. If what you and Bill James are saying is right–
PAUL It’s right.
BILLY It sounds right.
PAUL It is right.
BILLY If math isn’t a theory–
PAUL It isn’t.
BILLY If this is right, why isn’t everybody doing it? In fact why isn’t anybody doing it?
PAUL Because it’s not what they were taught.
Marketers today are challenged more than ever to find new customers. The old ways of finding “prospects” – such as targeting with demographics – are growing as outmoded as thinking that a team shouldn’t draft a player because his girlfriend is ugly (honest to god, it’s in the movie). But it is the way we all have been taught. It’s also safe and comfortable.
Is it fair to assume that our traditional ways of finding new customer prospects are akin to scouts looking at batting average, home runs or slugging percentage? Are we using old and inferior techniques to solve for new problems? Can we apply advanced statistical analysis to find new customers for brands, much as the A’s found prospects in 1999? I, and many others, absolutely think so.
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