What Physics Can Teach Us About Marketing

[tweetmeme]I never thought about physics and marketing in the same breath. But Dan Cobley, a marketing director at Google, is passionate about both, using the principles of physics to explain the fundamental theories of branding. For example, a larger particle, a larger mass, requires more force to change its direction.

It’s the same with a brand, he states. The more massive a brand, the more force is needed to change its positioning. And, Cobley says, that’s one of the reasons why Arthur Andersen chose to launch Accenture rather than try to persuade the world that Andersen could stand for something other than accountancy. It explains why Hoover found it very difficult to persuade the world that it was more than vacuum cleaners.

In physics, you can never accurately and exactly measure a particle, because the observation changes it, he says. The message for marketers is try to measure what consumers actually do, rather than what they say they’ll do. He gives the example of the group of moms who talk about their wonderful children in a focus group, yet buy lots of junk food, helping McDonald’s to sell hundreds of millions of burgers every year. These are among the gems in this talk “What Physics Taught Me About Marketing” that Cobley gave at a TED conference in July.

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  1. Completely agree that the more massive a brand the more it takes to change its positioning. Arthur Andersen did the right thing when they changed their name. On top of it they were being too closely associated with Enron, I think it was.

    Gave you the thumbs up on StumbleUpon, since I stumbled upon this article unexpectedly.

  2. Puts new perspective in the holy grail of physics, “Unified Theory”, or, the Theory of Everything as most people know it. These aren’t just arcane concepts applicable only by those with lab coats and large foreheads. They really do apply on every level.

  3. One condition on Dan’s observation is the mass that matters is with a specific target audience. Mercedes has a strong brand image in Europe as a reliable work vehicle and in the US as a premium luxury brand. Mercedes was able to position differently in the US because the mass created in Europe was relevant for a specific target audience. Maybe the concept of vectors can account for the association of mass with a specific target audience.