The Dark Corners Where Research Strategies Hide: Throwing Light at the Intersection of the New and the Old

Pat LaPointe


Measuring the impact of marketing on sales (or profits) always has been a delicate balance of science and common sense. We need the science to keep common sense from devolving into conventional wisdom; we need the common sense to guide our application of science in commercially pragmatic and material ways.

In times (like these) when the marketing ecosystem is evolving so rapidly and marketing tactics are splintering into hundreds of customer/prospect touch-points, this delicate balance continually is threatened by several strong forces.


  • The tendency to hang on too long to scientific methods that have worked well in the past slows our measurement progress and frustrates executives seeking to find and exploit competitive advantages. It also undermines the credibility of science in general among those who exist “on the margins” between wanting to believe the science but torn to trust their experience and intuition—a sub-segment that, in my experience, seems to account for 50 percent or more of any senior management team.
  • The passionate advocates of the newer tactics thrive on the high marginal returns of the next dollar spent off a low base, tirelessly arguing for more funds justified by narrowly framed direct attribution analyses.