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Do we do theoretical marketing?

I was asking the other day a client’s employee what he thought of the intermediary presentation we gave a few days before . He said he liked it very much because it had brought a fresh new perspective on how the business was understood. He added that a theoretical and scientific viewpoint was very useful.

I must admit I was surprised and a little bit disappointed to hear that IntoTheMinds’ contribution was seen as “scientific”. Although my research activities are clearly academic, I thought our consulting activities were deeply anchored in the practitioner’s world.

When reflecting about this and trying to make sense of this comment I came to following conclusions.

  1. Why is it that I gave the word “scientific” a negative meaning?
    Actually I think that the word “scientific” is understood by many as a synonym for “with no link with the reality”. It may be the case in some disciplines where researchers focus indeed on laboratory experiments with no concrete applications yet. However a large part of marketing researchers study the behaviors of consumers which makes it necessary to study real people. Marketing is essentially an empirical science which is also reflected in the late interest for qualitative research. Most of marketing research today is still quantitative which shows the interest for researchers to quantify the impact of what they study.
  2. There is obviously a misunderstanding between the words “empirical” and “theoretical”. A theory doesn’t emerge out of the blue. Proposing a new theory requires to have solid empirical evidence. A marketing theory can’t therefore emerge without proven evidence from the field, that’s to say with pieces of evidence that the consumer behaves the way he does and that the reasons for his behavior are clear and understood.
  3. Does IntoTheMinds do scientific marketing?
    I’d say yes and no. Our approach of the marketing is certainly scientific because we are extremely rigorous. But at the same time it is nothing more than the right way to do. My understanding of consulting is that our clients have the right to expect results which can serve as basis for future decisions. Being rigorous (and scientific if you want to read it that way) is nothing more than the only way to fulfill clients’ expectations. In the last 10 years I’ve seen too many times consulting firms which were lacking rigor because they knew what it took to be rigorous and that it was easier and quicker to use shortcuts and deliver half-proven results. I can’t go that way. Our customers are of utmost importance and in my mind there is no other way to satisfy them than to provide advices which will become the basis for their future success.

My take:

If scientific means “not compromising and not saving on efforts to deliver robust advice and proven results” then yes, we do scientific marketing.

If scientific means “detached from the reality and purely conceptual” then it’s not what we do.

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Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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