Category Archives: advertising planning

Usain Bolt: Sprinting toward macro trends


Wired notes that when Usain Bolt ran the 100-meter sprint in 9.69 seconds he startled biostatisticians who have been predicting for years how human speeds accelerate. It seems number-crunchers who look at macro trends can forecast new records with startling accuracy, using simple “curve fitting” shown above.

Bolt ran so fast he fell off the curve.

What’s remarkable to us is how few marketers look at such macro trends. Marketing campaigns are often structured tactically — set up integrated ad channels, web sites, call centers and field sales, all with forecasts for triggers and response. Spend $1 million at $100 cost per sale and you’ll end up with 10,000 customers. Simple.

But macro forces such as recession, changing energy prices, emerging media and aging demographics rumble the ground under such calculations. What worked yesterday won’t perform tomorrow. The internet is awash in free resources to watch such shifts: Google Trends shows global or regional search volumes for products and services; the brilliant Iowa Electronic Markets uses the wisdom of crowds to foresee political winners with 1.37% accuracy.

How are you predicting your own race finishers?

Dagger fighting? You need more contrast.

Contrast is required in the art world (frames on paintings), in interior design (curtains on rods), and in food packaging (crunchy Oreos, soft in the middle). But advertising campaigns also require highs and lows, breaks and beats, crests and waves to get through to consumers. Do you plan a slow burn? Will you pulse the market? If your ad campaign were a string of music, how would it play out?

Think how much less powerful and poignant this fight scene would be, from House of Flying Daggers, if the hero hadn’t gathered flowers by horseback first.