Why do the tools of marketing work for the business world but fail so miserably when utilized by the media?
The simple answer: Business has a vested interest to use the tools and principles of marketing properly—media has no such motivation.
It should be noted: There is nothing magical or mystical about marketing or market research. There are no Harry Potteresque answers attained through marketing. It is simply a tool and like any other tool—there are limitations.
The major limitation: Marketing is a soft science. It does not deliver hard facts. Therefore, any conclusion derived from the data collected is subjective.
Given the subjective nature of the data collected from surveys and polls, it’s easy for marketers to manipulate the conclusion. (Read: What do Polls/Surveys Reveal About Society—Very Little)
It is the limitations of the soft science of marketing—what it can do—that determines its usefulness.
The business world respects these limitations; the media, on the other hand, simply does not.
It is worth noting: The business world respects the limitations of the soft science of polls and surveys by necessity not by choice.
It is a matter of fact, if business doesn’t respect those limitations, they could easily find themselves out-of-business.
The media pays no such price for abusing polls and surveys.
In fact, they face no consequence whatsoever.
It is this distinction of cost that separates the business world from the realm of the media.
There is no cost to the media if they manipulate the soft science of marketing to get the answers they wish to see.
In the late seventies, there was a fad taking place in the fashion industry—leisure suits—and one of the major manufacturers in the garment industry wanted in on that fad.
The famous American jeans company, Levi Strauss, commissioned an extensive study to determine the viability of their entrance into the leisure suit market.
The data generated from those market studies consistently showed the same conclusion: Levi Strauss was viewed solely as a jeans company.
The market was telling Levi’s management to not enter the leisure suit business.
What management took away was far different.
Management saw the leisure suit business as an opportunity to expand their brand—ultimately, they lost their shirt.
Levi’s management had read into the study what they wanted to see—largely because they could.
This is because the data generated from marketing surveys and focus groups does not deliver hard facts—it delivers subjective data that was left open to interpretation.
In the case of the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections—the liberal media, because it paid no price for being wrong, misused polling and surveys to reach an erroneous conclusion. A conclusion they wished to see, rather than the reality.
As a result, by demanding to use a soft science to deliver hard facts—the liberal media reduced polls and surveys from a useful tool—to junk science.
More compelling: Not only did the liberal media pay no price for abusing the soft science of marketing; they had no incentive to challenge the conclusions being generated.
In fact, they had every incentive to believe the polls and surveys as gospel—as long it gave them the conclusions they wished to see.
This is the distinction between the realm of business and the media.
By demanding to see what they wanted to see, Levi Strauss paid a real price: monetarily, corporate image as well as the loss of employment for those decision makers who took the company down the wrong path.
The liberal media paid nothing, save a little egg-on-the-face for their misuse of the tools of marketing.
It is the real cost of potentially getting it wrong that separates the world of business and the media.