In this article, you'll learn...
- The parallels of baseball and marketing stats and metrics
- How to measure and track digital relationships with customers
I grew up watching all kinds of sports with my father, and to this day I love baseball. Though my brother, the other sports fan in the family, says baseball is ponderously slow, there's something about its rhythms that I love.
I remember as a kid watching the larger-than-life baseball heroes of the '70s and '80s, players like Pete Rose and "Mr. October" Reggie Jackson. Back then, it was Reggie's game—a game of big hitters and bigger egos, of smashes to left field and home runs.
But, over the years, the game changed. It got smarter. Baseball has always been uniquely suited to statistics, and, over time, player performance started to be measured in new and surprising ways. That shift wasn't easy, and it didn't happen fast, but eventually teams began to unlock new insights about how to win.
Moneyball and Marketing
The transformation of baseball through numbers is beautifully told in Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game, a seminal work by Michael Lewis, who is perhaps the finest narrative business writer of our time. (The story is also coming to theatres later this year in a film starring Brad Pitt.)
The story is as much about business as it is about sports. It describes how Bill James, using the statistical analysis of baseball records known as sabermetrics, along with Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane, discovered unknown secrets to gain competitive advantage. Surprisingly, it had very little to do with paying tens of millions of dollars to a guy who could hit the ball 500 feet but still struck out three out of every four at-bats.
In many ways, Moneyball is a great model for how digital marketing—and marketing communications of all kinds—is changing right now. For decades, advertising and PR campaigns have centered on the Big Idea: swinging for the fences with a clever, provocative, or powerful concept that drove brands, hearts, minds... and, ultimately, business. How did it drive business? No one knew exactly, but the numbers—whatever their provenance—showed that it worked.
But the advent of digital has changed that. As anyone in marketing knows, the frothy talk around "relationships" and "measurability" is now part of any social media or digital marketer's semantic toolkit. The irony? Most of social marketing spend is on advertising and influence—in other words, the long-ball of marketing communications.