I just received an email touting a download of some research that purported to give me proven strategies for success. Here's an interesting question: Can any strategy be proven to be successful?

Sure, you can set up a strategy and see if it succeeds or not. But could you gather data from hundreds or thousands of companies and compile the results into proven strategies? The answer is "no." Here's why.
In my other life as an academic, I have to write scientific papers which are subjected to a rigorous review process. Like all academics in the social sciences, I have to gather data from many companies, use the most rigorous analytical tests of theories, and control for all possible alternative explanations of results. When these results show up in a paper, you are only allowed to say that such and such "suggests" some outcome, such as this marketing tactic suggests it might work.
The reason for this hesitancy is due to Karl Popper who, in brief, advanced the concept of falsification. Using the marketing tactic outcome example, you could show that 2,000 companies followed this particular marketing tactic and it was successful.
You could conclude that this tactic was proven to be successful. But, when you understand the concept of falsification, then you realize that all I have to do is show one example where the marketing tactic failed -- and poof! -- there goes your successful claim.
As a result, social scientists (those who study corporate and consumer behavior), are much more circumspect about any results.
So, the next time you see the words "proven strategies," you might stop and think about what somebody is trying to sell you.
It certainly cannot be something proven, I can guarantee you that!

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image of Allen Weiss

Allen Weiss is the CEO and founder of MarketingProfs. He's also a longtime marketing professor and mentor at the University of Southern California, where he leads Mindful USC, its mindfulness center.