More Experiments!

I think we spend  too much time looking for the “right” story. We can’t know a story is effective until we try it out because stories are co-created. I have suggested we expect a 30% fail rate – a percentage I made up – so people won’t craft a story to death before they try it out.  I thought increasing tolerance for failure might lighten things up.


How can we know a story is effective until we try it out? Stories are co-created.


Now I see  at least one corporate giant has found there is no substitute for experiments. They have completely removed qualitative research in favor of telling new stories straight to consumers to see what flies.

Coke found, according to their Content Strategy Video (at 4:28), that recently their best stories were not pre-tested (ex: Old Spice Man). Coke  shifted 30% of their money away from conducting research on customers to support hanging out with customers for inspiration.


 Qualitative research can evaporate ideas!

Coke killed qualitative research on story ideas altogether because it “evaporates” ideas or solidifies them too soon.  They put their money behind generating lots of ideas and taking these story ideas straight to consumers to see what catches their imagination. Coke cut their budget for link testing (eye movement tracking, likert scale ranking, etc) in half from 60% to 30%. Twenty five percent of their money is now used for real time testing and adapting stories as they are co-created with real live Coke drinkers.

Stories arise from unpredictable experiences.


I may be jumping to conclusions but I think this validates the idea that we can’t research our way into great stories. Stories arise from unpredictable experiences in real time with live people and grow when given space and protected from reductive scientific research. It is about experience, not examination and feelings, not facts.


Speaking of experience, I have been interviewing people with practical storytelling experience to tell me: Who is using storytelling? to do what? and how do they measure success? You can hear edited podcasts (about 20 minutes) starting next week.  I’ll send you more info, then.


2 thoughts on “More Experiments!”

  1. Annette,
    You are so right,… and then some.
    We just received some test information on a commercial we produced. Research said…”better than the norms, but not great.” But when we looked at the sales results they were the highest all year. Happens all the time…even in reverse.
    There are so many uncontrollable variables that come into play when pre-testing. I’m not for throwing out the baby with the bathwater but I am for good judgement. Personally, I think any research where consumers are asked to “evaluate” anything runs the risk of being flawed. People never think as hard as we ask them to in a lab setting and they will rely on the rational because the emotional is sometimes too hard to discern.

    1. And isn’t it cool that Coke confirms that? I knew from my first experiences in direct marketing back in 1985 that consumers responses have nothing to do with their eventual behavior, but that was just me talking.

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