Accuracy vs. Precision in Marketing

Posted in Marketing | August 8,2012


We all know that ad campaigns have long been a hallmark of marketing. Why? Campaigns allow an aspect of product or service’s value to be amplified over and over again through ads that are slightly different but really, at their core, the same. The repetition of this message through ads that closely parallel one another attempts to etch the value message into the hearer’s conscience.

In science and engineering, precision is measured by the variation arising when all efforts are made to keep conditions constant. Tight precision in marketing means that each ad in a campaign has many components that are identical—be they an opening, a tagline, music, a feel, or look, There are few differing elements between ads in a precise campaign even when they span different media.

Precision in marketing is important because people learn by repetition, whether it is a child learning to speak, a student learning multiplication problems, or adults remembering the value of your product or service.  The marketer could play the same commercial over and over again to gain precision, but a campaign allows for just enough freshness to keep our flittering human minds engaged. The campaign merges core repetition with just enough freshness to keep the listener or viewer engaged.

It is possible to have high precision but low accuracy in marketing. In the target metaphor, the bullets have high precision in that they all struck the target close to one another, but not accurately near the bull’s-eye. 


Why Precision Isn’t Enough

Just because you precisely repeat a campaign message in marketing doesn’t mean you are repeating the RIGHT message. This is where accuracy enters the picture. Does our marketing content reflect the best and truest value we offer to our customer, client or patient? Understanding what your customer values most requires work. While comprehensive marketing research projects are valuable, there is another way to begin to work towards your core value.

  • Ask your repeat customers why they repeat with you.
  • Ask your referring patients or doctors why they continue to refer you.

Oftentimes, you might be surprised what they are picking up on as your core value.

John Janstch tells the story of an architectural firm who thought their innovative design was winning the day with clients. However, upon asking the above questions, they found out that their ability to cut through city zoning red tape and bureaucratic obstacles was what their clients thought most unique about them.  When they made their marketing message more accurately match this truth, they experienced growth.

The Problem with Being Only Accurate

Sometimes there are several core values that a company or service brings to the table. The temptation is to simultaneously broadcast all of these values in dissimilar ads to prospective customers—the classic one-off strategy where no ad connects to another. Thus, while the ads may be highly accurate, the minimal repetition and lack of precision fail to etch the concept in your prospects memory.

It is also possible to have high accuracy but low precision in marketing. In the target metaphor, the bullets have high accuracy in that they all struck near the bull’s-eye, but low precision in that they are not clustered together.

The Sweet Spot: Accuracy + Precision

The sweet spot of marketing is when precision and accuracy come together. This is the stuff of which legendary marketing campaigns are made. First, there is an accurate message that creatively amplifies the prime value of a service, product, or company. That accuracy is coupled in tight symmetry, or precision, through a campaign that repeats the core message over and over again with just enough to freshness to keep the viewer, listener, or reader engaged.

Jordan Fowler, Senior Account Executive, MPR

What ad campaigns would you say most effectively couple accuracy and precision? Leave us a comment.