Can you trust the studies?

Dalibor Šumiga Behavioral marketing/Neuromarketing, Marketing

Red CTA button will incite the users to buy more.

Emoticon at the end of an email subject will increase the open rates.

“Order now!” will increase the number of conversions.

Blogs with no more than 15 words in their titles have the best open rates.

I believe you’ve heard numerous advices like  these, some of them you probably tried, but did you ask yourselves how accurate they actually are and are they really applicable to your business?


Business and science are going hand in hand more and more, but that doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. Science is always aiming for generalization of its findings, but business is not. The primary goal of business is not to generalize its findings, to share it generously with its competition and make the world a better place, but to use for its own profit.

Therefore, every time you find a research that seems amazing and totally cool to you, observe it with a certain amount of caution.

Being amazed with unbelievable findings about human behaviour is especially common in digital marketing, but human behaviour is not easy to generalize in a simple way, because there are so many factors of influence.

Even the scientists holding on to the rules of profession most rigorously can be wrong.

In an excellent article written by Jesse Singal, there is an example of an experiment of a German psychologist Fritz Strack. Strack conducted a research aiming to prove that a person can be happier if he/she “forces” their mouth in a form of a smile. First group of examinees held a pencil with their teeth (forced smile), and the other group to hold a pencil with their lips (forced frown). Strack proved his theory and the research became very popular.

However, when there was an attempt to replicate the experiment, it failed and Strack has come under fierce criticism. Strack argued the fact that in his first study there were no cameras in the room like in the replicated one, and that this particular detail could have affected the results.

The study was repeated without the cameras and the results were identical to the first one.

Singal made an excellent conclusion that neither Strack, nor his critics were wrong – yes, a mood can be forced, as Strack’s study shows, but the effect of “forced smile” disappears if the examinees are under video surveillance, which is proved by the study of Strack’s critics. Therefore, both studies are correct.


Of course we can. Every research gives you very good guidelines to begin with, but it’s important to test if the effect is the same for your brand and your target group. Maybe your brand is red and its whole visual identity contains that colour; in that case, red CTA button probably won’t get specially noticed.

For a quality research, great understanding of statistics is also necessary because, if one banner had 400 clicks and the other one had 390, it doesn’t mean that the first one is the winner.

All in all, don’t take any research for granted because, as you could see in the example above, even the scientists can have their ability of logical thinking blurred by ego and prejudices.

At the end of the story, being marketing people or scientists – we are all just human beings…