And the LORD said, “Behold, the people are one, and they have one language … and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Let Us go down and confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” Genesis 11:1-7
The other day I came across an article that started with the following sentence: “The success of your business depends on your ability to build marketing momentum.” I’m guessing that most of us come across similar articles on a daily basis. In fact, run a Google search on “building marketing momentum” and you’ll get tens of thousands of results.
This particular article, like most in the genre, was chocked full of advice for ways to increase marketing momentum. The article closed with something along the lines of, “by diligently measuring your results you will improve your ability to add to your marketing momentum and grow your business and success.”
As I was reading through the content, the left hemisphere of my brain was doing its best to arrange and process the recommendations in a linear, logical fashion. Unfortunately, my right hemisphere kept interrupting with the following quote from Lord Kelvin:
“When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind. It may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.”
In physics, the definition of a quantity provides the set of rules for calculating it in terms of other measurable quantities. For example, momentum (p) is defined as the product of mass (m) and velocity (v).
p = m • v
Now, notice what happens when we shift our linguistic context from physics to marketing. In the realm of marketing, we lack a definition of momentum that includes the set of rules for calculating it. As a result, we cannot express the concept of marketing momentum numerically and, ipso facto Lord Kelvin, our knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind.
The term “momentum” is just one example. The everyday language of marketing is rich in constructs that lack formal, quantitative definition. Much of what we talk about, focus on (and ask for budget dollars to execute), often cannot be expressed numerically.
Is it any wonder marketing is frequently perceived by the more quantitative-driven departments (hint: think of finance, engineering and sales), as being more art than science?
We’ve created a situation not unlike the biblical Tower of Babel. When it comes to communicating with inter-department colleagues (especially those in the C-suite) we might as well be scrambling about the plain of Shinar with confused tongues.
Getting back to the focus of this blog: if there is a realistic way to evaluate (and sometimes predict) business performance through the lens of physics, we have to begin with a common vocabulary predicated upon some basic concepts and definitions. Once we’ve identified a set of definitions, we have to determine if they can be adapted to the business realm, either directly or by analogy.
As a starting point, I’m going to suggest we consider the following six definitions from classical mechanics. In upcoming posts, we’ll jointly explore their applicability to business.
If you have suggestions for additional definitions or considerations, please feel free to share. I’d really like to hear your thoughts regarding the topic.