Jessica Lorenz

3 Tips to Improve Your Marketing from Doctor Who

August 22nd, 2014

(Editor’s note: Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, also contributed her knowledge – and love of “Doctor Who” – to this blog post.)

There are a lot of nerds in our office, and if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, this is probably not news to you. Recently, we’ve realized something nerds everywhere have known for a long time – we are not alone.

In our case studies, blogs and events, we’ve seen how other marketers utilize pop culture to help convey complex ideas – for instance, emergency alert systems provider One Call Now used “Star Trek” characters to represent its customer personas.

Since we have seen the success others have had, we wanted to try this idea out for ourselves using an office favorite: BBC’s science fiction cult classic “Doctor Who,” which is having its latest series premiere on August 23.


For those who are unfamiliar, the titular Doctor is a Time Lord (a time-traveling alien species very similar to humans) who faces various foes in attempts to save civilizations and right wrongs using intellect over force while exploring all of time and space.

Intellect over force is a driving principle behind our work here – marketing through testing and optimization over gut feelings and intuition.

Read on for three tips we’ve taken to heart from “Doctor Who” about how to make the customer your companion in your marketing efforts.


Tip #1. Test every (seemingly) insignificant thing

Doctor: Stone dust.

Kate: Is it important?

Doctor: In 1,200 years, I’ve never stepped in anything that wasn’t. … Now, I want this stone dust analyzed. And I want a report in triplicate, with lots of graphs and diagrams and complicated sums on my desk, tomorrow morning, ASAP, pronto …

Doctor Who,” The Day of the Doctor, 2013

Every single thing, down to the dust he has stepped on, is something the Doctor considers important. He’s been testing, scanning and analyzing all of his surroundings for 1,200 years.

You may think that you know the answer to every question anyone could ask about your customers. But when you begin testing, you could discover that you’ve totally overlooked a simple concept that was right under your nose (or boots).

For example, at MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summit 2013 in San Francisco, Jon Ciampi, Vice President Marketing, Corporate Development, Business Development and Strategic Accounts, CRC Health, presented a case study where his team tested what they considered to be best practices.

They took their control page of concise copy with an above the fold call-to-action, and created a treatment full of copy with a below the fold call-to-action.

What Jon and his team discovered was an “aha moment,” realizing that not only had the treatment outperformed the control by 220%, but they hadn’t understood their customers’ motivations at all.

While they had been promoting luxury and statistics, it took one test to realize that customers weren’t asking, “What is your doctor-to-patient ratio?” but rather, “Can I trust you with my loved one?”

“We test in the eternal hope that we can possibly understand the motivations of our customers and adjust our practices accordingly,” Jon summed up in his presentation.


Tip #2. Every aspect of your campaign contributes to the overall customer journey

Never ignore coincidence. Unless, of course, you’re busy. In which case, always ignore coincidence.

— The Doctor, Series 5, Episode 12

With all the tools and vendors at a marketer’s disposal, it can be easy to become overwhelmed and ignore what a number is really telling you. Whether it’s in email marketing, design or webpage optimization, numbers can easily be dismissed as invalid, useless or coincidence.

Dismissing results without further testing is risky – especially if the outlying number is in your favor.

Even accidentally sending your email at 2 p.m. instead of 2 a.m. and seeing your clickthrough rate increase is worth investigating.

If you’re not testing yet, use this concept as a reason to do so. Look at how your campaigns have performed, and see if you recognize any patterns in performance. Investigate, ask questions, and try to find reason behind the results.

During Web Optimization Summit 2014, Michael Zane, Senior Director Online Marketing, Publishers Clearing House, explained how his team tested to see if an attention-grabbing banner would convince unengaged visitors to play an onsite game.

That test was encouraging, and saw a 36% lift in engaged users, however, as Michael explained, “The initial test showed strong results, but they are only valuable if it can be repeated.”

So they repeated the test, but this time with a pop-up ad instead of a banner – a seemingly insignificant change that decreased engaged users by 1.3%.

Michael and his team were confused, but could have easily dismissed so small of a decrease, assumed they knew why the test failed, and left it there.

They ran the first test again to test the validity of the initial lift, using the knowledge of the second test to hone in on exactly what had caused it.

The second test saw a 15% lift, and Michael and his team were able to proceed with a line of testing that eventually lead to a 12% lift in revenue per 1,000 visitors to


Tip #3. Never go on the journey alone

There’s a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive … wormhole refractors … You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.

— The Doctor, Series 2, Episode 11

In the end, marketing is a conversation between two people: the buyer and the seller.

When the customer continually asks the marketer “why,” the marketer must give credible reason for the customer to continue their journey.

Test your reasons. Find your voice. Learn how to better serve your customer on this journey. All of this can be done by testing how your value proposition resonates with your ideal customer.

Time after time, tests have demonstrated that company logic is flawed. The Doctor always depends on his companions for their “humany-wumany” intuition, as should you. In testing your webpages, listen to what the customer is saying, not the loudest person in the room.


In Conclusion: Start investigating

You know how it is; you put things off for a day and next thing you know, it’s 100 years later.

— The Doctor, Season 20, Episode 1

The Doctor lives in a world full of fast-paced adventure with danger at every turn.

But the truth is, the adventure is not in his circumstance, the adventure is in his spirit. The Doctor is always striving to uncover the mysteries of the universe.

Begin today by trying that test you’ve always wanted to run, and exploring your marketer’s intuition by breaking out of your routine testing regimen.

Although the threat of a Dalek (evil, cone-shaped robots stripped of all emotion) apocalypse isn’t lying in your wireframes, by approaching each test with as much passion, curiosity and integrity as the Doctor, you can find your own adventures in cyberspace by breaking down barriers and bringing a voice to your customers.


Image Attribution: BBC 


You might also like

Web Optimization: Can you repeat your test results? [More from the blogs]

Social Media Marketing: Focus on consumer reviews increases Facebook fans 100% for Playtex Baby [Case study]

Email Marketing: What is the best day to send an email? [More from the blogs]

Lead Capture: How a health care company increased demand for services 300% [Video]

E-commerce: Testing value proposition leads to 220% increase in total conversions [Video]

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  1. August 25th, 2014 at 10:25 | #1

    It’s funny, we wrote a similar article last year…..

    I’m wondering how many poeple actually use him as a inspiration source…. What I do know is that its still sending regular click to our site after 18 months !

    How many of you have used him as inspiration ? Paste all your articles below !


  2. August 25th, 2014 at 11:00 | #2

    Hello Jessica,
    I must said this is a novel approach to an article. I am familiar with Doctor having watched it for about 40 years. I have thought that the Doctor understood all of the situations and thought of a successful way out. Just like many of us to in marketing how do we find a way to create a way for ourselves and our client become successful. That sometimes mean like the Doctor we must change according to the situations we find ourselves in and find the right people that like in Doctor Who can be our companions when we need to bounce an idea off of or come up with an idea we did think of. In short Doctor Who is the essence of Universal marketing

  3. Anna Franklin
    August 25th, 2014 at 17:37 | #3

    In the words of the ninth Doctor, “Fantastic!” Great eDM for me being a Whovian. 🙂 (I might not have read straight away otherwise.) And a reminder of some important principles to use in my work. Hope the Sherpas enjoy the new series.

  4. August 26th, 2014 at 07:23 | #4

    @Anna Franklin

    Thanks, Anna! I’m so glad that you enjoyed it. That first episode really got me excited for what’s to come. Here we go, round 13 🙂

  5. August 26th, 2014 at 07:27 | #5

    @Howard Lee

    Thanks so much for reading! The Doctor is definitely an expert collaborator with his companions, which is something this post just touches on.

    You make really great point, Howard. Happy “8th” season from one Whovian to another!

  6. August 26th, 2014 at 09:17 | #6

    What an innovative and informative post! As a fellow nerd and Whovian, I definitely support the writing of more posts like this in the future. Allons-y!

  7. August 28th, 2014 at 08:46 | #7

    Great post and nicely described each points. Ultimately understanding the customer’s or consumer’s need and regular analysis matter in marketing, traditional or digital. Thanks for the post and share.

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