Rely on More Than Hunches

We often talk about “hunches” when we criticize the way some marketing and business decisions are made. As an agency that always leads strategic decision making with solid research, we see a lot of choices that come from what, when it ends up poorly, we’ll call whim or, when it turns out alright, we call intuition.

Today in The Atlantic we see that perhaps we’ve been a little harsh. Apparently in Texas the practice of dowsing for water (or oil) is still widespread.

We’ll save you the trip to Wikipedia on Dowsing:

Dowsing is a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, gravesites, and many other objects and materials without the use of scientific apparatus. Dowsing is considered a pseudoscience and there is no scientific evidence that it is any more effective than random chance, and dowsers often achieve good results because random chance has a high probability of finding water in favourable terrain.

So a hunch on who to market to, what a companies best segments are, or what type of marketing mix is the most effective seems practically reasonable compared to a practice known as ‘water witching’ or, when looking for oil, ‘doodlebugging.'

And yet, according to The Atlantic, “you’d be hard-pressed to find a single well-drilling operation in the Southwest that doesn’t believe in and use water witching.”

We think it’s better to be like geologist Jeff Bennett who points out that anywhere you drill, if you go deep enough, water will probably be there. “The question is: Is it the easiest water? Is it the most water? Is it the best place to drill?” he said. “It’s just guessing. And sometimes they’re good guesses. Sometimes they’re not.”

We think that when making strategic decisions, it’s best to be scientific like Jedd and not to need to explain methodologies like Jeff Boyd, the city public-works director in Marfa, Texas uses when describing how dowsing works for him.

“I couldn’t tell you how it works,” Boyd says, “I just know that it does.”