Marketing In An Inchworm-Shaped World

Ian Lurie

Bruce Lee (It’s just his name, OK?! He’s not related) just showed me why all marketing is hopeless.


An inchworm can explain it.


Take an inchworm when it’s curved. Then put a drop of water on it’s back. Try to predict which way the water will slide. The best you can do is be right half the time. It’s chaos, the law of averages, or the bell curve. Call it what you like, but you can’t do better than 50/50.

The same is true of customers.

Bruce explained that consumers have the nerve to be individuals. Trying to predict where one of them will end up on a bell curve (or an inchworm) is hopeless.

No matter how much demographic research you do, and no matter how clever you are with Excel, you can’t know that person B will behave the same way as person A.

I was about ready to sell my company and move to Tibet when I realized: That’s why marketing is so important. It’s not about predicting the behavior of a single individual (sorry, behavioral targeting folks). It’s about predicting what that individual will most appreciate, and find most compelling, if their behavior brings them to your door.

Whew. Back to work…

Ian Lurie
CEO & Founder

Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent and the EVP of Marketing Services at Clearlink. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). He's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Follow him on Twitter at portentint, and on LinkedIn at

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