The Problem with Replication

I love listening to podcasts, and one of my favorites is Hidden Brain on NPR. In a recent episode, the host, Shankar Vedantam, studied the problem with most scientific experiments: replicating results.


There have been numerous studies and reports published which highlight scientific breakthroughs on everything from the effects of medicine to racial bias to social interactions. But other scientists and researchers have often been unable to replicate the initial studies. When conducting the same experiment with their own teams, they get different results. So, which study is right?

This got me thinking about the replication of branding and PR efforts. Much of what we do is an experiment; we try various things, identify what works and what doesn’t, then make changes on the next go-round. But what worked for one client may not work for another. We may work with two seemingly identical books with similar types of authors, and yet, the media will respond to one and not the other. Or a social media contest we run for one will be wildly successful while the other is a total flop. PR efforts, like scientific experiments, are difficult to replicate.

In addition to podcasts, I love listening to business development webinars and trainings. I receive notifications for products like, “The only sales funnel you’ll ever need!” or “Get 1,000 newsletter subscribers in just 30 days!” I’ve participated in many of these information and training sessions and tried some of these tactics, but like these scientific experiments, their outcomes are difficult to replicate. What works for one brand or product may not work for another. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Branding can’t be sold in a box.

That’s why my blog posts, video tutorials, and e-courses take a more organic approach. The aim is to figure out what makes you unique and what’s going to work for your individual brand. Branding isn’t merely a science, it’s also an art.

So, while it’s easy to look at your co-workers, fellow bloggers, or entrepreneurial role models and try to replicate their processes, blindly replicating is not necessarily going to work. Instead, I recommend interviewing those co-workers and entrepreneurial role models or researching your follow bloggers, and after you’ve gathered as much information as you can, evaluate what to take and what to leave. Figure out how you’re different and in which ways you’re the same. Experiment, see what works and what doesn’t. Then, shift your approach and see if there’s improvement. And don’t get frustrated if their “fail-proof” methods aren’t successful for you. After all, even science is difficult to replicate.

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