"Beating the control" is the art and science of defeating a reigning direct marketing champion: measurable advertising that's been victorious in projectable split-run tests, or advertising that's never been tested head-to-head but has run at an acceptable profit.
Some "control" approaches have been on top for several years, and they're as tough to knock out as Floyd Mayweather. If you've been in the direct marketing game for a while, you know it's impossible to win 100% of the time (and if anyone tells you otherwise they're either naive or full of shit). Mothers of Invention has beaten the control creative/offer approach more than 50% of the time in online and offline media, and I haven't heard of many legitimate groups doin' much better.
Much has been written about general guidelines for beating the control, but one aspect -- what to do after defeat -- has rarely, if ever, been discussed.
After a loss, great prizefighters pick themselves up off the canvas and get back in the gym. Sadly, many marketing managers aren't worthy of adjectives like "great" and tend to essentially say, "Throw da bum out" after a single defeat -- even if they themselves have managed a string of consecutive losses over the years. No, they don't exactly live by the Golden Rule.
The path to victory is actually not terribly mysterious. The boxer -- with his or her trainer -- runs the fight film. If they notice the winner stayed inside (remained close to the opponent), the new plan may include well-timed straight rights to keep the champ at bay. The direct marketing equivalent of this may be a change in the selling proposition. Boxers look for signs from the opponent's earlier bouts; we often have primary or secondary research to guide us.
Our marketing shop has been involved in dozens of record-breaking direct marketing campaigns. One reason: We kick ass in rematches.
What tips do you have on beating the control?