Forget Big Data. Improve Marketing With a Cathode Follower!

Fender EC Vibro-Champ Amp

Fender EC Vibro-Champ Amp

What do tube amplifiers have to do with digital marketing?

It turns out the analog world of tube circuits is more like the real world of marketing and advertising than the clean, digital, “Big Data” world we’d like to believe we operate in.

Give me just a minute to explain.

First, Thank You to Uncle Doug!

I’ve wanted to build my own tube amplifier for a while, but I’ve never been able to understand how tubes and analog circuitry works–mostly because I didn’t take the time. I recently stumbled on a great series of videos by YouTube contributor Uncle Doug.

After watching his videos closely and taking some notes, I believe that I’m pretty close to being able to take a basic circuit–like the Fender 5F1 Champ–and make a few modifications to tweak the circuit to my taste.

So thank you Uncle Doug, for being so generous with your knowledge and taking the time to share it in a way that we can all understand!

But what the heck does supposedly archaic technology from early last century have anything to do with digital marketing?

It’s Not All Ones and Zeroes

The first reminder is that anything worthwhile, like marketing results or guitar tone, isn’t just the result of passing a number of logical steps.

The wiring in the human brain doesn’t run on Boolean logic. There are no truth tables in our heads that we use for decision making. We can be fooled into making very different decisions simply based on the context in which the information is presented. We might even miss the information completely or we might not take any action at all.

Many times, the result of asking a person why they did or didn’t make a decision based on the marketing messages is “I don’t know.” Yes, they knew the benefits, feature set, price compared to competition and so forth. But the output of the human circuit sometimes doesn’t make sense.

Just like guitar tone!

Why does a particular amp yield one result, but another of the exact same model can yield a totally different sound and–important to a guitarist–feel? It’s because the interaction between the components has a big impact. Components can start out with different values or drift over time. The voltage can vary, creating further variance. The humidity in the air can change how the speaker cone reacts to the signal from the output transformer. And on and on.

In other words, your carefully planned digital marketing campaign looks a like a hand wired amp!

Complexity Adds Noise

Now think of what happens when you take that simple little circuit and start adding more. How about a feedback loop? That’s certainly useful in guitar amps and in marketing campaigns.

How about changing the tone of the campaign? A “tone stack” can be placed in a number of different places in both a guitar amp and a marketing campaign that will allow you to shape the messages that come out the other side. Adding more controls to fine-tune your campaign or your amp’s tone can be a great idea to help you deliver exactly the results you want.

But what happens as you add more complexity to your amp’s circuit? First, you’re likely to build in some hum and buzz (noise) into the output. Second, it’s very hard to predict how or even if that noise will manifest itself. Sometimes you just have to try to build the amp or campaign and see where extraneous noise gets introduced and then troubleshoot it.

What’s important is to build your circuit or campaign piece-by-piece, understanding what each piece does. That way, when the unexpected noise shows up to drown out your beautiful signal, you’ll have a troubleshooting roadmap ready.

Plug It In: The Only Way to Know

You can use all the tools at your disposal to design the marketing machine for your organization. But the only way to know if your machine works as designed is to use it. Like building an amp, one can only spend so much time at the drafting table as you build your marketing systems and campaigns.

You might not get it right from the first chord. But if you understand your circuit and haven’t made it unnecessarily complex, you’ll get your tone and your marketing results.

Takeaway: Marketing like guitar amp design, isn’t Boolean. Weird stuff can and will happen, regardless of what you input. Understand your circuit as you design it and you’ll be able to fine tune it to get the results you want.

Amps 101 From Uncle Doug

If you’re interested in building amps, or are even just interested in seeing what I’m blathering about, I recommend you watch Uncle Doug’s excellent videos. Here’s a suggested viewing order for the basics of tube amplification:

How Tube Amplifiers Work: Part 1

How Tube Amplifiers Work: Part 2

Phase Inverters….For The Common Man

Tube Amplifier Tone Stacks: Part 1

Tube Amplifier Tone Stacks: Part 2

Thanks again, Uncle Doug!

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