Three Case Study Myths Debunked

Case Studies, also known as Success Stories, have long been used in the social sciences and in business text books. Currently some of the most influential companies – across multiple industries – use text-based case studies to market products and information. Now let’s take a cursory look at a few of the fallacies out there.

#1  Case Studies Are Out of Fashion

It’s for good reason that case studies are among the top three methods of marketing that companies use. Top performing companies. You might wonder if you should spend your marketing budget on the creation of the latest trends in marketing such as infographics and video case studies (VCSs) instead of classic text-based case studies. Infographics? Everybody loves these cool, quick sometimes quirky little snacks to grab when they don’t have time for a full meal. But as your mother told you, snacks are no replacement for meals. Video case studies? Everybody seems to love these too. Good VCSs are run at 2-3 minutes on average. Multimedia snacks – infographics and video case studies – appeal to people. Although they are exceedingly stimulating and engaging, companies still by and large prefer the classic format of the written case study.

#2  People Don’t Trust Case Study Credibility

In this line of thinking, if they aren’t credible, neither are they cost-effective. In reality, it’s quite the opposite, according to Bob Bly. It turns out that readers trust that case studies are factual, whereas they tend to be skeptical of ads and view other sales literature – even podcasts and company blogs – as self-serving. “Case studies are viewed as credible, third-party endorsements that carry a high degree of believability”, states Bob.

But how is it that these customer-narrated stories have earned such a massive readership; one that spans multiple industries regardless of the type of product or service being marketed?

Heather Sloan says that because the actual user of the product or service sings the praises of its benefits, readers believe them. They believe the customer before they would the manufacturer or sales person because they resonate more with the customer. So while other types of marketing materials – brochures, sales letters, company websites, and so on – “present a (mash-up) of facts and figures, case studies have the power to pull readers into a story that vividly (illustrates) the effectiveness of the product or service.

#3  Case Studies Are Limited – They Are Only One Format

Case studies make for effective web content. But don’t stop there.  Success Story/Case Study marketing expert Casey Hibbard reports on various “ways and places where you can use a story to establish or reinforce credibility”. She offers from two to eleven types of marketing materials under five categories. Listed below, one example follows each category.

1. Building a brand


2. Marketing communications

web sites

3. Selling with stories

sales letters

4. Spinning success stories into media


press releases

5. Telling tales to further causes


Last Word

It’s undeniable that case studies are a strong force on the front lines. While they have been around for at least a few decades, in the past two years they have been among the top three marketing tools used by companies. And with increased buzz in recent months about the importance of story and authenticity in business, I believe case studies will gain even more traction. Lastly, although these chameleons can appear in various types of format, the classic text-based case study is still preferred by most companies.