The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

What If We’re Wrong …

One of the things that bothers me is how data [in marketing] has become law.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of data – or should I say, real data that has been amassed properly, read properly and used properly – but a lot of the stuff today is nothing more than small bits of information packaged to be big bits of information.

Worse, a lot of it has no texture whatsoever … designed to reinforce a position someone wants rather than to inform and enlighten on things you don’t know but would like to find out.

But even then, data is not infallible.

There, I said it.

Data is as good as the people who created it.

And yet day after day, I read about companies who treat their data like its god … even though you can see the flaws in their approach from 10,000 miles away.

From what they’re trying to discover.

To how they’re trying to discover it.

To what they want to do with it once they’ve got it.

No surprise then that so many then go on to report ‘lower than expected’ revenues.

I’m lucky that I work at a place with a progressive view of data, especially with the way we use our Ventures program.

But in addition to that, I work with an amazing data specialist.

She’s cheeky sod who is a bloody legend.

Not just for what she does but for what she pushes.

A believer in the role of culture not just habits.

But another part of her skill is that she knows what data does and what data doesn’t.

Data guides.

It heavily suggests.

It shines a light on important and essential behaviours.

It forces discussions about how best to approach situations.

But it rarely is undisputed, unquestionable, always certain, fact.

To be honest, I believe most people in the marketing field of data knows this but – as is the case with most things in marketing – we go around talking in certainties in an attempt to raise our professional standing when all it does is the opposite.

Hey, I get it, we see it being done in so many fields – from government to finance – but that still doesn’t mean it makes people believe what we’re saying, it just makes us complicit.

The reality is society is far smarter than we give them credit for. The only reason they let so much of this rubbish pass is because they literally don’t care what we say. They have seen so many facts that turned into fiction that they view what we do as literally a game … which is why, while data and strategy still play an important part in making creativity that helps brands move forward, the most powerful differentiator between ideas that culture sees and culture give a shit about is how interesting, intriguing and exciting it is.

16 Comments so far
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Good post. Data is important but it’s when companies think it’s the only thing that matters and ignored context, texture and nuance things get in trouble.

Comment by Pete

Also, nice millennium bug photo.

Comment by Pete

Isn’t it good? The millennium bug was the best new biz tool for so many tech companies.

Comment by Rob

There is an assumption that because the Y2K didn’t happen that it wouldn’t have happened. Thousands of data specialists, software developers, programmers and cybersecurity experts worked very hard to ensure that it didn’t.

Comment by Marcus

Did they stop it happening or did they get paid to give companies the confidence it won’t happen to them?

Comment by DH

Data only works when people know how to collect it and read it and are working with people who know what to do with it. That is far fewer than the amount of companies who brag about using it. Good post Robert.

Comment by George

That’s why I think the best data specialists start with skepticism rather than blind trust and adherence. Like you said, that’s all too rare which is why so much work ends up being stuff you want to avoid than play more with.

Comment by Rob

Data is neutral. Interpretation shpuld be too.

Comment by John

Data is as neutral as the people who use it.

Comment by George


Comment by Chikashi

What does your data specialist think of your mathematical prowess?

Comment by John

they think campbell is a fucking liability.

Comment by andy@cynic

……who can’t do basic maths.

Comment by DH

campbell talking about data is like campbell talking about fashion. its a fucking joke. but theres something that pisses me off more and thats when twats say data when they mean a small fucking fact. knowing you need a shit after a night on the curry is not fucking data you sad fucking wankers.

Comment by andy@cynic

You are a master of angry.

Comment by DH

I have met many people who fit the description you express so viciously Andrew, and I admit I share your view of them. The way they throw the “data” word around is similar to 4A execs talking about creativity in pitches when we all know how few mean it or even understand what it is anymore.

Comment by George

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