Facts, Findings, Figures Aren't Enough

by , Sep 6, 2012, 9:23 AM
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Every day new facts, findings, figures, and pronouncements fill my inbox.   However, very few insights make it there.

So many studies, so much data and so many findings abound, but it seems that it’s hard to boil it all down into truly useful intelligence.  Even when the findings and figures appear to have been collected using appropriate methodologies, more often than not, my reaction is “This is really interesting -- but what does it mean?”  

Media and marketing research have to have a goal grounded in a business need.  Moreover, regardless of techniques and methodologies, in the end, we are trying to understand human behavior.  The other lament about how much stuff that's out there is that it's frequently devoid of the human factor.  Big data and fancy segments have to be understood within a human framework.

Ultimately, advertising and content have to appeal to people

People either develop brand affinities or they do not; people are enchanted by content, by a character, by a story, or they are not; affinities and enchantment either do or do not correlate with purchase behavior, and people make purchase decisions and buy and consume and buy again.

The recently issued Media Economy Report by Magna Global talks about the plethora of media consumption options and the ramifications for consumer attention.   The section concludes, “Finding value in unexpected places – and seeing that it might not exist in seemingly obvious ones – is a critical part of the attention economy.”  You get to discovering value through understanding people and thinking differently about how to deploy methodologies and findings. 

Now comes a list of tips for navigating from data to insights.  The world of media is complex.  Consumers are way ahead of most of our tools and tried-and-true methods.  How can we, as media and marketing professionals, do our best to provide solid intelligence and strategy?

  • Define the business goal clearly.  Who needs the inputs, and why?  Evaluate what's at stake relative to what it will cost to get the research done.
  • Know the strengths and weaknesses of the methodologies and techniques that you will be using.  None are perfect.  All have inherent biases and all have built-in error.
  • Consider using a variety of approaches to answer business questions.  Learn how to take advantage of quantitative and qualitative techniques and use the inputs from both.
  • If you are sizing a market, then use the best quantitative tools for that purpose that you can find.  For most media research that would mean MRC-accredited, syndicated data.
  • Think about the consumer experience in today’s complex media and marketing world.  Know the screens.  Know the people.  Know their mindsets and motivations.  Know how they use time and brain resources.  If you don’t know, find a way to learn fast.

Let me just clarify one point: Research and analytics are crucial to the process. But what makes the numbers -- facts, figures and findings -- powerful is when they are pulled together and taken to the next level, offering meaningful insights. These insights can give us a perspective on human behavior and motivation, and hopefully point businesses in the right direction.

2 comments on "Facts, Findings, Figures Aren't Enough ".

  1. Joshua Chasin from comScore
    commented on: September 6, 2012 at 10:55 a.m.
    Wait a second Sherrill. Are you saying that unprecedented amounts of data doesn't, a priori, make us smarter? That data in and of itself is really kind of useless without human beings interpreting it and actually thinking about it, and applying it in the context of a strategy!!?? Couldn't. Agree. More.
  2. Jeff Robinson from JRC Limited
    commented on: September 6, 2012 at 11:34 a.m.
    I cannot count the times I have been handed research reports that are full of statistical information but no insights and no real information about how "people" actually think. Your points are well made and I completely agree with your conclusions.

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