Why Marketers Know Nothing About Consumers



Marcus Collins (SVP of Social Engagement, Doner Advertising) discusses the paradox of data-driven insights at Social Media Week Chicago.


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In today’s digital age, marketers are constantly using data to make more informed creative decisions for their brands. By 2020, it is predicted that there will be 5.2 GB of data for every person on Earth. But while there are endless amounts of data, marketers have been struggling to increase insights on consumers. We have all of this technology, yet we are still unable to understand people.

During his Social Media Week Chicago session, Marcus Collins of Doner Advertising discussed the paradox of data-driven insights. It is definite that the amount of technology has increased, yet our knowledge of consumers has not.

Recalibrating The Data Paradox

There are three reasons why the amount of insight about people has not gone up recently.

1. Not all data is created equally.

For example, a lot of our data is self-reported. Self-reported data includes interviews, surveys, focus groups, etc. The reason why a lot of this data is inadequate is because people lie. Cultural norms persuade us to be dishonest.
People also don’t know what they want. They cannot predict the future of innovation and therefore cannot conceptualize their desires. Because self-reported data is so inaccurate, it is important to focus on empirical data. This is the data that relies on what people do as opposed to asking them.

2. There is a need for causality based theory.

Good data alone will not guarantee good decisions. We must go further than this. Why do people think the way they do? Why do they make these decisions? We have the historical evidence, but now it is important to apply causality based theory to explain why things are the way they are. Using historical evidence and theory can help marketers make better predictions.

3. We have to learn to put our humanity to work.

This is the third, and potentially the most important piece of the puzzle. The most successful companies in the United States use the toothbrush test. The toothbrush test is simple: If a consumer uses it once or twice a day, every day, then it is a good product. These products identify a point of friction and then they relieve it. In order to achieve this, we must be empathetic. Marketers must see the world through consumers’ eyes and adopt their perspective.

Looking Beyond The Numbers

Adopting these three practices can change the way marketers see the world. It is crucial that we look beyond the numbers and focus more intently on the humanity. According to Collins, “the problem with data is that we mistake information with intimacy.” Technology provides more transparency than ever before. Researchers now know where people go, what people look for, and what people like. They can now watch people in their most neutral and intimate environments. With this information and with theory, we can understand the unwritten rules of people and apply this to marketing strategies.

Further analysis and commentary from ‘Numbers Don’t Lie, Right?’ session:


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