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The100: Data obsessions, the planning cycle and Mark De Man

“A regular sequence of work and thought”

50 years ago, Stephen King of JWT published his planning guide. And the planning cycle from page 18 onwards is still a bombproof way to think about structuring any strategy.

In the “Where could we be” section on page 27, King highlights the role of qual: 

“It is here that small-scale qualitative research is at its most useful. Since the object is stimulus rather than measurement, it does not matter too much that a couple of groups cannot accurately represent the whole population […] The main objective is to produce richness of ideas and language”

It was also good to see some things haven’t changed when he says “research budgets are never as big as we would like” 😉 

Effectiveness > efficiency

There has recently been a lot of articles kicking around  on data, our continuing obsession with it, and what we might be doing wrong. This includes a piece from Robert Van OssenBruggen, who let the wisdom rain:

The industry seems to collectively assume that having data at its disposal equals making better decisions. But it seems to forget that as the amount of data increases, making sense of it and communicating learnings properly becomes harder, not easier. And thus takes more time. But we don’t spend more time making sense of data. On the contrary. Most marketing research & intelligence professionals I meet are spending most of their time PRODUCING metrics and dashboards. They’re filling up spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides with observations. And there is simply barely any time left to THINK about what those observations mean.”

While Tom Goodwin also had a few choice words:

“A significant amount of data, has some form of theoretical value, it could be analyzed, combined, cleaned, tortured, tested and we may get something from it, but its far more likely to get in the way.”

Stories about stories

On a similar thread, maybe stories would help?

The Bezos behemoth on the time he called Amazon’s customer service to prove that a data point about wait times was wrong:

“I have a saying, which is when the data and the anecdotes disagree, the anecdotes are usually right… If you have a bunch of customers complaining about something, and your metrics look like they shouldn’t be complaining, you should doubt the metrics.”

And here’s Anthony Tasgal’s TEDx talk on why stories make us care when numbers don’t.

Have we ruined childhood?

I’ve just finished reading The Anxious Generation by Jonathan Haidt. It’s all about  how childhood has been ruined by becoming more phone based, rather than play based. Naomi Schaefer Riley wrote a wider piece on the topic and summarised it perfectly. 

As a parent, it’s obviously deeply troubling to read and there is plenty out there on the topic – I strongly recommend Tyler Cowan’s podcast with Jonathan. (Coincidentally my favourite ever podcast episode is Tyler’s interview with Amia Srinivasan). 

I also spoke about this subject on an episode of the Stressed, But Well Dressed podcast (I’m often one, but never the other).

A potential knock on effect of all this is that Gen Z has broken the marketing funnel. It was built for the old world and Gen Z don’t live there anymore. 

Transformers in reverse

After it turned out that Amazon Fresh’s automated check-out system used a lot of ummm… humans, here’s where else automation has just been humans in hiding (otherwise known as “Mechanical Turks”).

I feel a repurposing of the Transformers jingle, but this time it’s ‘humans in disguise’, not robots.

And finally…

  • I’m enjoying these episodes (via Storythings) of the curious history of your home. I recommend starting with the fridge. 
  • Susie Dent asked the public to send in examples of nominative determinism (the idea that people gravitate towards jobs that fit their names) and the responses are superb. My personal favourites include the policeman ‘Robin Banks’ and the Belgian defender ‘Mark De Man’. Outstanding. 
  • The Cultural Tutor posted 23 specific words for incredibly specific things. The list includes ‘kairos’, which is an ancient Greek work for qualitative time. It refers to how some moments are more important or seem longer than others.