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How ‘insights’ and research could be damaging your marketing strategy

Hotwire Global

When devising a marketing and communications strategy for a brand, you need to know which research and insights to listen to and what to ignore. Hotwire Australia’s Mylan Vu breaks down the difference in this guest post.

Insight-led communications and marketing is becoming the golden target for brands and marketers – and so it should. After all, with the wealth of data and analytics tools we have at our fingertips today, what is the point if we’re not putting that knowledge to use to drive our communications and marketing strategies? Yet, there is such a thing as ‘wrong’ insights, and it’s increasingly important for marketers to recognise these as they appear.

Adobe and eConsultancy Digital Intelligence recently found data-related issues hinder progress, with more than half of organisations having separate technologies for managing data across channels. For these businesses with various data sets sitting within disparate technical tools, you’d assume they have the budgets to afford these tools in the first place, and therefore enough resources internally to make the most of them – so where are these businesses going wrong?

Insights that paralyse, not analyse

We’ve all heard of ‘analysis paralysis’, whereby a group or organisation gets so caught up in the analysis stage of evaluating a problem that they delay the actual actioning of initiatives to solve the problem. The delays can last long enough for the business to eventually stop functioning or progressing, thereby eliminating the value of trying to solve the problem through analysis at all.

In reality, business challenges that require extensive data analysis can arguably be over-analysed without an end-point. This makes it critical for marketers to be clear ahead of the analysis stage about what constitutes as an ‘actionable insight’. These should not be confused with being the solution itself. There may be several actionable insights for a marketing team or business before a problem is actually solved.

Insights that re-inforce bias

I often come across stats in the news or via social media that are unsurprising. They may be interesting, perhaps sparking the first time I’d thought about the possibility of the stat being true, but it’s rare I see one that completely changes my mind or perspective on a topic. While some say increased accessibility to different kinds of information is allowing us to think and act in different ways, there is growing research that states the opposite – i.e. With the growth of social media and our ability to form networks of people online, we actually gravitate towards information sources that already align with our beliefs and values.

This becomes starkly obvious during political election campaigns. But what about something less obvious – perhaps a judgement that even trained professionals cannot remove bias from?

For example, it was recently found that boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism than girls, with 51% of diagnosed females missing out on early intervention. Reported scenarios include a teacher who had years of experience recognising and working with autistic boys, yet forced a female student to sit outside their classroom for a year for being ‘disruptive’ instead of recognising her autistic behaviours.

Bias has nothing to do with being educated, and everything to do with habitual thinking. Once you’ve learned to think and react in a certain way, you’re biased. For brands and marketers, particularly those looking to push their businesses into new sectors, product offerings, geographical markets, or even into new ways of collaborating or communicating internally, the biases that exist within teams and how the business is currently run need to be recognised. This is largely because any research or data-driven ‘insights’ that are drawn in the process of devising strategies for these changes will inevitably be biased and reflect existing habits, rather than what could be.

Insights that are hearsay

Someone’s opinion or perspective on an issue isn’t necessarily an insight for driving business decisions. Human analysis is only valuable when it’s actually backed up by facts, stats, and accurate data. Simultaneously, data that is analysed by machines and is spat into an Excel sheet with no critical analysis by a human being who understands how the data was compiled and for what purpose, will remain meaningless until interpreted by a person.

Taking this a step further, data used out of context to drive an agenda, is essentially the same as gossip being used to get someone a pay rise. As mentioned, data can easily become reflective of someone’s bias, or demonstrate only part of the solution rather than being the solution itself.

Consumers and businesses will inevitably continue to create an exponentially growing supply and demand of data. While there is incredible value in collating, analysing, and drawing insights from this data to determine effective business strategies, it’s important for businesses to be aware of how insights can actually blind them from the truth.

Avoiding these pitfalls is difficult and actually goes against many natural human behaviours in the ways that we tend to draw conclusions. However, the brands that can successfully distance themselves from the business challenge at hand, and take an impartial approach to insight-led communications and marketing will undoubtedly realise a significant advantage over competitors.

This article was originally written for mUmbrella.