I love data. I love the way that it can be collected, crushed, crunched and reported. I love its beautiful, malleable nature and the way that it sticks incongruously to information.
I particularly love the way that data can be wrestled into shape to yield an answer. Years ago, I was able to accurately predict a corporate takeover through the harvesting of different types of web data, analytics and a spot of digital snooping. But what I found was not data – or even a series of data points. What I found was a revelation.
These days I am constantly reminded of the gulf that exists between data and analysis, analysis and insight and insight and revelation. We have “fact checking” websites, big data repositories and infographics proclaiming the best practices for everything from walking dogs to the time to send emails. We are swimming in a sea of data without an insight to save us.
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We think – as marketers, or business people more generally – that data will give us the answers. But this is incorrect. It will only point us towards more questions that need to be asked. This is why switched on marketers are adapting the techniques of “growth hackers” from the startup world. Growth hackers have learned that you can use data to test, experiment and improve your marketing – and that this is a never ending cycle. A constant irritation and challenge. It’s also a necessary part of proving value to your customers.
Growth hacking puts data in its proper place. As yet another point to consider when trying to deliver commercial or social outcomes for a brand. But it’s not the only one. It’s not even the most important one.
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This great video featuring Richard Huntington, Director of Strategy at Saatchi & Saatchi makes the point that what we are seeking is not data. It’s revelation. And in too many instances we stop at data. Or thread-bare insight. Falling short of revelation. And that is doing no one any favours.
As Richard says at the end of the presentation – we have to remember which business we are in. I will leave him to remind you which that is.