You hear a lot about analytics these days: how brands need to use “the numbers” to create content and advertising campaigns.
It’s supposed to make you more efficient: analytics tell you what worked and what didn’t so you can create more of what worked.
Sounds logical– what’s not to like?
I’m not going to argue against analytics. It’s useful to know what’s resonating with your target audience. You’d be foolish to ignore that information.
But numbers aren’t the whole story. If you follow them slavishly, you’ll limit yourself to what’s worked before. You’ll shy away from breaking new ground.
Without consciously thinking about it, you’ll be more averse to risk, more apt to play it safe– and that’s the biggest risk of all for a brand.
What looked like gender bias in admissions at UC Berkeley, wasn’t. Aggregating the data produced a false impression.
We have a modern, faux–scientific assumption that all information is good — and amassing more of it makes it better. Yet averages and aggregates often conceal more than they reveal.
Business and government decisions are now made by people high up the information chain, who… only have access to information in aggregate form, with all the salient discrepancies made invisible by the act of combining it.
Tricia Wang helps brands discover growth opportunities hidden behind their data.
She talks about the importance of people’s stories, the emotional context, how people make sense of the world.
She calls this information “thick data”: the sticky stuff that’s difficult to quantify.
Ms. Wang warns about quantification bias: valuing the measurable over the immeasurable.
She says thick data (the human, derived from small samples) has to inform big data (the numbers, derived from large samples).
To have impact, numbers need stories, and vice versa. You need both to get a true picture of what’s really going on.
Thick Data often reveals the unexpected. It will frustrate. It will surprise. But no matter what, it will inspire. Innovation needs to be in the company of imagination.
Innovation, imagination, risk. They’re all linked. To succeed, brands must embrace all three.
Analytics, data, numbers: they’re helpful, tidy, and… safe. They come in a nice neat box, and they’re good to have.
But brands need to take risks and make creative leaps. They need to think outside the box.
Data needs to inform the creative, but it’s just as important for creatives to inform the data.
Header illustration by Mark Armstrong.
Originally published on Mark Armstrong Illustration.