Use Data To Evaluate And Test Gut Instincts

Do we really know our audience the way we think we do asks Bruce Cook, Director at SMG Insight

We love dirty jokes and Love Island more than the rest of the UK – but does that make us bad marketers?

The days when marketers could spend millions of pounds on a gut instinct - if they ever really existed - are long gone. But many in the industry argue that the pendulum has now swung too far in the other direction – that the profession is now paralysed by data; that the joy of a razor-sharp idea is deadened on the blunt edge of a spreadsheet. 

The fact is that the best campaigns now harness both data and feeling. None of the UK Sponsorship Awards winners will have picked up their trophies without first having shown the statistics which support their submissions. You can run a campaign which wins hearts and minds, but without the data to back it up, it’s not going to win awards. 

But the data isn’t just good for gongs. It also prevents us marketers from operating in our own echo chambers. Often surrounded by people who look like us and sound like us, it’s sometimes easy to forget that not everyone is like us. 

Take humour, for example – the source of many great partnerships.

It’s easy to believe that we all have similar funny bones. But we marketers don’t. Our data shows, for example, that the general public is half as likely again to laugh at word play than people who work in the profession. In contrast, marketers are much more likely to be tickled by controversy or taboos (and are 25% more likely to find toilet humour funny) than the general public. 

And marketers also get excited about different things too. Using an example from the 240,000 variables in our database, marketing professionals are two and half times more likely to ‘really like’ reality show Love Island than the general public – showing that we have more than a penchant for trash TV (although we’re also a lot less likely to fancy Dancing On Ice). 

Even what we eat and drink can be different – 20.2% of marketers eat Doritos, compared to just 16.2% of sports fans. 31.7% of theatre-goers are tee-total. You can guess whether the figure for marketers is higher or lower…

Stats like these prove that we should use data not just to evaluate campaigns but also to test that our gut instincts are right in the first place – do we really know our audience the way we think we do? Sure - the very best in the profession have a knack for being able to slip themselves into the shoes of a 55-year-old golf player just as easily as those of a gig-economy millennial. But even then, the data can often provide insights which the best antennae can’t pick up.  

For example, our treasure trove of insights tells us that if you want to make a big sell of your brand’s values, women over 55 are the group most likely to take notice. But if it’s your company’s ethics you are selling, don’t bother with middle-aged men – they are least likely to respond. And if your sponsorship campaign has a celebrity ambassador, make sure he or she is known to 25-34 year-olds, who are four times as likely to be influenced by them than over 55s. 

Research firms like ours specialise in capturing the views of our fellow humans every day and turning them into actionable insights. That data, combined with the gut instinct of good marketers, is now what fuels the best decisions and the best sponsorship campaigns. Neither data nor gut instinct on their own will get you anywhere near the result of the two combined – as the 2018 winners have discovered. 

View the 2019 Winners

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