Marketing Bout: Data vs. The Gut

GutsThere is a reason that humans will always be better marketers than algorithms. The human mind can process information and data and spit out predictive models based on the tangible and intangible person-to-person experiences that make up life. It is this knowledge that allows our minds to triumph over machines anytime a measure of creativity is involved, such as marketing.

These skills of relation become magnified as marketers rely on more and more data in an online world where everything is measurable. This is because there exists, I believe, a point of diminishing returns in the analysis of data. There is a tipping point somewhere right after you have enough data to get that gut feeling. Algorithms don’t have guts.

My experience is that having too much data is more likely to lead to a wrong decision than having too little data. Is this controversial? I’ll leave that to my analytics friends to decide.

Don’t get me wrong. I live for stats and metrics: CPA to ROAS to BA to OB and ERA (yes, baseball my favorite analytic endeavor). Yet, having too much data can be paralyzing. It can make overall strategies harder to execute. Each decision can become more and more difficult. It can turn into a data puzzle with no end.

So, next time you have consumed enough data to get that inkling in your gut go with it. Yes, I know, sometimes that feeling isn’t that strong. Sometimes you need to get reinforcement. You may want to call in the .csv files.

Resist the urge, I say! Do one from gut. If you’re wrong give yourself a second chance…for not using enough data in the first place. Remember why you are a marketer. You have guts.

2 thoughts on “Marketing Bout: Data vs. The Gut

  1. Jonathan: Great post. When I look for people for my team, or indeed other teams, I deeply stress test their business acumen and ability to think on their feet. Most of that is because I want to be comfortable that they can deal with ambiguity and think on their feet.
    A mantra of Intuit’s is Think Smart, Move Fast. Often in the web world I have felt it is more like Move Fast, Think Smart.
    That said in general my personal observation is that most people do not even make the most basic attempts to find data or use what is sitting in front of them. I am a fan of gut, hopefully that was evident, but I am often distressed at how much gut is used, even with access to data (not even complex data).
    Perhaps my overall point of view is: Don’t wait for perfect data (there is no such thing), listen to the data you have and then use your acumen to make a timely decision.
    Would this jibe with your recommendation above?
    -Avinash.

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  2. Thanks Avinash.
    You make a crucial point with your mantra. There simply is not the time to wait on reams of data (the reasons why would make an interesting post in and of itself).
    That makes the human element of the “velocity marketing” approach the key to success, even when working on such highly analytic endeavors.
    Jonathan

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