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by Jonathan Salem Baskin on 1 August, 2011 - 22:51
Information is really a synonym for stuff, in that our preconceptions of what we expect to find and want to know dictate both our searching and interpretation. The world around is doesn't come prequalified with meaning; the things we find, now called data because of the digital clarity which which many of our searches are realized, require us to interpret them before they qualify as knowledge.
In other words, anything we know is based on an initial assumption, and it proven by or disproven by how we go about testing it.
Maybe I'm stating the obvious, but I was reminded of it when I read the comments to my column in last week’s Advertising Age. I'd written that maybe our conclusions about the efficacy of YouTube video campaigns were based on faulty assumptions, and that we were accordingly measuring the wrong things in order to affirm that we're right. Most of the comments declared that such campaigns were useful because consumers were different today than ever before, and that there were data to prove it.
One post offered up stats that juxtaposed "views" with sales and credited the former for the latter. Another one said that consumers had rejected traditional advertising (you know, the sort of thing that overtly tries to make a sales pitch) and that the data on declines in old media consumption proved it. I got a Tweet from a guy who works at the agency responsible for the campaign I specifically questioned (W+K's work for Old Spice) who offered up the Effie Award that last round won as a datapoint of its righteousness.
In trying to tell me I was wrong, weren't they demonstrating my very point? They found what they were looking for, and were happy to disregard or challenge any information that countered it.
The case (or platform) that directs the search and interpretation of data in support of social media campaigns relies on a number of assumptions, which go something like this:
But these are all assumptions, not facts or truths inherent in observable reality. We could just as easily apply a different set of assumptions, like:
Change the assumptions and you change what data you look for, and how you interpret it.
My gut tells me that marketers have not truly figured out what to do about this P2P thing that is remaking their function. To just assume that the initial assumptions must first negate everything they once knew (or did) and that anything goes is just silly. Other operational areas of the enterprise have hatched different, more thoughtful assumptions while still staying true to their functions. Old rules made new. Numbers included, not disregarded. Maybe the implications for sourcing, manufacturing, and even staffing are more obvious, but they've proven that clear approaches don't require overly complex or anti-intuitive reasoning.
We always knew how to entertain consumers, and it has always been easier to avoid asking for the sale. It's nothing new. But if the new thinking is that we can strip away giving consumers any reasons to buy (other than love of our entertainment), then I wonder if were caught up in a set of assumptions that might not be as revolutionary or insightful as we believe...or as effective?
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