Steve Jobs once said, “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them… Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.” God I love that quote. It should be hung in every product designer, software engineer and marketing executive office in the world. We’d have a lot more cool products that we never knew we needed but can’t live without. And that’s the power of intuition, empathy, insight… you know, the soft skills that truly separate great marketing strategists, product designers and business people from the rest of the pack.
So why don’t we?
I’m sure there are many opinions on the subject.
But for me… I think the answer is simple. Fear.
Fear Kills Great Ideas
Like it or not, there are people in the world like Steve Jobs or that other famous advertising shamen Don Draper. They have an uncanny ability to see inside the hearts and minds of the customers they serve. They don’t need proof or data… they have a sixth sense and the willingness to be wrong. Can you say Newton?
Everyone else fears failure, but they need to predict the future, develop new products and services or advertising campaigns. So what do they do?
They trust the data. All kinds of data… social media engagement data, website traffic data, research data, etc. Data, data, data… they believe that if they just consume or study enough data the brilliant insight, the game changing idea, the next big thing will appear to them like when Nash cracks the code in the movie A Brilliant Mind.
But the simple fact is that data, if tortured long enough can be made to say virtually anything. Trust me, I’ve tortured and watch others torture enough data to know the truth of which I type. But there is another big blind spot within your data that far too many a marketing strategist misses.
Data Only Tells You What Happened
The data wonks will have you believe that data tells you the entire story. Fortunately for fans of stories, these folks are so busy with their spreadsheets that they don’t have time to create literary works for our consumption because their stories would stink.
Great stories answer five key questions in the mind of the reader: Who… What…Where…When… and Why.
And therein lies the problem. Data only answers the first four.
Your Data will tell you what someone did, clicked on, bought, etc., but it won’t tell you why. Why (at least in marketing) is almost always the exclusive domain of the marketing strategist. At best data can show you patterns… but at the end of the day, you’ll need a talented marketing strategist to figure out the why behind the what.
You need to predict a why that doesn’t yet exist… at least not in the data.
But buyer beware.
Great marketing strategists… the Don Drapers and Steve Jobs of today are far and few between.
Precious few people in the world of marketing are fluent in research and data analysis, digital marketing & traditional marketing AND have the ability to craft a Vulcan Mind Meld with your prospective customer. So if you want to truly exploit the power of data, then go find a modern day Draper or Jobs. Give them a test drive or two because even a blind squirrel can find a nut once.
Probe to see how intuitive they are… because they can have PHD in Applied Mathematics, but if they can’t empathize with your target audience they’ll give you lots of information but precious little insight.
And brilliant insight…. that’s where the margin lies.
The Mac wasn’t the first desktop computer. The iPod wasn’t the first digital media player. The iPhone wasn’t the first smartphone. Heck, Jobs rarely if ever was first to any category. Instead, he watched the data but more importantly, he watched the consumer. He saw what was there but he intuited what wasn’t there… the need the consumer didn’t even know they had until Jobs and Apple filled it.
The list goes on… Tesla with super smart, stylish and powerful electric cars. Fireball with Cinnamon Whisky. Keurig with simple, single serving coffee makers. Sonos with great sounding, wireless speakers that can replace or even eliminate the need for built in whole-home music systems. Southwest with simple, inexpensive, reliable and fun air travel. Peloton with high-energy, cost efficient, fun at-home workouts.