As humans, we are the sum of our experiences. If we keep repeating the same mistakes over and over, our friends look at us and scratch their heads. In other words, for most of us, we eventually work out what we are doing wrong and mentally check ourselves before we repeat the same mistake. Our internal data monitoring tools eventually pick up patterns of past errors or transgressions and inform our current decision making process. Unless you are a sociopath.
We now live in a world where there is data coming out of our ears for any and all online activity. So why do some brands seemingly continue to repeat past mistakes, or continue to ignore what seems to be bloody obvious to the rest of the world? The answer, in part, lies in post-reporting. Either through not doing it at all, or failing to be brutally honest in your analysis.
The fear of any aspect at all of a campaign (or longer term, platform-building activity) being seen as a failure is at the heart of the problem.
We all know the saying – “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics”. It is way too easy to pick data that suits our argument or avoid data that exposes any weakness or potential chink in the armour.
So that’s why I find post-reporting challenging, but ultimately a rewarding experience.
Yes it’s a lot of fun writing a report on a hugely successful campaign; but it’s part of our duty of care to our clients to identify where things didn’t quite work out as expected. No client worth their salt is going to hang you for identifying areas of improvement, particularly if the original strategy was well-considered and argued. (You did write up a strategy document in the first instance, right?)
If I can’t even admit to myself where things didn’t work, then how on earth am I going to address those failings next time around? Each area of weakness is a hotspot in insights that helps me realign for next time.
The data can reveal many things. A failure to connect to the right audience in the right place; an oversight in your information architecture, a problem with usability. But sometimes it can reveal that maybe, just maybe, the creative wasn’t actually that good (pro-tip: social is a great space for working that out).
I’ve worked in digital for 13 years and I continue to learn more every day. It is an impossibility to know everything about this space I work in. And that’s why I love working with talented people who complement what you bring to a project, and fill the gaps with their expertise. But it’s also why I have to have razor-sharp objectivity about the projects we undertake.
In a time when people complain about drowning in data, we are ignoring the heart of the problem. When drowning in data, many seem to instinctively cling on to the self-reinforcing data to survive. I would argue that it’s as, if not more important, to hone in on that data that makes you feel uneasy, or scratch your head. Why DID such-and-such happen?
But remember, at the end of the day, that data will only tell you so much about your campaign as a whole. You’ll need to look elsewhere (or carefully read between the lines) to work out if your creative idea needed a bit of spit and polish.
Our recent Delite-o-matic activity is an example of continuing to be self-critical and hyper analytical with what we do. At the heart of the activity is a truly great creative idea, totally aligned with the brand and supported by a client whose trust we have earned over the years. And at the heart of the strategy that supported the activity: several years of data and insights – bruises from failing and high fives from succeeding, but at the end of the day – something informed by a continual learning cycle.
Yes, it was (continues to be) hugely successful – millions of views on Youtube, significant WOM and earned media (it was very nice to be featured on CNN and Good Morning America). Yet I still learned a lot from that activity and know exactly where we need to work things harder / differently in the future. Not because we failed in any significant way, but because we can always do better. And that is where data is empowering.