• Edward James Bass

The 5 Golden Rules Of Audience Insight For Strategy

Everybody needs a code, this is mine - and hopefully yours....

1. Remember you’re analysing groups of people and not numbers

Whilst quite a large share of internet activity comes from mindless digital automatons it isn’t likely you’re trying to understand these but instead actual people.

I’ve found it is really useful to try to identify real human behaviours and think about what these mean to your strategy - and not just numbers which seem to confirm your biases.

Case in point - I recently spotted a CEO of a Luxury agency posting about how an increase in searches for ‘Luxury Fashion’ must indicate the industries health at a time when it is actually facing a real challenge - however in reality few human beings search for luxury fashion goods that way but instead by item or brand.

In short - look for human behaviours when analysing humans!

2. The broader the audience, the dumber/tougher the challenge

The beauty of modern digital research tools is that they can allow us to segment and analyse very specific audience groups - especially when using data from social media since this often can contain a large number of Demographic and Psychographic datapoints.

Often clients still bring legacy thinking to the table, needing to understand and respond to huge and monolithic audience groups - with ‘Millennials’ being the worst of these over the past decade for sure.

I urge analysts and strategists to push for much more precise groups - mainly because analysing huge groups is a very difficult task simply because of their scale and range of actual behaviours, but also because it is likely clients who want to understand broader audiences may not understand it is strategically unwise to do so.

3. Think about how data was collected and the implications on your results

This is really an extension of my first point, but which deserves its own place here since the implications of not understanding it can be quite impactful.

The medium from which your data is sourced from will always impact its reliability and accuracy - for instance survey data will always likely be a representation of how a respondent wants to be perceived rather than an honest representation of how they actually are, whilst often data from social conversations (and especially anonymous ones) can reveal more honest public opinions.

Ideally the best way to solve this is to draw from variable sources and make judgements based on these - often where I’ve found correlation between these is where I’ve found the most powerful strategic insight.

4. Ensure you have enough time - and push back if you do not

I think it is fair to say we’re living through an age where facts have increasingly less value but the fact is (!) that strategies and tactics routed in them will always see more success - and I think the case of audience insight this is due to the fact they are informed by actual human behaviours.

Strategic analysts and researchers have a responsibility to deliver these facts - even in the face of clients who may just want a colourful graph or biases confirmed.

I strongly recommend standing your ground and ensuring you’ve enough time to do an effective job - and if your client doesn’t understand why then take the time to educate them.

It may be more effort in the short term - all education is - but the benefits are myriad!

5. Let yourself be wrong - and keep an open mind as humans can be surprising

Of course, it is easy to point the finger at clients and talk about confirmation bias but in truth only the most zen of analysts or strategists can approach data without some of their own.

Furthermore, what you may write off as an anomaly could in fact be the key to unlocking strategy - and as such it is better to be curious rather than judgemental.

As The Doors once reminded us ‘People Are Strange’ and an open mind is often the best way to make them more familiar.

Agree/disagree or think I've missed golden rule number six? Then please feel free to get in touch here

Edward James Bass