Everyday I am online aggregating information. I am continually amazed how many people (a.k.a. storytellers) throw out numbers/marketing data without a point of reference. Makes me think about the relevance of what I am reading. Relevance, a concept I learned from the Heath Brothers.
Relevance (noun) – the quality or state of being closely connected or appropriate.
The Heath Brothers enlighten me regarding the concept of relevancy in their book titled: “Made to Stick.” The story I remember was the truth about movie popcorn. Art Silverman who worked for CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest) analyzed the nutritional value of movie popcorn. CSPI learned that the typical medium size bag contained 37 grams of saturated fat. He then realized few people really knew what that nutritional data point meant. Was 37 grams good or bad? To communicate Mr. Silverman’s findings and make them relevant, the CSPI created a visual: they laid out on a table demonstrating how one bag of popcorn was equivalent to the saturated fat from a bacon-and-eggs breakfast, a Big Mac and fries for lunch, a steak dinner with all the trimmings — combined! Relevance!
In 2019 I aggregated information about influence marketing that lead to some interesting engagement with members of my Tribe. One individual referenced an article touting the future growth of influence marketing, therefore projecting $8 billion was going to be spent on Instagram influence marketing in 2020. My Query: What percentage of total marketing dollars worldwide is $8 billion? Answer: 1.4 % of the $563 billion. Earlier this week an article I read indicated that by 2023 brands will be spending 20% of their marketing budgets on influence marketing. What is the relevancy of that number in comparison to the $8 billion dollars I read about in 2019? In addition, 20% is a quantum budgeting leap from 1.4%!
Maybe it is time to question the true relevancy of content published online.
You raise two great points (at least!) here. First, relevance… without anchoring information or what I call a “frame of reference” it’s difficult to assess the original statement and any reaction to it. In consumer research I find that many clients expect that consumers will be able to help them create new products by springing forth with the “… if only someone made an “xyz”… ” Yes, that occasionally does happen, but more often than not, you will get blank stares from consumers if you ask them to freely ideate without any frame of reference to work from or within. They can wax on about what they like or don’t like about an item, or tell you what’s problematic or necessary and missing once you give them something to react to. Second… fact check! These days, people, including far too many so-called professional journalists, pick up and quote numbers they see on the internet… the old adage of “if it’s in “print” it must be true applies.” And then if that’s not enough, they embellish and then don’t provide citation as you noted. Of course, many consumers and providers of news and statistics are lazy and incurious. They are happy to run with the information in front of them without even bothering to raise questions that help to put that information into context as you did in your example.
Excellent comment. Thank you for weighing in. In addition to all the mis-leading stats, let’s not forget the art of “Juking the Stats” a term made popular by the TV series The Wire.