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The Fallacy of Data Driven Marketing

Updated: Sep 11

What motivates people to respond (click, like, share, comment), and convert (buy, try, sign-up, subscribe) to your marketing efforts?This is a very important question, because marketing is about getting people to do what we direct them to do, or to take an action.


At the foundation of all marketing is the practice of Psychology. To be effective at marketing—motivating people to buy our offerings, or believe in our message—we must monitor, categorize, and seek to understand human behavior.


BIG data science monitors and categorizes human actions, but NOT behavior. Though data scientists will tell you they track behavior, what they are really saying is they track purchases, which, computers can't tell are for you personally, professionally, or a gift to someone else. They track how long you read a digital book or watch a movie online, but can't tell if you are actually watching the movie or staring at your phone the entire time.

While Facebook, Google, Instagram are 'analyzing' your feeds, trying to categorize your text and image posts, their computers, and even worse, their marketing department (relying on BIG data), know virtually nothing about you.


I use the word BIG because without a LOT of data, there is NO SCIENCE in data analysis. BIG data can recognize GROSS PATTERNS OF BEHAVIOR, which can be applied when marketing to extremely large segments of the population, however, for most businesses, the NEW MARKETING is a fool's play, and a waste of your marketing dollars.


Our psychology is what motivates us to take ANY action. And computers are stupid, and I mean REALLY STUPID. They can NOT think, at all. They only know what we put in them. And “garbage in—garbage out,” which is what MOST data science is today. Garbage. The BIG data industry have GREAT sales people though, because they've convinced most (young) marketers that analytics will get SALES on your marketing efforts, regardless that this is a lie.


Which brings me to my main point: Data science doesn't work at TIGHT targeting because PEOPLE LIE.


Psychology is more an art than a science. Humans are complex beings, dynamic,our [perceived] needs and desires constantly changing with age, and life circumstances. We lie to ourselves—tell ourselves we need things we don’t, or make promises we never keep, like dieting, exercise, control spending, less time on our electronic devices, YouTube…etc. We lie to each other, because we believe it ourselves, or we want to appear smarter, kinder, wiser. We ALL fib, exaggerate, fabricate, remember wrong, because memory has been proven to be faulty. Humans are fickle, which is what makes figuring out what motivates us particularly difficult when we often don’t know ourselves.


We are just beginning to identify a few basic behavior patterns common to most of us through BIG data collection and analytics. However, assessing and categorizing behavior does not automatically give us the reason why someone chose to take an action.

Remember, humans are dynamic, complicated, and motivating us to take any action is hard since people lie. We all do, as previously stated. Like it or not, every one of you reading this post lies. A lot! We lie to appear politically correct, even though we are all born racists. We tell ourselves all kinds of crap to excuse unhealthy behavior, and rationalize our position with even more crap that we tell others. Everyone does. Lying is a human condition, like self-interest. We all lie/justify/rationalize to ourselves, and subsequently others—loved ones, friends, colleagues, strangers—most every day of our lives.


TARGETED [digital] marketing is supposed to get advertiser's ads in front of the people most likely to find interest in them. According to Google, and Facebook, they know who these people are because they track and “analyze” the content of each and every one of their user's posts, so they claim to know what we like and don't, where we hang out, what attracts us, and what we'll pass on. However, even with all this data crunching, quantitative data doesn't really tell us qualitative reasons why anyone really does most anything. This is a fatal flaw with machine learning, often called AI (artificial intelligence), and why, even with all this data, response rates average between .05 - 5% with most digital marketing efforts, which is actually LOWER than with print, TV ads, and other 'traditional' media.


So much for the wonders of data science making your marketing work to sell your offerings. And all the Likes and Shares in the world won't SELL YOUR STUFF. Smart marketing—the kind where a marketer actually puts in the brain power (instead of relying on analytics alone, which is brain dead) and THINKS about the PEOPLE (target markets) who will BENEFIT from the best FEATURES of the offering—actually SELLS products, services, and even nonprofit messages.


When Facebook tells you they know who will find interest in your offering, well, they are lying to you. When people post on their FB feed, they often post falsehoods, either because they've convinced themselves it's the truth, or because they are trying to market, i.e. SELL, to others.


Additionally, advertisers, and advertising lies. Marketing sells real benefits, as well as perceived benefits. Apple sells the perception their devotees will be 'more creative' if they use Apple devices, but this is a lie. Creativity comes from inside of us, not from the technology we use to create it.


Google, FB, or any social platform don't have a clue who is lying, or why. When they try and match the content in an ad to the content on an affiliate marketer's site, their algorithm is basing this 'match' on keywords and phrases in the ad content, not whether the advert is true—really selling what it says it is, or is tongue-in-cheek, or selling perception.


So, when your analytics dept, or AI vendor tells you it KNOWS the targets for your offering, without intimately knowing the best bits about the offering you're selling, they are lying to you.


Sure, there are bound to be many who will tout success with data science and machine learning (what a joke, since there is NO learning, just a machine assimilating patterns, and an arrogant coder who makes it so hard to understand what he's doing you all just have to believe him or risk looking stupid).


Thing is, throw enough shit against a wall and some of it will stick, which is why data science can show results. They just keep spending your marketing dollars for more bullshit stats that you'll use in your marketing material because they tell you to. And you'll (generally) get a .05 – 5% response and feel GREAT, not knowing that print would have cost you less with the same, or better results, and not realizing that actually THINKING about the TYPE of person who will likely BENEFIT the most from the UNIQUE FEATURES of your offering will SELL IT at a better response rate, without any data science at all.



The point of marketing is to SELL YOUR STUFF as quickly and cheaply as possible. And we must do this KNOWING PEOPLE LIE. But only PEOPLE know PEOPLE LIE.

A computer doesn't know lie from truth, fiction from fact, bullshit from not.


Garbage in, garbage out.


Isn't it time to stop lying to yourself that 4K Likes matter? Do REAL MARKETING—promoting the BEST BITS about your offering targeting the PEOPLE most likely to want it—for better SALES.

  • The average Facebook CTR (Click Through Rate) in the newsfeed is 1.11%. This is trending downwards; a decrease of 0.37% compared to the previous year. CTR on the right side placement averages just 0.16%.

  • Facebook Stories have an average CTR of 0.79%.

  • Facebook Audience network  is 0.69%.

  • Instagram ad CTR in the feed is 0.22%.

  • Twitter's CTR 0.86%.

  • The average CTR in Google Ads across all industries is 3.17% on the search network, and 0.46% on the display network.

(Smart Insights 2020)

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