Tag Archives: Topline

Market(ing) Research

I was made aware of a picture that has been around for some time, it is an optional strong image and it can be used in any direction. The byline that was given was “I’m blown away that this diagram made it into a major publication” I personally agree!

The image is what I would call a 2 by 2 image of a clusterfuck that goes nowhere and openly misinforms people. The more important part is that it is based on truthful observation and that is where the cog tends to upset the machine to a much larger degree. It has two rows (very useful and not useful), two columns (Time consuming and not time consuming) and the 4 elements are labeled “Plan, Learn, Ignore and Browse”. So far one would think that it makes sense, yet the image has in each of the 4 elements:

Plan (AI, Machine Learning, Information security andStatistical Programming), Learn (Data Science, Data Visualization, and Business Intelligence), Ignore is for (Predictive analytics, Mathematics, Statistics and Data Warehousing) and Browse is reserved for (Spreadsheeting, Data Cleaning, and Financial Analysis), as such we might consider the first stage, this was made for people in marketing, for people who need to visualize data to give stakeholders a story to hold onto. The idea that some consider that Financial analyses was not time consuming to acquire is a chapter we will forego for now. It is the Ignore part that gets me, You see Marketing researchers are about the story that can be served like a Tiramisu, something that goes down easily with the Stakeholders and shareholders, yet it is the mathematics and statistics that makes them want to ask questions, not something a company wants, they want them to merely eat the cake and fuck off. But topline stories are actual stories, it is the connected mathematics and statistics that gives them the power, yet in today’s market it is an expensive trip to do and many companies don’t do that well, mainly because the statistics might show another side to all this and that is not what they want to tell the shareholders and stakeholders. And consider that a larger firm has taken the time to properly set up a Data Warehouse, do you really want to ignore all that data?

In all this there is a much larger issue. The field of what was a proper Market Research field has been replaced by mere topline storytellers and we call that Marketing Research and it is as I see it  holy useless.

Topline stories sound nice, but without the underlying statistics it is for the most conjecture and speculation but without supporting finesse. It is the merchant that looks at the tally of his shop and speculates on how they will do in the next quarter, yet it is true that to some extent they can do that, but without supporting numbers (from Statistics, and Predictive analyses) optionally cornered in mathematics, it remains speculative. It is like seeing the marketing manager and sales manager plotting out ‘their’ path towards financial success and as regression was coming up short, they relied on General Linear Modelling to fill in the blanks. In my lifetime career spanning well over a quarter of a century in Business Intelligence, I have met 6 people who truly knew the proper way to use GLM (MANOVA in the old days) In the Netherlands Hans Krijnssen and Jos van den Ronden, In Belgium Jacques Tacq, in the UK Jane Moore, and in the US there are Dave Nichols and Tony Babinec. I am not a mathematician, I recognise proper usage, but I cannot use these procedures properly myself. There are more people who know it, yet I met 6 over a term of 25 years, this is a limited field, it comes in various shapes and sizes, but they all have degrees in mathematics, it sets the analysts apart from the marketing researchers. We have become too reliant on short term goals without the essential need to have a long term direction in mind. Most companies took the bait when they were told that short term planning is the moneymaker, but there is also the need for long term planning and testing, I might think short term with my IP sale, but I am up against long term strategists who do think outside the box and that is where a lot do not wish to be, they cannot make the long term turnover, their sales training with their pipeline is all about quarterly growth and achieved sales trajectory, the image merely enforces that view, yet the larger view needs to come from what they would happily ignore. It comes down to the old story, The analyst shows you the essential path, whilst marketing is set like a politician, they make you yearn for the invoice. This now translates into marketing handing you the invoice and the numbers feeding that need for purchase are and remain absent.

How is that solving your need?

I believe that Marketing Research is the most dangerous of approaches in the near future, if they go about it with their limited topline reporting tools, someone up high will ask that one question that cannot be answered and it all falls to pieces, it will do so eventually when the storytellers rely on the short story and the process goes south too fast and the numbers will not give the shareholders any confidence, because that will happen a lot sooner than most sales people are happy with. Let me be frank, there is a market, an essential market in these topline presenters and their software tools, they take away the loads of effort and the required approach to get there, but by themselves they are not a solution, they are a supporting tool and that is where a lot of players go wrong. 

So yes, there is also the stage where the image is supporting a different text, but overall the image shows a lack of insight and a support track towards what I would call ‘deceptive conduct’ or to state it slightly less diplomatic ‘relying on misconception to sell a view to a sale’ approaches that go nowhere in the long run, especially when the people who should ask questions, actually start asking the questions that are implied to be answers, all whilst they are no such things.

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