Thursday, October 29, 2009

Intuition Trumps Statistics




Intuition is real. Statistics are not. It’s become quite a popular practice to spew statistics through the blogosphere and on Twitter. And there’s not a client out there that doesn’t salivate when we present a good statistic (or twelve) in our Keynote. But I don’t trust a single one. Give me a statistic and I’m sure I can shoot a hole in it.

Most research is constructed. Because it’s a human product, research is controlled by opinion – usually the opinion of the guy who created the questions or poll.

Once the “data” is collected it can then be manipulated to reflect any number of your dreams or desires. I once was on the phone for more than two days with a Wall Street Journal Reporter who literally took numbers from a very popular large survey I was responsible for delivering to the media and manipulated them in such a twisted, perverted way, making impossible leaps that would shame even the most fearless free runner, to make her “compelling” point. The statistics she created were used for more than five years in various spin-off articles on the subject. Every time I would see another article I would wince and shake my head in amazement. It’s the Journal and they’ve got numbers – yes, that’s the word of God.

And then I always question the audience. How many of you reading this have taken the time to do a poll? A long poll? The kind we typically create as marketers? Most times I think we are measuring sentiment of people who are happy to get a call during the day and unless it’s a product for those with severe loneliness, I’m not sure we’re measuring the pulse of the typical American. “Yes, according to our official poll, 90% of Americans prefer watching Judge Judy to CNN, eat dinner at 4:30 p.m. and feel their sons don’t love them anymore.” And don’t even get me started on focus groups. If 100 dollars gets you to sit in a smelly room with a bunch of strangers to talk about your feelings on new gum flavors, I’m not sure I’m taking what you say as seriously as the guy who said “no.”

Why is everyone so afraid of intuition? It’s the one thing we can count on more than anything in the world. It’s a belief in the power of emotion – the power of a brand’s essential elements to tap human emotion and drive a culture. We don’t need statistics to tell us that America needed Obama. We don’t need statistics to tell us driving while texting is distracting. We don’t need statistics to tell us cayenne flavored chocolate won’t be popular. Believe in thought. Believe in emotionally charged, instinctive, battle-tested thought. That’s the opinion poll we need to read.

In our culture, our American culture, we seem to be less in tune with our creative side. Even afraid of believing in it. I’m asking for a movement driven by the creative class to herald thinking and instinct, where artists and freethinkers demand and get the same respect as a seemingly bulletproof statistic. Intuition is crafted from an environmental history of facts shaped by human emotion. It’s quite a perfect blend of observation and humanity. It’s better than a poll. I don’t have a stat to prove it, it’s just intuition.


Photo credit: C4 Chaos

1 comment:

WILLIAM said...

Figures Lie and liars figure.

Excellent post. When I am presented with a marketing type of questions I always ask "What is the purpose?" The same can be said for surveys. "What is the purpose?" to procves that Doritos are better than regular chips...then that is how you phrase your questions.

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