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The Power (or Impotence) of Predictions

“44% of people desire to return to events as soon as possible.”

“49% of consumers say they will think twice about returning to events once stay-at-home orders are lifted.”

“60.6% of respondents say events and gatherings will be more important than ever.”

You get the point.

As marketers, we claim to love data. But, do we really know what data can be trusted, or are most data points clouded with bias?

As an experiential strategist, I can tell you honestly: I love surveys. From building smarter CRM intake forms to tracking and measuring shifts in consumer opinion pre-/post- engagement, a well-designed survey leads to well-designed marketing.

Therein lies the rub.

Well-designed. Unbiased. Inclusive.

As our inboxes fill with more and more emails claiming to have answers to the big questions XM agencies and brands are asking- like “When will consumers be ready to attend events again?” and “How will events need to change in the future?”- I encourage us all to adopt a healthy dose of skepticism.

When you see things like, “60.6% of respondents say”, immediately close the report. A person cannot be divided.

If the study doesn’t detail the who’s and how’s of the methodology, quit reading.

Discard articles with catchy headlines but no substance.

And, for the love of all events, stop yourself from engaging in the roller-coaster of emotions these alternately positive and doomsday reports are sharing. Instead, be patient. Watch and listen.

There’s a time and place for “hard data.” But right now, it may be wise to shift our focus to ethnographic and behavioral studies. Take note of how people’s daily lives are changing, how they’re choosing to spend their time, and what they’re saying and doing on social media. And recognize that these behaviors may be better predictors of their needs and desires than their answers to a four question survey.

I posit this:

  1. Sourdough is here to stay.
    Watching bread rise, paint dry, or plants sprout have all been lambasted as empty time, but people are realizing that these simple tasks can be enriching. Projects at home with tangible and rewarding outputs will continue, and brands that provide ways to play at home will triumph.

2. Virtual gatherings are real gatherings.
The gaming community has long known that virtual avatars and teams, controlled by real people foster real connections. The rest of us are finally learning that lesson. In the near future, we will no longer be able to say that the winners of Zwift or other virtual races aren’t real results or that virtual events are less impactful than physical events. Take wine tastings, education, happy hours, and fitness classes as an example. Expect this to continue, and plan for ways that virtual engagements can have “real-world” impact. The lines are blurring.

3. Dine in, take out, or delivery: the choice is yours.
The rapid pivots that restaurants, bookstores, and retailers have adopted have proven that the way consumers consume is forever changed. 2-day delivery is no longer the norm. Same day, meal-time delivery is. As online retailers suffer from supply chain issues and delivery delays, local businesses have gotten creative, offering access to their products and services in ways that would have seemed too difficult or unlikely to succeed a month ago. That won’t go away. Business innovation — from startups to pivots- will usher in a new, on-demand, supplied-local (or direct) to person set of options.

Whether or not these prove true, the fact is these “trends” are a reflection of current human behaviors, gleaned from watching and aggregating insights until a pattern arose. I’m sure we could find data to support the exponential rise in sourdough starters, computrainer purchases, or business pivots, but why?

Sometimes, good old-fashioned observation is the better way. So, grab a chair- ideally one that rocks-, sit on your porch, and watch the world change. You may just learn something.

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