The Tyranny of Random Facts

BCG have a new piece on measuring marketing results: Making Sense of the Marketing Measurement Mess. There is a lot to like in it.

The authors describe a number of questions to ask about marketing metrics.

  • Do the metrics and tools capture the short- and longer-term value of marketing?
  • Do they produce answers and insights that can be acted on?
  • Are they readily understood by and credible to the CEO, the CFO, and the broader organization?” (De Bellefonds et al., 2017)

These are important ideas. Many organization sanctioned metrics do a poor job of getting to the longer-term value of marketing. (To be fair this is because it really isn’t easy). Furthermore, metrics that can’t be acted upon aren’t really terribly useful. If you can’t do anything about it knowing information is a bit of a waste of time.

Perhaps key to the problems of many marketing metrics is the final point. The metrics many marketers appeal to simply don’t excite the people allocating budgets — sometimes for understandable reasons: Why do we care about the number of likes that we have? I’m pretty sure the average CFO doesn’t.

The article lays out some good advice. Most notably pick some metrics and stick with them. If you don’t use the same metrics each period it is impossible to monitor progress. Even if the metric in itself is decent an isolated number is unlikely to help you develop a successful strategy.

One phrase that was especially appealing is the “Tyranny of Random Facts”. This is  “a common corporate phenomenon in which different marketing managers each cite a fact or data point revealed by some unique tool or model as ­evidence of the great job they are doing. It’s not that the facts are wrong; they may be totally valid. However, there is no clear way to compare one fact with another or even to know whether they are appropriate reference points for the issue at hand.” (De Bellefonds et al., 2017).

If you can’t fit the random facts into a coherent picture you will be doomed to wander aimlessly around, changing strategic priorities with the next random fact that seems especially compelling. This might be because it is the flavour of the month, or the marketer touting it had an especially good night’s sleep and makes a particularly convincing argument today. That isn’t good so beware the tyranny of random facts.

Read: Nicolas De Bellefonds, Dominic Field, David Ratajczak, Neal Rich, and Jody Visser (2017) Making Sense of the Marketing Measurement Mess,