Insight, Part 1: Correlation is *Something*

I was shamed by their good will and mortified by their cooking. There seemed to be some correlation between devotion to God and a misguided zeal for marshmallows.

– David Sedaris, c.o.g.

Planners, analysts and researchers of all shapes and sizes take pleasure in preaching, ad nauseam, that correlation and causation are not even distant mathematical cousins. That said, a client once put me in my place with a pithy truth on the topic: “It may not prove causation, but correlation is something!”

He, of course, was absolutely correct: correlation does not prove causation, but correlation damn sure is something. And not only is it something but, truth be told, correlation is often presisely what we look for when we collect and analyze consumer data.

Put another way, not only is correlation most definitely something, but that something might very well be the seed of a defining customer insight about a targetable segment.

Sedaris’ observation about religious faith and marshmallow culinary ingenuity – from his delightfully scathing essay, c.o.g. (book here, movie here) – is easy to frame as a research objective and test quantitatively. If correlation between faith, marshmallows, and, say, some rudimentary demographics proves to exist, this correlation alone might form the foundation for a sound marshmallow marketing strategy: think occasion-based messaging, premium and loading tactics, product development (marshmallows that melt at specific temperatures for specific purposes, marshmallows mixed with different spices), and product extensions (see cooks.com, not to mention Amazon).

Consumer insight? Yes!

Is it an actionable insight? Most definitely!

What of causation? Totally irrelevant at this early phase in our marshmallow renaissance scenario, but also a subject of crucial importance for later research waves.

This reminds me of an interesting factoid I heard a few years back by way of the Harvard Business Review:

  • Blondes earn 7% more than brunettes
  • The husbands blonde women marry earn an average of 6% more than the husbands of women with other hair colors

Consumer insight? To be continued…

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More bullet points for the list (updated).

Add these to yesterday’s list:

For the times are they a-changin’? (or “Why I’m not impressed.”)

Then: (1974)

Now:

  • Eric Garner (killed Thursday, July 17, 2014 – 43 years old)
  • Michael Brown (killed Saturday, (August 9, 2014 – 18 years old)
  • Walter Scott (killed Saturday, April 4, 2015 – 50 years old)
  • Freddie Gray (killed Tuesday April 12, 2015 – 25 years old)
  • Freddie Gray’s Death Ruled a Homicide (today)

Yet:

So: For the times are they a-changin’?

NOTE: A more exhaustive list of unarmed Black men killed by police can be found here.

Armed with clown paraphernalia to fight poverty!

Clown paraphernalia as a tactic to help children in poverty overseas. Who’d a thunk it! And red noses for just a buck care of Walgreens.IMG_3862

I have nothing against any organization that is dedicated to fighting poverty at home or abroad, especially RedNoseDay.org. But that red-nose-for-a-buck thing bothers me because the bulk of dollar items are made in China.

Dear Walgreens,

Recent and reliable recent child labor statistics on China are unsurprisingly nonexistent. But it is certainly safe to say that the child labor rate in China – which exacerbates child poverty – is high enough to make Robert E Lee blush. 

Let’s hope you did the right thing.

Sincerely,

tides ‘n’ tudes

Beautiful Cars & Fast Women!

<doh> Strike that headline and reverse it!

In our world of politically correct, culturally relevant, meticulously targeted branded content, how much breakthrough potential the anachronistic fast car + beautiful women tactic have?

It’s sexist, hedonistic and materialistic. It glorifies the spoils of greed and excess, sends the message that young, thin, light-skinned women are trophies for rich men and that that should be the aspiration of all women. It diminishes the self-worth of men, most of us who will never be able to afford an exotic car, and taints our perception of our own partners who may not match this female stereotype.

From the perspective of social responsibility and the power of advertising, nothing can be more socially irresponsible.

But – revisiting my original question – in this day and age will this breakthrough?

I write extensively on culture, identity, advertising and the social responsibility of the advertising industry. Let’s revisit this in a week’s time and compare click-through rates.

(Irrespective of how many or few people have clicked through to this page, the Geneva Motor Show will always be the pinnacle of auto shows. I can’t wait to get there myself! And as exotic cars go, the Alpha Romeo here is among the most attainable in the category.)

The Paradox that is America

A close friend of mine for whom I have a great deal of respect astutely questioned my premise of a divided nation citing several relevant historical data points. (“Are labor protections worse today than in 1890? … As a nation, we’re certainly less divided than in 1862.”) Nothing is more divisive to a nation than a civil war; certainly we are less divided than in 1862. But can social progress coexist with social division?

Civil wars are a ludicrously absurd method for resolving ideological disputes: ideas are judged not on merit but rather on might ending with the suppression of ideas rather than resolution. I do not find it surprising that based on the 48 values questions Pew has been using for the past 25 years, the partisan gap has doubled. Nor do I find it surprising that a growing number of voters do not identify with either party, and support LGBTQ civil rights.

That said, perhaps we can agree that America is a country of paradoxes; a nation both politically divided, and capable of social evolution; a nation with a legal system that can both clear Officer Darion Wilson of any wrongdoing whatsoever in the killing of Michael Brown, and find “widespread civil rights abuses by the Ferguson Police Department.