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When it comes to data, better answers require better questions

I remember being so excited having email in my first job, it was like magic. This tells something about my age, but also how much technology has transformed how we work. Back then, getting data was one the hardest parts of life in strategy, the internet was in its infancy and readily available information was at a premium. So there was a huge competitive advantage in simply having it.

Not anymore. Data is everywhere; everyone has it, so few will get ahead simply by obtaining it.  

Like other things in life, it’s not what you have; it’s what you do with it. This starts with looking for less answers and setting out to find better questions.

And this is where really great strategy comes from in today’s market. When everyone has the same data, it’s how you interpret it that can throw up surprising directions and new lines of enquiry. Insight over information.

At CreativeRace, we subscribe to YouGov to keep us on top of what real people think and how they really feel. There’s a fantastic section on current events that enables us to dig into the zeitgeist. We use it to go beyond simple answers, for information that makes us look at things differently.

For example, there’s a lot of talk in the DIY market about people spending more time and money on the home in lockdown. Yet YouGov data tells us that only 27% are spending more, while 44% spend the same and 23% are actually spending less. Of course, 4% overall growth in any market is great, especially in a recession, but it’s not as exponential as the press headlines would have us believe.

This creates an ability to ask much better questions.

For example, what’s holding back the majority, who are spending the same or less? Is it money? Is it the fact they hate DIY too much? Is it that they think they have too much on already?

And what about the ones spending more? What triggered it? Is it that they are spending more on a project they would have done anyway or are they doing more projects? One is a margin opportunity; the other is more volume.

A curious approach to data can open up all sorts, so you can do what you should do, rather than you could do.

One of the latest YouGov questions relates to the vaccine roll-out.

They ask how many people are afraid of needles and the total is 21%. So in the context of a successful vaccine programme, is the challenge with the majority, yet to have a jab, about trust in the vaccine? Is it inertia or might it be they are simply afraid of having to go through with an injection?

Each issue requires very different approaches, but there’s a clue here that maybe, we need get people over their fear of needles.

So, we’re really lucky to have all this data at our fingertips, but the challenge with everyone having the same information, is that they all come up with the same answers.

Better solutions come from finding better problems.

About the author:

Andrew Hovells is Strategy Director at CreativeRace. He has 21 years experience in developing integrated strategy across the entire customer journey, from TV advertising to performance media, from shopper marketing to performance digital. He’s worked on local and global campaigns for a wide range of brands including Castrol, Bentley, New Balance, ghd, Pepsi, Wm Morrison, Yorkshire Tea and Greggs’.