As marketers, we focus a lot on data to help us create strategies and tactics that will appeal to our core demographic.

We collate reams of information from various channels – social, mobile, print, media, research studies – and filter out the non-useful to drill down into the qualitative information needed to offer our campaigns a better chance of success.

The problem is, we’re allowing the data to drive our decisions, instead of our decisions being driven by the insights we, as humans, gather from the automated machine learning solutions.

This leads us to market with a one size fits all mentality, when – as any good marketer will tell you – we should be doing anything but.

The Perils of Driving Decisions Using Simple Data

Part of the problem comes from the instant result mindset we’ve forced upon brands in the age of social media. Pre-social media, word-of-mouth campaigns and more traditional marketing and advertising was built with longer-term thinking when it came to results.

Now, if your Facebook campaign doesn’t garner you 1,000 new fans, or your blogger outreach campaign doesn’t drive sales, it’s clear that social media and selling/marketing/advertising don’t go together.

Except they do, and this is continuously being shown by the brands that do it right.

The reason the complaining brands aren’t seeing return is because the brand manager or CMO has read a survey or two from leading publications, and used them as the basis for the demographic knowledge for his or her upcoming campaign.

For example, let’s say your brand is targeting millennials. Now, depending on who you talk to, the age range for this consumer group can vary – but they’re primarily folks that were born between the early 80’s and the early 2000’s.

If you were to read a recent study of over 500 millennials from technology vendor SocialChorus, whose product is aimed at brands looking to connect with advocates, you’d get the following takeaways:

  • They are educated and big digital users, particularly Facebook, but they distrust advertising;
  • 67% have never clicked a Sponsored Story;
  • 95% say friends are the most credible sources for product information;
  • 98% are more likely to interact with a friend’s social update than they are with a brand.

Going by this information, which was featured by respected publication Huffington Post, as a brand manager you’d be thinking:

Okay, so we’ll use Facebook to target our ads, because we still have 33% of the audience to go after, and we’ll look to offer their friends freebies to share since our own brand updates won’t be engaged with.

And that’d be all well and good – until you read this survey, from marketing data specialists Valassis.


In their findings, which surveyed more than 5,100 respondents (10x more than the SocialChorus one), a different view of millennials arises:

  • 51% prefer newspapers for coupons and deals, compared to only 23% using the digital channels of blogs and savings sites;
  • Email coupon alerts accounted for 50%, as opposed to the Facebook-heavy usage that the previous report highlighted;
  • Mobile is a huge driver for millennials, with 45% saying they’d accessed a coupon in an email via mobile, and 32% downloading a coupon via smartphone.

So, going by this data, you’d swing your approach from Facebook marketing to a more traditional approach using print, complemented with a mobile-focused campaign that incorporates email sign-ups.

Except you’d still be missing a core part of the story.

Why Data is Only Telling Half the Story

The two surveys highlighted here so far from SocialChorus and Valassis show the purchasing preferences of millennials – depending which one you take notice of, it’s either by recommendations from friends, or by coupon ads in newspapers, or email/mobile offers.

However, neither of these surveys have countered in a third option – that of situational decision-making.

True influence webinar

It’s all well and good having data that shows you the atypical behaviour of a demographic, based on surveys and publications from that specific market. Yet these behaviours are only as good as the situational knowledge we have about that audience.

In his article over at AdWeek entitled The Millennial Male is Not Who You Think He Is, Sam Thielman shares something that many surveys don’t take into account – the situational factors that impact today’s millennial male (essentially half the target audience for brands in this market).

From Thielman’s article:

  • As a collective, they have $1 trillion in student debt;
  • Just 62% are employed, of which half of these are part-time jobs;
  • Over one third live at home with their parents;
  • They’ve lost a third of their median net worth in the last 8 years.

Simply put, millennials don’t necessarily have the disposable income to spend on the marketing approaches the surveys from SocialChorus and Valassis would suggest brands implement.

Instead, as Thielman continues, brands need to look to alternative methods of advertising – digital viewing channels like Netflix, Hulu and Apple TV, for example. However, given that many consumers use Netflix to avoid advertising, brands will have to think smarter than simple ads.

Perhaps the biggest spanner in the works is the belief that millennials prefer friend recommendations over brand marketing. Not according to a survey by Bazaarvoice from 2012.

Millennials user generated content

According to that survey, conducted with over 1,000 correspondents:

  • 51% trust user generated content (UGC) from strangers, over that of their friends, when it comes to making a purchase;
  • 84% of millennials said that UGC influenced their decisions, with only 3% saying it didn’t impact them at all;
  • 71% feel brands care about the opinions of their consumers.

Based on that data, a blogger outreach campaign would be much more effective to run a marketing campaign. Now you can see where the confusion could come in.

Three surveys, three different recommendations, three different data points – yet all about the same target audience. And that’s before you even get to the viability of whether or not your target audience is going to be able to afford your product or not.

Simple Data Out, Insights In

It’s not all doom and gloom. The surveys I highlighted here all have valuable information, and can be used to really hone in on what the best approach would be for your target audience, if your brand sits in the millennial consumer market.

Where the problem arises is when it’s the only data that a brand marketer, CMO, or similar uses to put together the strategy for any upcoming campaign.

It’s just one part of a far bigger picture, yet it’s the ignoring of this bigger picture for quick hit data that is messing everything up. Instead of the simple data, we need to be collating everything into a more insights-led overview.

  • Is there any data that crosses over between reports?
  • Does the data vendor understand my market?
  • How does the data correlate to the specific audience I’m after (geography, financial, brand affinity, local laws);
  • Does the data make sense from an archival behaviour aspect?
  • Does the data allow for long-term building approaches or short-term fire sale targeting?

As you start to build out your knowledge graph from these questions, you can add them to your previous knowledge points based on previous campaigns, results, and increased understanding of your audience (in this case, millennials).

This collates all the data, new and old, and offers actual insights for your campaign versus trusting the latest survey that may or may not be relevant to your brand’s goals.

It’s a longer process; but it’s one that actually builds around known specifics versus unknown intangibles.

Which one do you think offers the greater return potential?

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24 Comments on "Quit Trying to Market With a One Size Fits All Mindset"

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1 year 3 months ago

[…] around that. Unfortunately that doesn’t work because marketing fundamentals state that using a one-size fits all model does not work. See what he says you might be doing wrong and what you can do to make sure you don’t fall […]

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Howie Kapowie
1 year 6 months ago

Bob Hoffman the Ad Contrarian writes about this a lot. How much money is being spent on digital/social and targeted at younger people with no money to spend because Brands want to feel young.

I myself when I got into advertising was in self deception pitching collegiate marketing as the key to their patronage as they get older and have money. But we all know how few brands are around that long.

You know I find Social Chorus a bit hokey. It is easy to twist data in various ways. I have a bad habit of observing people in real life and they never behave the way the marketing studies say they do. I know I sometimes lie on surveys. I always make over $1 mil and run a bil dollar business. Sometimes I give answers that make me feel better or cooler etc. Not for any nefarious reason, but just because ‘it’s only a survey who cares?’

1 year 6 months ago

It reminds me of newspaper ad guys who sell ad spots to brands. Sure, you might have a circulation of 100,000 – but you’re a free paper that gets delivered to everyone in town. How many of that 100,000 actually bother to read the paper? Or are they like me, and immediately throw it into the recycling box?

I know what you mean about SocialChorus – I had an exchange with one of their executives on how they’re still a paid promotion platform versus an advocate platform, and he got all pissy. Hey ho.

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1 year 6 months ago

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1 year 6 months ago

What’s critically important here are the questions asked by these studies. Objectivity is a challenge for most people. I really wonder if many of these surveys are skewed toward a certain result. That’s why this approach is so effective.

We strive in our business to understand our clients implicitly and objectivity is challenged by asking the right questions. In a similar manner we have to ask the same questions in different ways to get the right answer.

Great post for cross industry insights. Thanks Danny.

1 year 6 months ago

That’s a great point, Ralph. When ArCompany and Sensei Marketing created a survey about influence marketing understanding and adoption prior to the book launch, we tried very hard to make sure there were multiple choice answers that didn’t lead people down a certain path.

We were still accused by some quarters of gamifying the responses, though. It’s often a no-win situation. All the more reason to delve beyond just the first layer of “facts”.

Brian D. Meeks (@ExtremelyAvg)
1 year 6 months ago

As a former data analyst with GEICO, I’m often amazed at how little people understand data collected, how to collect data, and how to plan promotions in such a way as to yield helpful data.

In short, few know how to do it.

As you know, I sell books. One of the most important marketing aspects in the indie book business is the Free Day through Amazon. To the unknown author it is an extremely valuable method of introducing people to one’s writing.

Today, I did a painful test. I, for all intents and purposes, took social media out of the equation. (Note: I only put up two FB posts, one G+, and one Tweet. This, compared with last week, where I was on my computer, monitoring all three, and “working it” for sixteen hours.)

The thing about social media is it is hard to quantify results. Today’s experiment was sort of like spotting a black hole. One looks for the spots where there isn’t stuff. It is the absence of viewable objects that allows scientists to find the black holes.

It was the impact of being virtually social media free that demonstrated the value.

Last week at 9:11 p.m., Book 1 in my detective series had been downloaded 2,335 times.

Today, sans SM, also at 9:11 p.m. (Which is right not as I type this) Book 2 has had 855 downloads.

I didn’t ask people to share this week and the result is that they didn’t help me with my promotion. One must ask.

The point is that last week I gave away 5,046 books in two days. I programmed tweets on Social Oomph, trying to make the funny or entertaining. I updated my author page four or five times (One of those times, you, Danny Brown, shared it with your friends). I posted many updates on G+ talking about how the promotion was going.

When the promotion was done, I had very few RTs, only a couple of shares on FB (Thanks for your help) and only three or four shares on G+. The data looked like I had wasted my day. I could have been golfing.

Today, I went golfing, shot poorly, and learned a valuable thing about social media.

It matters. Though you may not be able to see it, SM is there, pulling people towards your product.

(Note: Tomorrow, I’ll be social mediaing the heck out of day two of my give away. If you feel like sharing on FB and G+, it would be AWESOME!)

1 year 6 months ago

It matters. Though you may not be able to see it, SM is there, pulling people towards your product.

And that, right there, is what so many people miss, mate. It’s like personal insurance; you don’t always need to use it, but it proves its value when it’s needed. Social can be left behind, but there’s no denying that it plays a huge part in any part of a business. Sometimes you just need time away to see its real impact.

And sorry I missed this comment earlier, I would have definitely helped share your promotion, sorry!

Mark Longbottom
1 year 6 months ago

Looks like you’re on the right tracks Brian [Danny hope you don’t mind me butting in :) here] what I would suggest is not to see it as marketing. Or more importantly don’t see social media as something that replaces your marketing and promotion in their traditional formats – instead something that integrates and works with it rather than as your marketing etc.

I’d be careful timing Tweets and other online activity, instead program yourself to have 2 or 3 minutes on twitter or more. Spend chunks of time not posting about your book but talking with people about the content and not even your book, same on Linked In, G+, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram where ever is relevant.

As soon as you talk to people you will see changes, maybe not be millions of sales or downloads but it will be one person telling another new community of loyal and trusted people about Brian this amazing guy – who spent time answering my question, or talking to me about my problems and hey look he’s giving a book away what a nice guy. Also he comes back to talk after we download the book, but not to ask for a review but to genuinely talk.

The more we talk and interact with other like minded people the wider our influence goes, then we can best use our time and not waste our time. You have to talk and interact with people though it’s never an either or situation – whatever anyone tells you :)

Brian D. Meeks (@ExtremelyAvg)
1 year 6 months ago

I realize you were trying to be helpful, so I’ll try to be delicate in my response.

You have a listed:follower ratio of 2.58 %. It is obvious you don’t go through your followers and block the junk ones. It might be worth cleaning out 1000 or so of your followers so your account doesn’t look the way it does. (hint: Under 2.5% and I block people. Try to keep that denominator such that your ratio is over 5%)

I’ve been on Twitter since shortly after it came out of beta. My promotional tweets account for less than 1 half of one percent of my tweets. I’ve over 55,000 tweets on this, my main account, and I’ve scheduled only 25 of them.

How did you determine I was overusing automation?

You drew a lot of conclusions about my knowledge of social media that were rather condescending. I don’t need “Twitter for Dummies” advice.

I guess I was wrong…I wasn’t delicate at all.

Brian D. Meeks (@ExtremelyAvg)
1 year 6 months ago


I want to apologize. My reply wasn’t very nice at all. I shouldn’t be commenting at 3:40 in the morning.

You were only trying to be helpful and I should have just left it at that. You are right, one must focus on communicating.

I’m usually not mean.


Mark Longbottom
1 year 6 months ago

No need to apologize Brian, you stated that you automated Tweets. Personally I see that as a bad use of time, my reply wasn’t meant to be condescending.

You would have know if I had been, i’d have mentioned why science gets in the way of influence and instinct.

Having knowledge of my listing follow ration means nothing to me, granted it’s low but if I were to worry about that i would worry when I walk out of the door that the ratio of people i talk with is less than 0.0000001%. I use these platforms to interact and so rather than block some people i look case by case where they may have interest. It may not be a connection today or tomorrow but it may happen and more importantly by viewing what they are doing I may learn something. Same as I have been doing since leaving school in 1981, the technologies for me aren’t the relevant part of all this. The people are and they may have data as baggage, that data may have got in the way of past successes like The Wright Brothers and Richard Branson, for me the perception and gut instinct connected to some data is far more relevant.

I’m always happy to be proved wrong but , maybe I did draw the wrong conclusions – most were made from reading into what you were saying which didn’t give away a much as your second comment.

We can all be mean at 3.40am, sadly some people are mean all day long as they see that is the way to get business. For me the way forward will always be to talk and communicate.

Enjoy your sleep :0

Anneliz Hannan
1 year 6 months ago

It is so refreshing to read some common sense about data, numbers and social media marketing. I also enjoyed Mark Longbottom’s comment.

1 year 6 months ago

Thanks, Anneliz – sometimes it’s frustrating to see how difficult some folks would have you believe all this stuff is. Hey ho.

Mark Longbottom
1 year 6 months ago

Thanks Anneliz, common sense is something missed by many business people on a daily basis, my background is conceptual and performance art and all i have ever worked on is human interaction.

Mikel Fernandez
1 year 6 months ago

Very good post. It’s very clear, congratulations.

Mark Longbottom
1 year 6 months ago

I’ve been saying this more and more throughout this year, you can have the data and you can have the numbers. But if you’re not sociable then your perception and instinct goes for nothing. That’s before you’ve even looked at a spreadsheet.

If you locate, listen and engage with the people who are relevant and make sense to what you are doing you’ll have gut instinct and perception gradually built in. Simply becasue you understand what the connected networks and communities are talking about.

Stats give basics, they don’t give reality and can not work as quick as our minds.

Don’t be like theorists, civil servants, politicians and others listening to advisers telling them how to be down with the kids or what the street style is. They have no idea and so many businesses the wild over are the same as they get their insights not from real activity but from stats and charts.

The world hasn’t changed, the best place to get to know people is to talk to them and it can take time.
So talk online, offline and no line at all – don’t build into the internet myth/magic/mystery.
Be active and you’ll learn so much more about life than a stat can tell you.

That’s my take, so many businesses disagree so many are coming round to doing what I have done for 31 years. Use the relevant technologies to get interaction, participation and response to your sociable activity.

The more active you are the more you will see what is effective in saving you time and energy, adding benefit and value to your day. Those are the things that the next raft of books will be written on, regardless of having a million likes you only need one at a time. Because each one has networks and communities who are loyal and trust them – therefore they will share your information.

Ivan Widjaya
1 year 5 months ago

But being sociable does not mean that you should ‘try hard’ to be. You should at least be natural and target a market that could be your loyal followers. You have to sell something unique that they can only get from you. And then, you have to engage your audience. Make real friends and don’t make friends just because you need something from them.

1 year 6 months ago

Well, there is a certain book that already talks about identifying micro-influencers who really shape a person’s decision based on one-to-one relationships, so… ;-)

It’s true, mate – there’s definitely a need for data, but there’s also a major need for people analysts. Those that really understand all the flaws, strengths, failings and more of the human mind. Get that part and the rest will fall into place.

It’s not rocket science, but so many make it appear to be. And so the poor results continue…

Mark Longbottom
1 year 6 months ago

Often hard to be a rocket scientist :)
Have a good day Danny

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[…] As marketers, we focus a lot on data to help us create strategies and tactics that will appeal to our core demographic.  […]