Shifty stats and marketing myths put under the spotlight [VIDEO]
Marketers can’t afford to work with assumptions, inaccuracies, urban myths or received wisdom, and yet the marketing world is full of spurious statistics and authors citing unsubstantiated or inaccurate ‘facts’.
Often without considering origins of their research or indeed its original intent. Take the claim that “a one minute video is worth 1.8 million words of text”: which is repeated on over 800,000 web pages and very often cited as scientific fact …. although it’s based merely on some quick calculator work and a cliché.
Two reasons to care about accuracy
I spent many many years working in broadcast TV and one of my favourite sayings was “never let the facts get in the way of a good story”. This can make it sound like we were fast and loose with the truth, whereas the saying is actually a reminder to use only the facts needed to make a point, not that we should tell untruths or “vague up” stats to fit our goals.
For me the problem with dodgy stats is twofold. The first is obvious; end customers hate being lied to and will quickly turn their backs on brands they don’t trust. Consumers born between 1998 and 2008, who grew up with functional internet connections, are the most astute when it comes to video marketing content. These aren’t people who believe everything they see online - and they’re people who can and will quickly debunk claims that don’t ring true, ruining brand reputation at the same time.
For me the second area is less obvious, but for marketers it’s an even bigger worry. The facts that we are told by others looking to provide us services can form the basis of an entire marketing campaign, and the old adage of “put shit in, get shit out” has never been more relevant. A marketing campaign that’s run on inaccurate data risks setting itself unrealistic targets and making poor strategic choices. If you ran a video marketing campaign with ‘number of Facebook views’ as a KPI, and then discovered that until August 2016, the number of Facebook views included users who only watch three seconds of a video - long enough for a video to start playing automatically and then be scrolled past as a nuisance - you’d be well advised to question your success.
But what about the data that tells us one platform is great and another isn't? With my role in video marketing I see stats like this all the time.
“Video makes up 33 percent of online time”
Well, that’s just so vague that it’s basically meaningless. Whose time are we talking about? On what platform and device? What type of video content are they viewing? All of these factors are important. Different demographics have more or less time available to watch, are more or less likely to multitask, own more or fewer devices and watch different content on different platforms. The analysis that over-18s in the US spent 39 minutes per day watching video on mobile devices in April 2015, on the other hand, is specific and drawn from a credible source, thus has substance: it’s not a general, woolly claim, but something concrete.
However, it’s also dated. It’s wise to use the most recent statistics available to substantiate claims. This more recent report indicates that the same demographic spent a more conservative 26 minutes per day watching video on mobile devices, averaged out over a year. Mobile video changes so quickly, and generates such a huge amount of data, that statistics rapidly become outdated. Good statistics are specific, they are up to date and can be verified.
Finally, good statistics come from the proverbial horse’s mouth. Let’s say we search for “how much time do we spend watching video online”. Our first result is a summary of an article from the Daily Telegraph which paraphrases an Ofcom report claiming that 16-24 year olds spend more than 27 hours a week on the internet. (It’s also from May 2015, which means it’s probably out of date - but we digress.) This means the first stat we see is three steps removed from the raw data on which it’s based. Which in turn means there have been three stages of editorial process involved - three chances to skew, misrepresent or simply make a mistake about the facts. In this case, the claim is accurate - but why take the chance? Go back to the source and see.
Best practice in video marketing claims
The main thing to remember is that a stat without context or background is meaningless. No matter how attention grabbing a claim like “the average internet user spends 88% more time on a site with video” may be, it needs to be backed up with recent and accessible evidence. Providing a reference to a reliable source, even if it’s a report behind a paywall, allows interested readers to verify the claim.
Best practice involves cross-referencing multiple, reputable sources for each claim and potential bias. When Magisto and BIA/Kelsey agree that digital video is the fastest growing medium, it’s probably a viable claim. But Magisto and BIA/Kelsey both stand to gain from an increased interest in small business videos, so of course, they’re going to claim it’s a growth market.
The most reliable sources are those which commission their own research into a wide range of areas, rather than their own segments of the industry.
Go beyond marketing 101
Good video marketing strategy isn’t based on vague, meaningless or inaccurate stats, nor on the kind of attention-grabbing cheap tricks that any basic marketing class will teach you and most audiences know to look out for. It’s based on an understanding of current video marketing trends which push the brand forward.
It also helps to be aware of what’s coming up in the future. CIM predicts a stark shift toward responsive design for mobile devices, an increasing wariness of marketing messages among emergent digital native consumers, and further potential for augmented and virtual reality marketing campaigns. Meanwhile, eConsultancy turns its gaze on the statistics it’s unearthed during 2016, identifying slow consumer growth, disparity between customer needs and marketer capabilities, and a disturbing lack of mobile strategy across business organisations.
The new black in video marketing will bring these insights together. It will base its strategies on solid, reliable data, rigorously tested for mobile and it will identify the reasons customers have for mistrusting marketers, and work to correct them. It can start by throwing out the bold claims based on shaky stats.
Jon Mowat is MD of UK based strategic video marketing agency Hurricane Media.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”