Drowning in Data and Starving for Knowledge

John Hope-Johnstone

Hola, the Internet has provided marketers with a sea of data that has sent them into a happy dance that doesn’t stop. That is, until they realize that they really didn’t know what to do with it all, or what it all really means.

An entire industry has grown up around this “happy dance” whose own self interest is to perpetuate the dance as long as possible.

Like all new knowledge we tend to take it to extremes and create new languages around it that sound important but really tell the same old story.

The study of how we gain knowledge is called Epistemology. Epistemology is one of the core areas of philosophy. It is concerned with the nature, sources and limits to our knowledge.

It tells us that while our technology changes and diversifies, humans really don’t change in their core needs and how we learn to satisfy those basic needs.

While there are many steps in a consumers travel towards a purchase, it all begins with needs, wants and desires. Most marketers do not have a budget to create a need or a want or a desire but they do have budgets to tap into those that already exist.

While the purchase cycle can be as complex as seventeen steps or more, it really can be boiled down into three major steps:  1: Brand awareness (if they don’t know you exist it is unlikely that they are going to search you out). 2: Information fulfillment (you need to be able to explain why your product is better than the competitions). 3: Conversion (you need to give incentive to the consumer to buy your product now, and then you have to KNOW that they have purchased).

Yes, I know there are many marketers out there right now loading their flintlocks ready to take aim at me. I agree with them that the above paragraph is a massive oversimplification. However, if there is one word I want you to have as a take away from this blog post, it is “simplify”. It doesn’t need to be all that complicated.

I used to be a pilot a long time ago and we learned at flight school that there were primary instruments, secondary and down to tertiary. You need a primary dashboard to tell you that everything is flying along nicely. These were your airspeed, artificial horizon and rate of climb or descent. Of course, the compass was kinda cool as well. When something went wrong you went to your primary, then to your secondary instruments and then you had a check list to go down. You need to have the same in today’s marketing environment.

Take all the analytics that are pouring into your marketing pot and see if they legitimately fall under one of the three following steps: 1: Brand awareness. 2: Information fulfillment. 3: Conversion. You DON’T have to throw the rest of the metrics out, they certainly can provide good secondary information but they wont be a primary ones.

Next ask:  “If  we find that brand awareness, information demand, and conversion are slipping, what will we do with the metrics under each title to reverse that slide?” If the answer to one or more, is nothing, they should be relegated to being lower down on the information scale.

Next suggestion: “Don’t be a purist!” All the marketing data and information in the world is never going to exorcise the need for a good dose of intuition and yes, luck.

When I hear people say; “fans on facebook are not a good indicator of the growth of brand awareness because they might have blocked your posts from coming onto their profile page, or they might have died or left the country.” I laugh. It is true, they might have done one of the above but this has ALWAYS been true!

When we used to snail mail a brochure to a prospective consumer, we didn’t know if they had passed away in the interim, or had prospect regret and would chuck out the brochure without even reading it, or have moved. You cannot make a perfect marketing world. Keep your eyes on the consumer and not completely on the technology and platforms with which you communicate.

Oh, and lastly, don’t give up the “happy dance” just make it a happy dance that you have simplified all the data and feel that you are gaining good knowledge from it.

Thanks for reading this post, please give me your thoughts on the data that is pouring into your marketing bins. Please follow us on the following social media platforms:



  1. Great post. You should read Think by Michael Legaul. He discusses the deterioration of creative and critical thinking in our current system. There is a chapter on information overload that is similar to your post. Good Days.

    • buzzmaster says:

      Thanks for your comment Jacob. I will look up the book “Think” by Legaul. I am just finishing a book and need a new one.

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