The popular saying “If it can’t be measured it can’t be managed” is a dangerous premise. Seems to me I’ve only ever heard it uttered by invariably smug managers who wanted to reject some piece of qualitative research they didn’t like. Though that may simply illustrate the murky areas I’ve worked in.
(In truth, there used to be a defensible mantra that the best predictor of coming consumer behaviour was past behaviour, but that was before the widespread disruption taking place in almost every category.)
The problem with the “measure-to-manage” idea is that it reduces everything and everyone to a simple number, as though that’s all that matters. But in marketing, nothing could be further from the truth.
In our real lives, we know this. We don’t measure our kids’ behaviour by number, or quantify a satisfaction-score for last our vacation. We wouldn’t consider it. So why apply this to customers?
Our customers aren’t inanimate assets to be assessed only in quantitative terms. Consumers are humans – imperfect, illogical, imaginative and wonderful beings who can’t be described by a mere numeral on a page. Because just when we think we’ve got them down pat, they’ll do something entirely unpredicted by all the logical models. For example, we know that happy buyers of brand A will still try brand B sometimes – partly because the marketing eco-system encourages us all to be promiscuous shoppers.
I’m guilty, too: I’ve written my share of assumed consumer profiles (“Mary is a young married woman with two kids, etc.”); these were always done post-facto to satisfy a client’s needs, with only a passing reference to market research. I can now disown them emphatically.
So here’s a plea: in your next customer-targeting brief, remember to add a dash of humanity. And don’t rely solely on numbers and data.