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Are You Analytic?

23rd June 2015 | Mike Grigsby

Marketing Analytics Author Mike Grigsby Identifies What Makes a Person Analytic

Marketing Analytics (9780749474171)In the movie The Graduate when Ben (Dustin Hoffman) got out of college his parents threw him a party. One of the guests gave Ben some (whispered) career advice, “Plastics”. Oh, and this was in 1967. Clearly ten years later that advice would be, “Computers and / or Technology”. In the 1990s it would be, “Internet, Online, Networking”. Now it would be “Digital, Big Data, and Social Media”. What’s next? 

Since the arrival of PCs forty years ago (and the exponential proliferation of technology) the ability to use data has lagged the ability to create data. We’ve known this for a long time, but insights are falling behind faster and faster, and the gap is now so egregious that something drastic must be done. All hands on deck! Today advice to a college graduate should be “Analytics.”

So, could this be you? How do you know if you may be “Analytic”?

You may be analytic if you see relationships. When I was in third grade my teacher warned us that we would start long division next week. She was very serious about it and gave me an especially hard look, because I had been somewhat a class clown. Can you believe it? Anyway, when the BIG DAY arrived that we would start long division she set the stage by asking, “Can you divide 5 evenly?” The idea of course was to motivate us to understand the concept of “remainders.” She paused dramatically but was crestfallen when I yelled out, “Of course you can. Two and a half and two and a half!” She sent me to the office. Now in truth I often deserved to go to the office but not that time. I saw a relationship, it was clear and obvious.

You may be analytic if you think in terms of causality. Of course analytic folks have a quantitative bent. Duh. But it is not necessarily some facility with numeric calculation. They probably have some measure of formal mathematic / statistical education but maybe not. The main thing is that analytic folks see things as THIS causes THAT. This metric is caused (directly or indirectly) by an interaction with that metric. It can’t really be taught, it is a way of thinking about the world.

You may be analytic if you wanna quantify that causality. That’s the name of the game. It’s not just thinking that price causes units to move, but discovering elasticity (for example) quantifies the strength of that relationship. Quantifying causality is the Holy Grail.

You may be analytic if quantifying that causality is a near obsession. Analytic people will thrill to the hunt of finding this. Yes they are probably curious and creative but there is a near obsession with finding and quantifying that relationship. Why are analytic folks so driven to discover and prove that THIS causes THAT? My hypothesis is that they have a bent to the logical / rational side and a natural deductive process. Logic is the science of non-contradictory identification. And let’s face it, most of the world is NOT understandable, most people appear seemingly irrational and full of contradictions. And since marketing analytics is usually about consumer behavior (we try to understand and incent and change that behavior) a theory of causality applied to people underlies both personal and professional thinking. That means, if we quantitatively prove a relationship exists, it gives us a sigh of relief in that maybe the world is not as irrational as it sometimes appears. We sleep better at night believing people and consumers may be understandable after all.

Analytics is a key skill for the foreseeable future. The ability to derive insights from the mounds of data now so easily generated will save corporations from majoring on the minors and paralysis of analysis. So, are you one of the analysts?

About the author: Mike Grigsby has been involved in marketing science for over 25 years. He was marketing research director at Millward Brown and has held leadership positions at Hewlett-Packard and the Gap. With a wealth of practitioner experience at the forefront of marketing science and data analytics, he now heads up the strategic retail analysis practice at Targetbase. Mike is also known for academic work, having written articles for academic and trade journals and taught at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. He is a regular speaker at trade conventions and seminars.

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