Data vs Insight


There is no shortage of data today. Sales, repeat purchase, penetration, switching, complimentary purchases…You think of it and you can probably get it, and fast.

So we know what is happening and the up-to-date numbers look good in a report or presentation. We should not, however, confuse data with insights.

The data tells us what is happening, while insights help us to understsand why and how we can leverage it to our advantage.

All too often we see data being used to illustrate or prove a point, but then not supported with proper insight explaining the data and illuminating the way forward.

I have written about this proliferation of data and lack of insight a number of times, so was pleased to see it being discussed at Marketing Weeks Festival of Marketing last week.

Andrew Tenzer (Director of Market Insight and Brand Strategy at Reach) was lamenting the “conflagration of data and insight” while the other panel members – Jo Blundell (Vice-President of Marketing at Papa John’s) and Rhea Fox (Chief Digital Officer at Paperchase) – agreed.

“The tendency to reach for the transactional without the understanding is something that marketing teams need to work quite hard on” said Blundell.

Fox added that “there has been a proliferation of methodologies which promise to deliver faster results, however often these do not offer much in the way of strategic insight.”

Blundell went on to say that marketers should not think of research as “… atick box transaction” but as “the thing that truly drives growth within a business.”

Data is great for monitoring what is happening in the market and keeping us well informed, but if marketers and brand owners want to drive strategic growth in their business, if they really want to succeed, they need to understand the movements in their market and the decisions of their consumers. For this they need real insightful market research. 

They need a strategic research partner that will find the “why” behind the data, provide the uncomfortable as well as the welcome truths and provide clear and actionable paths forward.

As we are not one of the big agencies, I was particularly pleased to note Tenzer’s comment that research is becoming “increasingly commoditised” and that he prefers to work with smaller, boutique research agencies over the larger companies.

So don’t rely on just knowing what is happening in your market. That is the same data that all your competitors have. Go find yourself a good strategic research partner. One that will give you deeper insights into your market and your consumers and that can help you with both short-term tactics and longer term strategic planning.


Chris Lukehurst is a Director at The Marketing Clinic:

Understanding the connections between the consumer experience and emotional responses.