to double down on TV ads targeting teens, or
to ease up on Sunday inserts for elders. But
marketers who allow for a little art and creativity
in how they examine and interpret that data are
often rewarded with a clearer, truer vision of
customer habits, which means less money
wasted on ads that don’t work.
“There is a human element to sitting down,
looking at data, and finding the story,” says Scott
Turner, executive vice president of agency and
advertiser sales at research firm GfK MRI.
“That’s the art of it — really understanding the
context and teasing out the insights from all
these data resources.”
Nearly a decade after Walmart’s insight
regarding Pop-Tarts, nearly every company has
access to the mountains of consumer intelligence
that, when examined correctly, can lead to similar
insights. But all too often those interpreting the
data aren’t taking the time to unearth the stories
hidden in those piles of information.
“There’s all this focus on the science part of it
right now,” Turner says, “but you don’t just press
Experts in data analysis tell endless stories of companies that failed to see the big picture when it comes to interpreting their consumer data. A little creativity, they say, can make all the difference.
4 | May 2012 ANA Thought Leadership Series
a button and have big data tell you the answer.”
Experts in data analysis tell endless stories of
companies that failed to see the big picture when it
comes to interpreting their consumer data. A little
creativity, they say, can make all the difference.
Take, for example, Rent-A-Center, the furniture
rental chain that allows people who can’t afford to
purchase necessities like a couch, television, or
washing machine to bring them into their homes
at a reduced cost. For years, the company had
operated under the principle that its core customer was Hispanic households earning less than
$75,000 annually. Naturally, the company tailored
its advertising to Hispanic families in middle- to
Rent-A-Center wasn’t wrong about its customers. But four years ago, Ansira, a St. Louis–based
customer engagement agency, ran a segmentation study that helped it to quickly discover that
there was more to the picture.
“They believed that Hispanics were their core
customer, and that the average customer agreement was for 13 weeks,” says Michael Harrison,
executive vice president and chief strategy officer
at Ansira. But while the data showed that Hispanics used Rent-A-Center more than any other
demographic, the average length of agreement
for Hispanics was just four weeks — much
shorter than Caucasians and far shorter than
African-Americans, whose average length of
rentals was much closer to 13 weeks.
“So Hispanics were coming and going away,
and Rent-A-Center was focusing significant
dollars on that market,” says Harrison. “This
analysis demonstrated to them that the profitabil-
ity of Hispanic consumers was much less than
Rent-A-Center quickly shifted its media buy
to more realistically reflect customer habits.
The key, Harrison says, is to approach the
data with a story in mind — people want
ready-to-eat food during a storm, for example —
then apply the scientific method to prove how
accurate you are.
“We talk about the right and the left side of
the brain when looking at data,” he says. “You
need to be inquisitive and try to set up a hypothesis, then disprove it or prove it as you go
through the process.” Harrison notes that the