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Benjamin Drury - March 14, 2016

Not all data is created equal!

Data, statistics and metrics! They’re everywhere. We’re constantly hearing numbers and comparisons and polls and figures to prove this fact or that idea. But is it all accurate? Is any of it reliable? Can we trust what we’re told?

The honest answer is maybe, but be careful. Not all data is helpful, but it is all used to try to get you to think or act a certain way, by the purveyor of the information. Just make sure you examine what’s being said with a critical eye and be skeptical!

For example, yesterday I saw an advert on a bus that read “More people see ads on buses than listen to commercial radio ads.”

On the surface it seems like a reason statement and good validation for putting your money into bus adverts. But hold on there, before you go redirecting all your marketing into traveling billboards.

What the statistic doesn’t tell you is how many ads on buses there are compared to how many adverts are broadcast on the radio. It doesn’t tell you how many people see a single bus advert verses how many individuals hear a single radio commercial. And how much does each one cost? It certainly doesn’t compare the cost you pay for each medium against the actual reach (number of people that see/hear an advert) for that particular medium.

So what does this metric tell you in terms of information you can actually use to make a decision? Nothing!

The headline statistic needs some more context and qualification and I suspect that if you looked into it in more detail you’d discover that radio ads were still better value for money than bus ads.

So be wary of what you believe regardless of whether they have numbers to back up a point. Always question the data!

And if you want to know more read Darryl Huff’s book How to lie with statistics available on Amazon.co.uk.

Have you got any examples of bad statistics? Leave a comment below…

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