Beware of Inaccurately Presented Data

By | October 22, 2015

Yesterday, I was skimming through LinkedIn posts and saw that someone had shared a news story that Millennials “want offers by marketers by mail.” In this industry, we’re always looking for opportunities to promote the value of print, so I clicked through. The actual story, however, indicated that 41% of Internet users are now blocking ads, rising to 63% of Millennials, creating openings for marketers using other channels. It did say that Millennials are open to ads that contain relevant content.

The article then went on to say that ads are not the only way to reach Millennials.

Free content was the most effective way they recommended for companies looking to attract their business, followed by discounts or free trial offers by mail, and appearing high in search results. [1]

I thought back to the title of the discussion: “Millennials want offers by mail.” This is not quite the same thing as “discounts or free trial offers by mail.” The difference is subtle, but significant.

“Marketing offers” spans a wide range of general marketing communications, while discounts and free trial offers are a very specific subset that involves giving recipients free stuff. Just because Millennials want discounts and free trials doesn’t mean that they want all types of direct mail. Maybe they do, but this particular set of data doesn’t say that.

In this industry, we are anxious to promote the value of print, and I’m a big fan. At the same time, we need to be careful to be accurate in our representation of the data. It doesn’t take much to undermine credibility, and if people begin to think that we are inaccurately presenting data to support the value of print, that doesn’t help anyone.

If I had been putting out that story, I probably would have used a teaser that talked about the opportunity presented by discounts and coupons. “Even Millennials like a great deal!” Or the value of making a heavier upfront investment in free trials in order to draw in this customer group. Maybe, “Free Stuff Draws in Millennials!” Or, “It Costs More, But Snagging Millennials Is Worth It.” This places the focus on the specific opportunity (which is legitimate, and it was a great story to share) without making it seem as if this data says more than it actually does.

Share this post