If you’d been a reader of the London periodical Once a Week – all the way back in 1868 – you may have stumbled across the observation: “Give a boy a hammer and chisel; show him how to use them; at once he begins to hack the doorposts, to take off the corners of shutter and window frames, until you teach him a better use for them, and how to keep his activity within bounds.” This tendency is known far better as The Law of the Hammer, because to a hammer, everything in sight tends to look like a nail.
Our Hammer is data. When used correctly, responsibly, it allows us to build and shape and create a platform from which we can help our clients tell their story. But placed before someone who doesn’t necessarily have the deftness to wield it, they may end up erring, backtracking, repairing, or all but abandoning the project entirely. It comes down to the knowledge of the tool itself, and what it’s capable of producing.
And of course, a hammer is only as good as the arm that swings it – the muscles that know where to land it each time, strengthened by years of practice. Our all-critical muscle is Empathy, that ability we believe is useful beyond all others when it comes to the foundation of what we do at Dirigo Collective.
In this age where buzzwords come and go at the speed of light, and some version of the ‘Top Ten Tips for Marketing’ shows up in our news feed every hour, we’re told that data is that magical key – the be-all-end-all that puts your advertisement in front of the exact person it needs to reach, and next thing they’re on your website buying your product. But data is only part of the equation. It’s important to remember this: Not all data is good data, and a hundred data points does not make a trend.
Watching an ad campaign can be just like watching the Stock Market. Check on it every minute and you’ll be driven mad with every uptick and downtick, bending to emotional cues that make you want to buy and sell when the best thing is to just sit down and observe. You put down the proverbial hammer, and look at the much larger picture because, over time and with a myriad of information, you begin to spot real, actionable trends among all those nails. So your clicks jumped three percent on a Tuesday in January, and you were ready to start serving your ad only on Tuesdays. But if the weather had brought two feet of snow that day, and everyone was home from work surfing the internet, of course your clicks increased! Put the results in context, put yourself in the shoes of your audience, and think about how that result came to be.
As much as we preach the importance of data in an ad campaign, we feel just as strongly about its responsible use. We see these standards occasionally compromised in an effort to win business, show results, and prove an agency’s worth. It’s worth admitting that we can be wrong, and that theories can be mistaken. Chasing the daily success, making dramatic strategy decisions within two or three weeks of a campaign’s launch, all of it leads one further away from their initial goal.
If you’re running your own campaign, take the time to think through your strategy, and then have faith in your planning to let it run a course before you start your optimizations. If you’re working with an agency, talk with them about their plan and how they intend to see it through. We have been blessed and cursed with the myth of Data and all that it can accomplish; understand that data is only a tool. Be sure to take a moment from wielding it to look at all those nails, and see which ones are actually doing the job of building something better.