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Expert Consumer Research from Covance Food Solutions

Has Our Focus On Tech Led To No Sociology Syndrome?

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By Kevin Gray

This morning, I took a quick peek at a few LinkedIn discussion groups and spotted plenty of interesting stuff…

RDBMS, Hadoop, Python, Scala…

IoT, AI, Support Vector Machines, RFID…

Wearables, Biometrics, Virtual Reality, Telemetrics…

Bayes, Bayes, Bayes, Bayes…

But no sociology. Nothing about people.

To be sure, there’s more to the social and behavioral sciences than sociology and what I’m describing is not truly a syndrome. Let’s not forget philosophy, history, art or literature, either.  And, admittedly, when I was growing up, the social and behavioral sciences – psychology in particular – were hyped nearly as much as Big Data is today.  It turns out they did not have all the answers – only a few, perhaps – but they did pose questions that we, as marketers, should at least be thinking about.

Advances in technology should not be decried, though. They have worked what past generations could only have regarded as magic. But I do wonder if the spotlight on tech these days is one reason why we sometimes get special offers for things we already purchase frequently and ads for things we’ll never, ever buy. Has marketing become too narrow-minded?

Though I’m a quant guy myself I do have a fairly strong background in non-mathematical subjects as well.  But in my attempts to keep my head above the technical waters, I must admit my own attention has become heavily skewed in the past several years (e.g., http://cannongray.com/methods).

These days, is there so much technical stuff being crammed into our eyes and ears that we marketers are finding it harder to see the big picture?  Are we forgetting what consumers are really like and how they really live?  After all, mathematics can only provide a rough approximation of human reality.

Maybe I’m just imagining things.  I hope so.

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4 responses to “Has Our Focus On Tech Led To No Sociology Syndrome?

  1. Hi Kevin:

    I think these are good points. My own feeling is that we rely too much on tools and not enough on relationships. Tools can only facilitate the available information which is often only part of the picture. It’s the same old thing of trying to create a mass marketing process but this time it is deploying to a customer centric audience that is often relying primarily on peers.

    At some point there has to be a realization that people are not equal to hits or click-thrus. I think it is time to invest in employees and listen to what they are saying about their interactions. It doesn’t matter if its online or in-person but just that a connection is made. There are no short cuts to relationships of any kind and unless your ice is so good that even Eskimos will buy it you aren’t in a position to ignore the people factor. Even then, somebody will improve it.

    At some point measurements started replacing connections and the organizations that can tie both together will win. It is working for REI, Samsung, Apple, Go-Pro, etc. They don’t sacrifice their employees in order to win by a hair. They charge premium prices and people buy because there is a face with the product and everybody has skin in the game,

  2. Kevin, how true. Just today a US client sitting through a series of translated IDI’s in my office in Shanghai told me excitedly how one overly expressive and ditzy respondent delivered some incredible insights on usage of a skincare technology. No data analytics package will pick up these kinds of insights. Maybe text analysis will get close, but there is nothing like that moment when you hear it for yourself.

  3. I know what you mean, Chris. I’ve seen clients almost break into tears.

    The social and behavioral sciences can help us better understand consumers’ words and actions. (Until just a few years ago, I thought there was too LITTLE emphasis on tech, but now we’re stampeding in the other direction, IMO.)

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