Data, Insight and Customer Weirdness at C4DI


Andy points out his achievements, including coming up with the slogan “8 out of 10 cats…”

We are all surrounded by data which is harvested, refined and bought and sold just like any other cash crop. In the C4DI meeting tonight two excellent talks showed how this “big data” can be used to deliver useful outcomes, but how you also need to be aware of the human context behind the numbers.

First up was Andy Parkinson who now works for Kingston Communications as their Head of Insight and Analytics. He used to work for Hull City Council and gave a great description of how the council has been using the data it collects to refine and target services to make them more efficient. He showed how we can all be clustered into groups and how this helps to target resources. It seems that everybody is unique, but we all mange to be unique in a fairly structured way. And when you can characterise and map this, you can work out where you need to target what you are doing with your resources.

Having told us of the power of all this analysis, he then went on to mention that people can also behave in untoward and unpredictable ways that don’t fit their profile, or just act on “auto-pilot”. This reminded me a lot of my favourite maxim of the moment “Plans are useless, Planning is crucial”. By all means analyse your data and take actions based on it. But be well aware that you will always have to deal with some weirdness around the edges and behaviours that arrive “built in” to people. Of course, if you can harness these you can get some really big wins. So don’t be afraid to try stuff that targets the “automatic self”.

Next we had a talk from Nick Thompson who is Managing Director of Hull City and was formerly Director of Consumer Services with Kingston Communications. Nick took what Andy said and added an even stronger human dimension. By breaking down the Hull City fanbase into sections and analysing their motivations and actions he provided a lovely example of how data can tell you some useful things, but that you need to understand what drives the people in your numbers and how they behave.

It turns out that the spending habits of the fans seem to follow the well established “80 – 20” law, which in Hull City terms means that that 80% of the income of the club comes from around 20% of the fans. And these are not necessarily the most fanatical ones, who see their passion for the club transcending things like replica shirts and other merchandise. Very interesting.

Nick make the point that you can make decisions based on the data, but this must always be done in the light of the emotional attachments and drivers of the people themselves. What made it all the more striking was that Nick has obviously been a huge fan of the club for a very long time, and presumably fits himself into one of his categories as well.

The talks fitted together really well and made for a terrific evening.