Data harvested for political campaigns or brands can be both seductive and overwhelming. 

Joel Benenson, the lead pollster for President Obama’s campaign & founding partner of Benenson Strategy Group, gave today’s midday keynote speech at the ARF Audience Measurement 7.0 Summit in New York on how we need to look at what data we need rather than how much we can have.

The most important point Benenson stressed is that we must not allow advances in measurement, that provides us with more and more data, to obscure our insights of human decision making.

With blogs, market research, social media, historical data, and a theory about a new data point each day, we could merely focus on the numbers and pull out the trends that we want to see. This would overshadow the human dimension. 

Humans are emotional and changeable and are prone, at times, to make irrational decision making. Yes, there is a logic to data, but in order to get find a competitive edge it’s important to find the illogical cracks that exist between the numbers.

The only way to find these cracks, is to get the right data in front of you. It’s important to remember two things when conducting research and using it to influence your decision making.

  • Know the limits of the data in front of you
  • Make sure you ask the right questions to learn what you need to learn

Every question needs to have a purpose and you need to get a data set you can work with. Just because it has a purpose, doesn’t mean all the data is equal so you need to use it to tell the story.

What do you do once you have the data?

When you have a data set to analysis including behavioral data, media consumption habits and key research, Benenson focuses on using it to conclude on five things:

  1. Controling the context of debate
  2. Setting and raising the stakes
  3. Defining the choice of contrast
  4. Making the competition own their position in the market place
  5. Redefining goals with laserlike targeting

By knowing you want to touch on those five points, you sometimes need to get people to answer questions they normally wouldn’t. Out of this you can create messaging architecture to push back against the data points you want to change.

This could also mean testing your brand message down to the impact of a single world as that could be the word that influences the decision making consumers make every day. 

So as you continue to collect more and more numbers, facts and figures, always continue to go back to who is at the core of your brand: your customer. They are more than just a data set.