Data Does Lie (And Why That Matters)

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Google the phrase “the data doesn’t lie” and you’ll probably get more than 30 million hits. Some very reputable sources (Marketo, Dan Zarella, ZeroHedge) rise to the top of the list of sources who have written about that concept (when I Google it).

In a recent article about a study of “men” conducted by Harris Interactive, MediaPost wrote:

“It’s all about the data — we’ve heard that phrase in the advertising/marketing world in the past two to three years. And, we definitely agree. Smart marketers will test their assumptions against the hard data that doesn’t lie. If you’re a marketer targeting men, the Harris Interactive State of Man report certainly warrants studying. You may be surprised by what you find, but it will surely help guide you to better targeting of this elusive and cryptic demographic.”

My take: Don’t believe it. Data lies. All the time.

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There is an incredibly simple way to make data lie. Wanna know how?

Survey a non-representative sample of the population. 

Your data will grow a Pinocchio nose faster than you can say Boo!

The Harris Interactive study discovered the following “facts” about “men” (I have to put facts in quotes because I dispute that these are facts, and I put men in quotes because I’m scared to think about what kind of men were actually surveyed in this study):

 

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