Market expertise needs to be based on EVIDENCE people! Otherwise you are faking it

market expertise demands evidenceA cautionary tale about experts and what they base their expertise on. For those of us who have market expertise.  Let’s just call him the Professor . He watched  a TV documentary in the early noughties. About cot deaths.  Following which the professor called the child protection authorities to say he thought that in the case of the family featured the children had been deliberately smothered and he feared for the safety of the remaining child.  Tricky call. If you or I had called the TV station we would have been written off as cranks.  But this was an expert who had not only worked in the frontline of the NHS for many years he was also a paediatrician volunteering in international healthcare and an expert witness when such tragic cases came to court. Surely he had an obligation to warn if there was a possibility that a life could be saved? The General  Medical Council disagreed and charged him with misconduct.   He was banned for working in childcare for 3 years. This. and other cases involving the professor rumbled on for years.

Market expertise is only such when based on evidence

fantasies and projections misleadBut here’s the point. Even if you are an expert, however extensive your experience, your expertise needs to be based on hard data. A TV documentary is not. It has been prepared with an editorial slant – the interviews and camera angles have been built to argue a particular case.  I trust I am speaking to experts now.  My question is whether you fulfil the criterion of an expert who is so by virtue of knowledge as well as experience.

This is hard. I know it is. There isn’t enough time to do the job properly.  Clients don’t make provision for proper research. And what your colleagues appreciate is your ability to imaginatively conjure up who the target customer is. And some of the time you can get away with it. But..

If you have never spoken to someone who has bought the product or used it. If you haven’t  seen ordinary customers translate a piece of communications into their own words. If you haven’t checked whether the communications resonates with their impressions of the brand. Then why did you go to work today? What value are you actually contributing other than your ability to imagine? to fantasise.

Theorising without evidence is fantasising

Projection is a powerful mechanism. Fantasising is another. The problem with both is that at their root they represent wishful thinking. Your audience at their comprehending motivated best. Only most of the time they’re not like that. They are busy, bored, tired and distracted.  If you are spending your time projecting your positivity into audiences and thinking the best of them then you are creating a fantasy that will not serve your clients well. You know this. So that’s why pushing hard to talk to real people about real communications is so important. It could be as important as the difference between a lie and the truth. It’s not that you deliberately set out to be deceived, but there is a reality check you get when you go out of the office and ask. And watch. And listen.

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