We’re told frequently in life that balance is the key to health and happiness. The same is true in marketing, especially when it comes to data.
When it comes to data, it would be impossible to list out every type and permutation of data that is available to fuel media planning and buying, not to mention brand and audience strategy. But for the sake of simplifying an anything-but-simple landscape, we generally like to lump data into two buckets for marketing purposes: quantitative and qualitative data.
Of course, when we start making distinctions in data types, the question that often follows is this: Which is more important? Where should brands be making their deepest data investments?
I would argue that these aren’t necessarily the right questions to ask. When it comes to quantitative and qualitative data, it’s not an either-or scenario. Rather, the question that marketers need to be addressing first and foremost is this: How do I combine the power of my quantitative and qualitative data to unlock the greatest results for my brand?
Here’s how we’re thinking about it at Anagram.
The Superpowers of Quantitative and Qualitative Data
When it comes to understanding consumers from a quantitative and qualitative perspective, I like to think of the first as science and the second as art. When viewing quantitative data from a media standpoint, we’re talking about the what and the how. What are your target consumers interested in? And where are they spending a critical mass of their time? At a high level, these are the kinds of questions that large-scale quantitative data sets can help marketers answer with regard to their audiences.
When we dig into the qualitative side of data, we start to get at the who. Who are these people as consumers, and what is it that truly motivates their purchases? These are the deeper insights that enable strategists to start weaving their magic within the broader context of their audiences.
That said, speaking from the perspective of a media agency that mixes human understanding with evidence-based marketing to evolve how humans and brands connect, it can be challenging—and downright misleading in some cases—to speak of quantitative and qualitative in overly broad strokes. For example, quantitative data in our industry has come to be closely associated with performance-focused digital marketing efforts, while qualitative data is treated as representing more-traditional, brand-building channels that often lend themselves to more-immersive creative. While this distinction makes sense on the surface, it breaks down when marketers take the distinction to mean that performance-oriented marketers should be investing most heavily in quantitative data, while brand-focused marketers should turn their attention to the qualitative.
It’s not that simple.
Harnessing Data’s Humanity
The fact is this: All brands need both quantitative and qualitative data to drive the best possible results within their campaigns. And that’s because all data is human data.
If you’re looking to strike this important balance within your own marketing organization, consider the following:
- Your agency should be your data guide. The process of merging quantitative and qualitative data to uncover true insights is a journey, not a mere step in the media-planning process. By leaning on your agency partner to guide this journey, you ensure your most important partner is able to interpret and take action on continually evolving insights on your behalf.
- Get personal with your quantitative data. Don’t just settle for audiences that seem to offer scale. Be sure they are your audiences. In this regard, consider fielding large-scale panel surveys of a group of, say, 10,000 consumers on an ongoing basis to ensure you’re able to understand how sentiments around your specific brand and topics are evolving at scale.
- Look beyond qualitative staples. There are tons of third-party qualitative insights you can tap in the market, but you have to be aware that you’re likely tapping the same insights as your closest competitors. Make your qualitative data more useful by exploring proprietary research, ethnographies, interviews and other tactics that can layer on richness to your insights.
When it comes to quantitative versus qualitative data, we’re not talking about machines versus humans. It’s all about people. With regard to quantitative data, we’re really just talking about humanity at scale. And that’s an important lens through which we view data here at Anagram.
At Anagram, we’re deeply focused on making the business of growing brands an uncommonly human endeavor—and that starts with data. We partner closely with our clients to understand their needs at a deep level, and we ensure we bring an equally deep level of audience insights to the table to help them unlock the power of their brands. That means striking the right balance of quantitative and qualitative data in a way that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.