Friday, June 3, 2011

Bad Science

1.2% Prefer Death by Eels
I've been following all of these marketing blogs and news feeds because, well, I don't know, I guess I think I'm supposed to because I'm in advertising? I really don't know. But one yesterday caught my eye because of its provocative headline: "Study Reveals Why Consumers Fan Facebook Pages," followed by the confusing subhead, "Nearly 40% of Consumers 'Like' Companies on Facebook to Publicly Display Their Brand Affiliation to Friends." After I tried to decipher the ambiguous sentence construction of the latter (which is always fun in headlines), I read the article in hopes of finding out the Why that was promised in the banner heading. I was disappointed. There was no why, it merely stated that, of all the ways consumers are hit by branding messages, 40% said in a survey that they prefer it when there are promotions attached and that 39% of those say they would be inclined to "fan" that promotion to friends on their network. There was no Why. And it didn't say they did actually fan their friends when there was a promotion, they just answered that they would be inclined to do so. They were probably thinking, "Yeah, sure, why not?"

You've participated in these mindless surveys. When you are sucker enough to start, you'd like to think that there is a mechanism in there to complain about something, but the questions are always so patently skewed to support the biased hypothesis that there is no real study; it's just trying to push a conclusion so they can push whatever it is they're trying to sell. It's bad science. Here's an example:

Q: Of the following forms of dying, which method would you prefer?
  1. Decapitation by a dull, rusty saw
  2. Sliding down a fifty foot razor blade into a pool of alcohol
  3. Being slowly lowered into a cauldron of bubbling lava
  4. Eaten alive by ravenous eels
  5. Peacefully in your sleep
The results? 96% choose #5
Therefore, this study shows that most people would like to die in their sleep. 

"That's why 96% of your friends recommend Go-Ezy, the sleep aid that takes you to paradise." 

But, as you take the test, you search in vain for #6 "Wait minute, nobody said anything about dying!"

It's the same with these loaded surveys that ask which method of social media advertising you'd prefer to see, or whether you'd fan somebody about a promotion. There is never the choice: "I'd prefer not to be bothered by advertising on Facebook, thank you."  But be honest, given a choice about being hectored by constant e-mails alerting you to a new promotion based on your "likes," or not having to empty your inbox 60 times a day, how pathetically lonely are you to pick the former? You need to get some sunshine.

I do worry about the 1.2% who selected death by eels. Are we sure they were taking the survey seriously?

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