Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Adobe’s Latest Commercial Shows Why It Is Important to Understand Your Data Before You React

This week Adobe released a new commercial for their Marketing Cloud Service.  It is a well-produced ad by the award-winning agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners that hooks the viewer in and produces a good laugh while delivering Adobe’s message. Below is the ad. You can also find it on YouTube here.

In the ad, a fictitious encyclopedia company begins to see a spike in their web traffic and orders. The two employees quickly interpret the data as a sudden sales spike and escalate their findings to management who immediately contacts his supplier stating, “We’re back!” This leads to a chain reaction of production and shipping of the company’s encyclopedia. The ad ends with a couple watching their young child paying with their laptop and repeatedly hitting the buy now button. The ad concludes with the question “Do you know what your marketing is doing?” and a case for Adobe’s marketing cloud suite of services. The ad is quite funny and I am sure I’m not doing it justice with my description.

So what can we learn from this ad?

Before we can make a decision based on the latest data, we need to understand the data and be able to validate it. In this case, a sudden spike in sales should have raised a flag to investigate further; however, the commercial would not be as funny if this happened. Any abnormality in your data such as a sudden spike or decline could be a result of a data or system error. For example, the user could have selected an incorrect date range or applied a filter that removed some for the data. Alternatively, there could be a system issue such, which is omitting or duplicating data in your raw data output.

Whenever I am analyzing data, I prefer to compare my data to my previous results to determine if there are any trends or abnormalities. I also recommend reviewing the raw data prior to manipulating it in Excel for potential errors such as duplicate data or values outside of the normal range. Excel offers several options for assisting you in validating your data.

In the ad, the small child is clicking repeatedly on a banner ad. Let us assume that the company just released a new marketing campaign and experiences an immediate increase in sales. The company could assume that the two events are related – the basic cause and effect logic – new campaign released and our sales increased so they must be related. However, we know that correlation does not imply causation. To confirm the two items are related, the user will have to eliminate multiple variables including internal factors such as a pricing change or an improved ordering process and external factors such as a change to the competitive landscape, regulations, or scarcity of resources.

My last point is if something appears too good to be true, it just might be. If you are not confident in the data or your results, ask someone else to review the data. Another set of eyes could discover the error or provide insights on the abnormally. While the ad is funny, it is a reminder for us to understand and verify your data before taking action on it.

What are some of the tools/tips you use for validating your data?

Link to Adobe’s Marketing Cloud Service

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Google Launches a New Healthcare Company, Calico

In case you have not heard Google is starting a healthcare company called California Life Company or Calico. This new company will be led by former Genentech CEO, Arthur Levinson and will focus on heath and expanding human life.  Levinson will also remain in his current roles as the Chairman of the Board of Director for both Genentech and Apple. 

For a company with a primary focus on search, advertising, and most recently mobile phone technology, this is certainly a step outside of their core business. In the press release from Google, Larry Page the cofounder and CEO of Google stated “Illness and aging affect all our families. With some longer term, moonshot thinking around healthcare and biotechnology, I believe we can improve millions of lives.”  Beyond that Google has declined to provide any additional details on how the company will operate except it will be managed as a separate company.

Can Google solve the ultimate quest for longevity or at the very least extend the quality of life by a few years? Using Google’s expertise in technology and data analysis combined with the Arthur Levinson’s experience, I have to believe they have a chance to be successful. I am not alone in my opinion. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, believes they can be successful. In a released statement Cook said, “For too many of our friends and family, life has been cut short or the quality of their life is too often lacking. Art is one of the crazy ones who thinks it doesn't have to be this way. There is no one better suited to lead this mission and I am excited to see the results."

Google’s philosophy of “10x thinking” is certainly at play here and we can only being to imagine what they plan to do. Will they find a cure for cancer? Will they improve healthcare and treatment options by developing new technologies for predicting, diagnosing, and treating diseases based on our biological and environmental history? Any quest to improve our quality of life has to be admired. I wish them well on their new venture.

What are your thoughts on Google's new healthcare company? Do you think they will be successful or a failure?