Marketing Takeaway: ‘Trexit,’ Data Truths and Our Quickening Loss of Empathy
The Economist probably wrote the best post-mortem on the U.S. Election of Donald J. Trump – and published it one week in advance of what actually happened.
National and foreign media outlets are dazed, but I’m not alone in seeing this outcome as a true reflection of what’s going on in the world, not just in the United States. We are not immune to fear of rapid change from the rise of globalization, digitalization, urbanism, multi-culturalism and “white (male) privilege” being left behind. No matter which flawed candidate you may have voted for, perhaps we have been played by a piper.
But why the surprise? Turning inward, how could all that polling and data analysis not see this “Trexit” outcome, particularly after Brexit – which should have acted as a data barometer warning of electorate measurement? I see at least three reasons, all of which have ramifications for marketing.
First, because swathes of individuals who voted for our President-elect may largely be unseen and unaccounted for in polling, may steer clear of social media and certainly fail to be reflected in the echo chambers that are Washington, New York and Los Angeles. They barely leave digital crumbs — and they are the ones who shop offline, don’t answer marketing surveys and let the answering machine pick up the call. One of the most favorable polls for Clinton — that of Huffington Post — excluded polling of landline-only households, for example. Helloo! Artificial intelligence can only process what is fed into the data funnel. But missing data doesn’t explain all the inaccuracy.
Second, those of us who have had to deal with self-reported data know one inconvenient truth: such data, at least in the marketing world, is sometimes inaccurate, predictably so. In politics, this can be true, too. People may not admit publicly who they support. (There are lots of quiet people in the office, even as others around them banter loudly about politics.) People are very capable of saying what they think makes them look a certain way, rather than behave differently, and that’s why observable consumer behavior is valued in the marketing data marketplace at a premium.