How often are you reading through an article and the author quotes an impressive statistic to back up the point they are making. If you’re in marketing, I’m guessing this happens fairly often.

It’s even better if you’ve been googling a subject, and the stat quoted is exactly what you were looking for to finalise a report to your boss persuading him to push the button on a new product development programme or marketing communications strategy you’ve been working on.

“Bingo” you think as you include it in your report as the main headline.

But what happens when your boss asks for more context on this stat? Or even worse, your boss gives the go-ahead on the project based on that stat and the project fails because the stat was really just a PR headline.

I saw a great example of an out-of-context stat recently in an article about kitchen design….

“Over 16% of new kitchens are planned using a design service provided by a specialist kitchen retail chain such as Magnet or Wren, making it the most popular way for homeowners to plan their new kitchen”

This is a stat directly from one of Trend-Monitor’s kitchen purchasing behaviour studies, which is not a problem as Trend-Monitor was correctly sited as the source and it’s from a report that we have now made available to all FOC. And technically the stat is correct.

It had, however, been quoted completely out of context.

Put into the wider context and this stat is much less impressive. In reality 16.5% of new kitchens were planned by a specialist kitchen retail outlet, which is a very mean 0.2% more than the 16.3% of new kitchens planned by the homeowner themselves on paper. Even less impressive is when you add up all the different ways a homeowner can plan the kitchen themselves – on paper, keeping the same layout, using a planning guide or online design software – you’ll find that 28% of new kitchen installations are planned by the householder themselves.

To add more context, try asking yourself if kitchens planned by specialist kitchen retail outlets are increasing or decreasing? Where is the benchmark to act as a guide?

There’s also no mention of the fact that the study was undertaken in 2018 and we’ve had a full pandemic since then …. again, more context.

Isolated stats are rarely insightful, they are just information. In order to be fully understood, stats need context before they can become true insights and enable informed decisions Click To Tweet

Context was very much at the forefront of a recent research project we undertook in collaboration with the Bathroom Manufacturers Association to understand the consumer purchasing journey for bathrooms.

Trend-Monitor first teamed up with the BMA to research how UK homeowners purchased bathrooms back in 2018. Prior to this, Trend-Monitor had run two further bathroom purchasing studies going back as far as 2013.

By benchmarking data from the most recent study against these previous studies, we have been able to put the past couple of years into a broader context to fully understand developing consumer purchasing trends for bathrooms. And not just in terms of the impact of Covid, but also in the wider context of some of the slower moving demographic and social trends that have been quietly developing in the background.

The collaboration with the BMA and their members also added a strong commercial context to the research which ensured that the study addressed the issues bathroom manufacturers really wanted to understand and the insights generated were relevant to the industry.

Although the study mainly consisted of quantitative questions, qualitative questions were included in the survey to help fill in the blanks often caused when quantitative methods are used in isolation.

Further context has been facilitated in the form of interactive data dashboards which are set up for all Trend-Monitors research studies. These dashboards allow our clients to cross-reference the data from the research, filter and analyse by demographic profile, route to market, category, etc., plus export the charts to embed into reports and presentations

The Oxford Languages definition of context:
“the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood”.

Whether the author of the kitchen design article meant to or not, they were misleading their audience. Isolated stats are rarely insightful, they are just information. In order to be fully understood, stats need context before they can become true insights and enable informed decisions

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