When I started in mobile in 1999, we were starved of any kind of numeric validation for our work. How many people had a mobile phone? How many used SMS? How many had ever texted into shortcodes?
These questions had to be ignored or ridden over roughshod in order to sell in any work, or we simply relied on a good idea that kind of made sense.
Nowadays though there are more stats than you could possibly know what to do with. While it’s hard (sometimes) to argue with the accepted authorities such as Comscore, Nielsen et al, the industry has now become polluted by the interests of various parties trying to sell their own micro-discipline of mobile with what can only be described as slanted, if not entirely misleading, statistics. Conducted in-house or with the connivance of a research company who are clearly being paid to deliver something that makes good PR, we are now under an avalanche of questionable, and often contradictory factoids about our industry.
This has been raised again today by a PR release masquerading as fact on no less a site than AdvertisingAge with some extraordinary claims. Let’s have a look shall we? Please note this research is entirely about CPG/FMCG goods – that means bread, vodka, toothpaste, tinned cabbage etc…
- 47% of men check product availability of CPG goods while in store. There are two things inherently wrong with this. Firstly, if you are in store and you are looking for a product, you go to the aisle, you don’t check on your mobile for it. Secondly – let’s be serious – has anyone ever checked the availability of individual items before going to a supermarket? No – if they don’t have your brand, you buy another. If they don’t have any, you shrug your shoulders or maybe tut a little bit
- 51% of men compare prices on CPG goods while in-store. Oh I can see it now. “This cabbage is $1.29 but if I go to comparemycabbage.mobi I can probably get it from WalMart for $1.19, and I’m totally prepared to drive across town for that!”. Men do not compare prices on CPG goods – we chuck it in the cart and move on, often deciding based on which has our favorite color packaging. Do I have data to support this assertion – of course not, but you know I’m right.
- 47% of men find coupons or deals on CPG goods while in store. OK, so your vanilla Stoli costs $18.99. What do you do? Think about the price, feel it’s a bit much, search online for Vanilla Stoli vouchers, download it, and present at checkout in the store you’re already in. Is that likely? If you’ve ever done this please let me know. Clues: there are no vanilla stoli vouchers on the mobile web; most retailers simply don’t accept mobile vouchers full stop; the chances of you finding one that works in the store you’re standing are virtually 0%. And men would never do this – again no stats, call it male intuition or something.
This is just one example of a ‘generous’ reading of stats to come up with a load of lies. This may of course have begun as a serious exercise, but something has gone seriously wrong. These stats could well apply to the hi-tech or auto space, where men are waaay ahead of women in their mobile participation and where these activities make some kind of sense. To me it looks like they tried to get some data to support CPG, the stats didn’t look good, so they rolled in a few categories as well to beef it up.
So this is not a one off. Here are my top 3 unlikely but regularly cited mobile stats that are almost entirely complete bollocks. I welcome your favorites in the Comments:
- Average teenage girl sends 4,005 text messages monthly. Let’s think about that: 133 texts per 15-hour waking day, 9 texts per hour, one text every 6 and a half minutes. Let’s assume that she’s in class for 6 hours per day, that means a text every 4 minutes. Oh, and that’s the AVERAGE teen girl. Let’s assume that a high-texting teen is x3 the average, which seems reasonable, nay conservative, in any behavioral law-of-averages, she’s sending one every 8.1 seconds. Relentless.
- 19% of US consumers have used a QR code. Really. I am more pro-QR than most, but let’s be clear about terms. What is a consumer? I take it we are including everyone from new-borns up to pensioners, right, because that they all consume. The USA has 314m total population. The Census Bureau cites 72% of these as being adult. If 45% of adults are smartphone owners, that gives us a total potential market for QR use of 102m people. Now if 19% of consumers really have used a QR code, that means there should be 59.6m QR-loving freaks out there, or, 3 out of every 5 smartphone owner. Go out and ask 10 of your non-industry friends if they scan. If more than 5 say yes, I’ll build you your very own QR code campaign…
- Mobile is the most consumed media channel. OK, so I personally think this one is true. But would you trust InMobi, who make their living from selling mobile media space, to tell it to you? Especially when you have the likes of eMarketer telling you that TV and online are still waaay ahead? Would you? And then there’s Mary Meeker (apparently asleep on the job and still showing stats from 2011 on slide 19) who has mobile at 10%, behind even radio
So, there are as many stats out there as there are arguments you may want to win. What are your favorite mobile stats? Which have you used most shamelessly to sell work even though you know it was dreamed up for nefarious ends? And are you one of the necromancers whose job it is to come up with this? Dish the dirt below the line…