You Can’t Market in a Vacuum – Lessons About Observation

So many businesses get tunnel vision, blinders, or myopic in their marketing. They learned what works in 1989 and kept doing it. Observe. Who are your customers — really?

What is a vacuum?

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

Vacuum, Space in which there is no matter or in which the pressure is so low that any particles in the space do not affect any processes being carried on there.”

Do we market in a vacuum? Not literally. No. But when we look at data without the context, we are not allowing ourselves to be exposed to alternative data.

What do you mean?

Let’s talk about lunch on a Monday.

I recently had a late lunch / early dinner with my friend Rachel at Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern (and had an awesome margarita). During our lunch we were talking ideas and brainstorming in tornado fashion, as we do.

The topic of data came up. So, I was quoting that saying “lies, damned lies, and statistics” and I added “AND DATA!” I was discussing the idea of context when it comes to data.

If you’ve read this blog once, you’ve heard me quote Brené Brown about how “stories are data with a soul.” Anecdotal evidence is still evidence. You can gain insight, collect stories, and see patterns.

Specific Hypothetical – An Exercise in Observation

Now, I’m not sure what J-FAT’s email marketing actually is, but for this discussion, I got hypothetical. That’s my disclaimer.

So, who traditionally eats dinner early?

Answer: senior citizens.

So you would presume that a happy hour special of Life After 50 type of email marketing campaign (deal, offer) would be dominant.

For the sake of this conversation, we’re going with it.

Still with me?

So I look around. And I ask Rachel to look around, too.

Sure, there are a few groups of senior citizens. Nice.

But do you know what else happened?

About three or four dads with daughters walked in for daddy daughter after school dates.

(There was also a group of millennials eating dinner together all dressed in black, presumably before they start their shifts.)

So, only marketing to senior citizens for this time slot would be a mistake.

Looking around the room, you see there is another segment of Gen X dads who pick up their kids from school and take them to dinner — on a school night.

That’s another demographic that could be a big win to fill up the restaurant. After all, restaurants are about filling up tables.

Make sense?

We don’t live in a vacuum.

The problem with data is it is from the past. You also only have data from the questions you ask. If you don’t measure, you don’t have data. And data, especially when we’re dealing with humans, will change. Because human behavior changes.

Collect your data. Measure. Look at Google analytics. Look at sales. Make ratios. I’m for it. But don’t forget the context.


Don’t stay in your own world. Be where your customers are.

Listen to what they say.

Then iterate.



2 responses to “You Can’t Market in a Vacuum – Lessons About Observation”

  1. Hi Bridget,
    Observing is a form of listening, after all. And living in the past won’t help any business with their future.

    Thanks for the great tips!