Samples Of One

As a faculty member we have always cautioned against using samples of one.  That is particularly true when the sample is a faculty member.  When a faculty member says, “I was like this,”

Sidebar One: I was like this has another problem besides the sample size.  Memories of events are often faulty.  Few of those faculty were stellar motivated students in every class.  Some were but not all.  End Sidebar One.

or “I find this interesting,” or “I learn like this,” we have always cautioned that it is unlikely for a faculty member to be representative for students.

Now it looks like our sample of one on advertising may have had some validity.  We have enjoyed TV in the recorded era because the ads make us upset with the products.  The stories they tell are not interesting to us.  Except for classic rock sells vehicles, there isn’t much advertising we enjoy.

Sidebar Two: Speaking of classic rock, even the 49ers dance team started with the Kinks yesterday.  The 49er drumline is different and entertaining.  End Sidebar Two.

Our reaction to the advertising might be age and it might be location.  Now the WSJ suggests that we might have been on to something.  Trump’s election has led advertisers to be concerned that:

After spending years courting U.S. consumers with aspirational images of upscale urban living, they may have misjudged the yearnings of much of their audience.

One takeaway is that not everybody wants to be a coastal elite.  It is the opposite of our personal aspiration.  Advertising firms might start to look for talent elsewhere:

A diversity hire “can be a farm girl from Indiana as much as a Cuban immigrant who lives in Pensacola,” said John Boiler, chief executive of the agency 72andSunny, whose clients include General Mills Inc.and Coors Light. The agency plans to expand its university recruitment programs to include rural areas.

Schools like mine will be happy to help them.  The problem is that most of the kids there don’t want to be part of the coastal elite.  We have a very large sample of accounting major interest.  Chicago is usually out.  New York and California are almost always out.  How will they woo them to the coasts?

The point is that samples of one are only suspect.  They are not always wrong.  A challenge in decision making is when to gather more data and when to go with your gut.  It is true in both advertising and teaching.  Might we see different ads in the next campaign cycle?


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