If you were to stop me in the street and ask “are you interested in economics?” I would at first have to overcome the shock of being an Englishman accosted in the street by a stranger. Following that, I would probably respond with a firm “no”. However, upon further review and delving beyond the surface of my immediate response, I might eventually revise my answer as follows:
“Yes – when coupled with another interest”.
As an Englishman I am naturally obsessed with soccer. So after purchasing and devouring the acclaimed book Freakonomics, it seemed a sensible step for me to purchase Soccernomics, a similar read, authored by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski. Soccernomics is a love story between sports and economics; the writers seek to validate, challenge and debunk commonly held theories about soccer, by using economic theory and insights, data and psychology.
The thing I love about both of these books – and generally what leads me to reconsider my position on economics – is that they employ statistical techniques to uncover real relationships. And often the outcome belies expectations and initial predictions.
As a child who was obsessed with TV and movies. Freakonomics assured me through its empirical research that my hobbies didn’t ‘rot my brain’. It also decisively concluded that my lack of exposure to classical music didn’t stop me from becoming the next Albert Einstein (thank you Freakonomics!). Prior to reading Soccernomics, I would have considered myself fairly knowledgeable about my favorite sport. Imagine my interest and surprise when discovering that Norway is in fact the most soccer obsessed nation in the world, and that contrary to popular belief on the little island, that England have been performing well within themselves since excelling in 1966.
Despite the commercial and critical success of the two aforementioned books, the ability to delve beyond face value, statistical analysis is yet to achieve universal appreciation. The majority of soccer clubs – even the most technically advanced on the field – have yet to develop specialized statistics positions in the backroom. One Stateside exception – highlighted by the fantastic book and movie Moneyball – is baseball, which has been using statistics to great effect for over a decade.
As marketers we are often tasked with uncovering relationships to drive action, and unlike some of the most household sporting names in the world, statistical techniques are various and widely used. Whether we are tasked with uncovering the key aspects of service delivery that drive customer satisfaction (and therefore what areas need improving) or the characteristics that predict high purchase intent for a new concept (and therefore how sales and marketing teams can best allocate their resources), we believe statistics provide a great way to delve beyond the assumed. And often these findings are as surprising and elucidating as those found in any abstract book about the application of economics.