Sample size of 1


So a work experience kid at Morgan Stanley in the UK has written a paper on his and his friends media habits.

Of course, everyone is talking about it. Morgan Stanley even published it.

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-15-year-old-analyst-the-report-2009-7

I read the article and thought it was pretty funny. It either says this kid is the most insightful analyst ever (possible considering most analysts) or Morgan Stanley is a bit short on inspiration. Or a bit of both

The head of the team called it … “one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen.

And in a sign that fear and vulnerability is probably the biggest factor driving many parts of the industry now, the knee jerk reaction from others was astounding. In any other industry would the thoughts of 1 teenager be perceived as so newsworthy and insightful?

“We’ve had dozens and dozens of fund managers, and several CEOs, e-mailing and calling all day,” said Mr Hill-Wood, 35, estimating that the note had generated five or six times more feedback than the team’s usual reports.

There is no doubt the report is a very accurate, well research piece of work … that illustrates the habits of one person without any real statistical rigour.

If one kid stating the obvious is such a superior piece of insight to these people, what does it say for the rest of their output?

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6 responses to “Sample size of 1

  1. You’ve certainly hit the nail on the head around this non-story!

    Definitely worth reading this post for a bit more of a scathing criticism of Morgan Stanley’s digital media ‘analysts’: http://strange.corante.com/2009/07/13/the-plural-of-anecdote-is-not-data

  2. Roger Lintzeris

    This is truly a poignant & clever piece.

    Delving 50,000 leagues into media habits and re-surfacing with an open treasure chest of unspoken truths from a teenagers life.

    Can you believe a 15 year old doesn’t want to pay for music?

    …I know, neither can I.

  3. I can’t believe that most 15 yr olds have never bought a CD. Buying “To The Faithful Departed” by The Cranberries was one of the most memorable experiences of my teenage life!

    What an interesting insight into the the lives of teenagers today. It would be interesting to do a 7-Up-esque series on this kid’s life and find out how his habits change as he earns some coin, with money being the one of the biggest factors of his media choices.

  4. hey ben,

    I read that a few days ago from Julian’s tweet, i thought it was pretty funny how much raving goes around Morgan Stanley about this kid.
    I think you are spot on, the sample size of 1 is surely a bit shaky for any company to take whole heartedly, those insights into teenager’s habits are pretty normal, the morgan stanley gang is probably just a bit out of touch.

    There are definitely some common threads from the insight produced by the kid but there are a more variables the research does cover. I mean if you delve into Myspace and Deviant art, I’m sure the many subcultures that exist will provide different insights to the media researchers who are trying so hard to talk to them.

    It just takes a bit of time to listen to them and really understand what makes them tick, I think. As we were all young once right =) ?

  5. talkingdigital

    jefske i think you’re right … there’s a temptation to look at kids as these weird aliens when effectively we were all young once and can (if we want) see how they’re acting, talking to eachother and what interests them if we just step outside of the ad world and into the real world.

    when i was young i liked music, the internet, socialising and learning. those traits i still have now and my cousins who are all teens generally show the same interests. I don’t feel that out of touch speaking with them as I’m not viewing them as some freaky mutant race who are radically different to me.

  6. yeah totally the problem is… as marketers tend to generalise their demographic and any real insight and substance often gets lost with the people they are trying to talk to.

    I think Nike is still one of the best brands at keeping a finger on the pulse and not get lost in the hype about their own brand. If you go on twitter and blogs, all the things people write about including myself, is on things that are genuinely worthwhile and different to what other brands try to imitate.

    Kevin Kelly’s 1000 true fans piece is a good way to think about how brands should communicate i believe.

    thx for sharing.

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