What’s in a name? More than you might think . . .How the smallest bit of data can inform big campaigns

what's in a name consumer insight blog
Graphic by Spawn Ideas Assistant Video Editor, Brooks Patton

The most successful marketing is based in true consumer insights—insights that are built from qualitative and quantitative data that considers: What is missing in this picture? What is evident? What is the underlying truth that the data represents? What can we identify within the consumer’s self that activates them to respond?

Outdoor brands can be somewhat limited in their resources and infrastructure when it comes to deep data dives about their consumers. However, there are many clever methods that can unlock extremely useful data and insights with very little means. Big Data doesn’t mean Big Ideas. In fact some of the biggest ideas and campaigns spring from the smallest bits of data.

• The NFL’s most recent Super Bowl million dollar campaign focused on the fact that birth rates spike nine months after the Super Bowl in the winning team’s city
• Netflix created House of Cards when they found that viewers tend to finish movies directed by David Fincher and movies starring Kevin Spacey.
• Old Spice’s The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign sprung from the fact that 60% of men’s body washes are purchased by women for men.

These successful campaigns and launches weren’t because of huge, mountains of data. Some of these insights were hiding in plain sight. This is the kind of thinking you might expect from our good friend Sherlock Holmes. While Holmes is a fictional character, his powers of deduction are within the reach of us mere mortals here at Spawn. No, we don’t traipse around the office with a pipe, deerstalker cap, and magnifying glass—that’s more of a weekend look for us—but, like the detective of 22 B Baker Street when it comes to consumer insights, Spawn strives to balance the probabilities and choose the most likely results. Because, as we know, strategy is sacrifice, and that means choosing the path that will be most effective and lucrative given the objective.

At Spawn, research often begins with data, and the usual maxim is the more data, the better. In practice, it can feel like we never have enough data or have the wrong data. If we only had more data or more of the right data, then the answers would be so much easier to uncover (we whine). But sometimes we have to go with the information that we have, and sometimes that information is extremely limited. Why cry about this when we can celebrate it? Because, in fact, research shows that limitations and constraints actually fuel creativity. A “constraint mindset,” the thinking goes, allows a person to do more creatively with less.

So, let’s start with less. With just a name. What can be inferred from a single name? In all actuality, we can estimate how old a person is, and therefore their generation, all leading to the real juicy stuff—the perceptions and values they likely hold dear. All it requires is two quick trips to the Social Security Administration website. Bless those nerds at the SSA.

The United States government records every name given to every child born in America and has done so for the past 136 years. If you marry that dataset to mortality tables (how many people are still alive from a given year), you have a nifty tool to determine the most common age of any given name in America. We all tend to do this intuitively anyway. We have an idea of how old a Gertrude is, whereas a Jayden is likely a youngster. The approach we describe above is just a little more in-depth.

Now, like most things in life, outside of Beyoncé, Prince or Madonna, this isn’t perfect. Common names, such as John, are very hard to predict, as are names that are very old but have experienced resurgence in popularity. That doesn’t mean we throw baby names out with the bathwater. The model is simply an example of a surprisingly savvy tool that can be used to predict generations (Baby Boomers, GenXers, Millennials, Gen Me) of a consumer group with a simple dataset of names, providing much more insight than age alone. We’ve tested it, and this model predicts a person’s generation at an 83% success rate.

Don’t get us wrong, we don’t recommend this particular method for developing in-depth targets. The above is simply an example of the type of thinking and resourcefulness that leads to creative solutions, the kind of stuff we thrive on here at Spawn. There are endless opportunities for innovative thinking that brands and marketers can leverage to better understand their audience.

Outdoor brands, especially, can dig into the thick of their audience’s daily activities through social channels to listen to how they talk about their participation, leverage sales data that illustrates how/when they shop for their gear, combined with good old-fashioned first hand observations of how those customers use your gear in the outdoors. By compiling these data points, brands can start to uncover true audience insights based on meaningful data that includes understanding consumer values, how they see themselves in five years, what macro industry trends are relevant to them . . . the list goes on. You have more data than you realize; you just have to listen to it or see it with fresh eyes.

Brands small and large should first take inventory of what information they do have access to, an informed starting place. And it can be completely scalable. Think about this: if we can develop age demographics and generational insights with just names—imagine what we could do with more!

If you want to find out, give us a call!