Repeat a hundred times “correlation does not imply causation”

I am someone who has adapted themselves to long journeys. I find myself making trips of 2 hours plus on a regular basis. Therefore I have embraced the world of podcasts.

I could spend quite some time listing recommendations for you, and in fact I will in another post. But this morning I was listening to the excellent More or Less from the BBC (broadcast on Radio 4).

If you haven’t discovered it, it’s presented by the “Undercover Economist” Tim Harford. It sets out to:

“…explain – and sometimes debunk – the numbers and statistics used in political debate, the news and everyday life”

An excellent episode entered my ears this morning – and discussed the “Waitrose Effect”. Essentially, data presented by Lloyd’s Banking Group indicates that house prices are higher when a Waitrose supermarket is nearby.

Therefore the hypothesis is that Waitrose supermarkets drive up house prices. And this is presented widely by the media.

But of course, there is more to it than this. Waitrose are a more upmarket supermarket chain, and therefore choose to locate their stores in areas where they are more likely to find affluent customers.

Correlation does not equal causation.

Data is all around us. Every marketing activity we do generates a ton of data that we need to analyse and draw some learnings from (if we can).

But it’s easy to fall into a similar trap. Did the tactics you chose really achieve your aims? Or was it something else?

We’re always doing marketing activity (and doing, and doing, and doing) – can we really work out which parts are really creating success vs. just happening?


Hey, now you’ve read this why don’t we connect? You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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