Sexy Little Numbers and the Curse of Dated Data Analysis

Sexy Little Numbers is a book designed to sell books and the services of marketing agencies. For me, this book was about as exciting as a bad TED Talk. The speaker, or in this case author, thinks it is interesting and the members of the audience who are just discovering this topic find it interesting.

However, for anyone who has a small understanding of the complexities of data as a concept, it’s just analytics 101. It’s hardly as exciting as author Dimitri Maex of marketing goliath Ogilvy & Mather attempts to make it.

I have dealt with data and numbers, and I am familiar with the concept that they can be interpreted in many ways. This book does little in helping with that interpretation. The author determines and interprets all data in terms of the bottom line: Does this, can this, and will this make more or less money?

He fails to mention that once those measurements for success are created and decided upon, it’s up to a combination of the left brain and right brain to make it happen, to make it seem more creative than it is. Sure, marketing plans can be creative and also be based on the data, but this book focuses a large amount of time on creating a measurement based only on finances. 

This book was first published in 2012, so while a lot of the things are the same, data and analytics then and now are not always about money. Sometimes, traffic growth is just more people seeing that content. Maybe it doesn’t need a funnel, but that won’t be covered in this book.

I should mention the book’s subtitle is “How to Grow Your Business Using the Data You Already Have,” but he doesn’t really explain how. He jumps in like a teacher in university who assumes all incoming freshman had the same high-level high school experience with this subject. 

This book isn’t poorly written, but it’s definitely boring for an MBA student or anyone who’s been in business over the last decade. Perhaps that is the nature of these books. They are groundbreaking to some at the time. After too long, everyone knows this stuff.

Would I recommend this to someone who wasn’t sure how to use data to grow their business? Perhaps upon it’s release, I would. It may have been helpful to others.

But now? In 2024? There’s probably a better, shorter, and more engaging YouTube video or series of videos that will help you better understand your data. You know, like a good TED Talk.

The one thing this book had going against it from the moment I picked it up is that it was heavily dated even from the moment it was published. Data remains the same, but our tools and our learning methods are always evolving. While I don’t think I could be bothered to even search it out, a brand like Ogilvy & Mather or one of their competitors is probably utilizing some type of online video to explain how to grow your business with data.

That’s where your time will be better spent. Search on YouTube or talk to your nearest marketing data analyst for help. Almost everyone is in the date business these days.

Also, and I can’t stress this enough, anyone who frames the “privacy conversation” as a “potential value exchange” is trying to muddle the point. I hope a decade after publishing this that Dmitri has changed his tune. 

To frame privacy as a value proposition is wrong, if not only misleading, to those who are unaware of how data can be used or abused. If you’re not sure what I’m on about, there are any number of data privacy scandals over the last decade that can serve as examples for you.

The point is, some books are dated and should be left in the past. This book isn’t quite one of them yet, but the data says time is running out.