Research can offer brands extremely informative and powerful statistics. It can help brands conceptualize vast amounts of data into invaluable customer insight, with just a few numbers and sentences. However, just like sentences, statistics are easily manipulated and can be used to mislead those who don’t take time to consider where these numbers are coming from. The manner in which percentages are presented can have a profound effect on their meaning.
For example, let’s take a look at a famous statistic that most everybody has heard at some point or another:
“50% of all marriages end in divorce.”
This snippet of conventional knowledge was published in the 1970s and gained traction during a time when divorce became a hot subject, partly because of new “no-fault” divorce laws. From there, stories began to spread that 50% of marriages were doomed to fail. That 50% statistic is based on something called the crude divorce rate, which represents the number of divorces that occur in a given year, per 1,000 people.
Notice anything strange about that method? It doesn’t say anything about whether or not those 1,000 people are married. Along with married people, it also includes children and singles who never married. For this reason, it’s better to look at the refined divorce rate. This method looks at the number of divorces per 1,000 married women, i.e., those who are actually able to get divorced.
Instead of worrying if your newlywed excitement has a 50/50 chance of ending in tragedy, breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the current national average is actually closer to 1 out of 5. And even then, there are still other factors that cloud the 1 out of 5 statistic! Demographics like income, education, age, geography, and even the decade in which you get married can all affect the divorce rate. How the numbers are being calculated and how they are being presented are both key factors in statistics.
Be careful and be smart! Statistics are meant to help you better communicate and add some quantitative “OOMPH” to a point being made. Just be wary that you don’t let yourself be fooled by numbers that are meant to be more salacious than supportive.