Get your head out of analytics: lessons from Gymshark

6 min read by Charles Craik 14 Nov 2022

Attention to data is important, but if you don’t want to miss out on the next big thing, you need to get your head out of analytics, says Chantell Glenville

Much has been written about the Gymshark story and its growth from humble beginnings to arguably the biggest sportswear and lifestyle brand in the world.

Its founder, Ben Francis, took a risk – to pay sports influencers to wear the brand on Instagram. Influencer marketing was in its infancy. They didn’t have a load of data to go on. Francis, in his competitor’s words, Just Did It. And it worked.

What does data really tell us?

What Gymshark did was sum up what it means to be a creative marketer in today’s world.

All CMOs will be tasked with handling data and analytics. We hear much of how today’s CMO must understand data in order to be transformative; to sit at the CFO’s right side; to be well versed in everything from payback to tax breaks.

Missed opportunities?

That’s all well and good, and any CMO will surely have a good head for numbers to have climbed the ladder in the first place. Much is also made about using data to support decision making. But when CMOs rely on that data, it can lead to missed opportunities. For example:

  • When you run a TV ad, your data will tell you that, based on last year’s figures, you can put in a similar amount of investment and be successful.
  • When you put a piece of content onto a website, your data will give you some numbers about the expected click-to-lead ratio and anticipated return on investment.
Strike when it’s cheap

What your spreadsheet won’t tell you is that if you invest in TikTok 3.0 (i.e. something not existing yet) or another form of media in its infancy, that it could be damn effective. You’ve got nothing on that. Data will only tell you what you’ve done before – it won’t give you ideas about what else is out there.

So, you have to take a risk. But these can be measured. Take Facebook ads. When they launched, they were relatively cheap and offered a good return. Plus, it’s not just about testing the hottest new platforms. You can test (and optimise) loads of stuff. For example, you can test variations of a single campaign to your core data; try different automations; play with email timings. You don’t know until you try. 

Do people really know what they want?

Not always – and that’s a problem. Putting success into the hands of the customer is where the magic lies. But when you rely heavily on things like surveys to drive campaigns, it’s very easy to get tunnel vision about what the best solution should be. 

Let’s take a famous example. 

Ogilvy VC – changing the mindset

Rory Sutherland,  Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK and author of Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense makes the now-famous case against HS2, the high-speed railway. 

Briefly: the government justified its £60bn investment on the basis that people wanted faster journeys. By that, the engineers read that people needed new, faster trains – hence the astronomical cost.

In response, Sutherland made the case that the government could simply put on more of their trains, therefore reducing total journey time by simply reducing time spent waiting at the station, without any need for faster trains. This would achieve the same aim without the need for an entirely new railway.

The takeaway: the Great British Public wanted faster journeys. They didn’t necessarily want faster trains. As marketers, it’s our job to change the mindset. We must always be thinking – what’s another way through this challenge? How else can we get where we want to be? By innovating, engaging and being willing to test. (And that’s why the CMO has a very different job to the CTO and CFO!).

Data and the next generation

To stay relevant (aka avoid ‘doing a Blockbuster’), you need to think outside of what your data is telling you. The data is there to give you a solid start point. 

Take your website. Your analytics tell you that the majority of people browsing right now are aged 45-60. But what happens when that generation moves on? What could you do right now to ensure that you are reaching out to the generation below the known audience currently on your site? 

All we’re saying is: don’t let your known data become your entire focus. Simply playing to what it’s telling you means that you could be missing out on others who might want your product or service – if not now, then in time.

More from Chantell

Chantell is the international best-selling author of “What Clients Really Want (And The S**t That Drives Them Crazy)” – the first ever book on how to create great client/agency relationships written by an ex-client.

See also: Keeping clients happy – dos and don’ts for account managers.

Let's talk strategy
Drag Read Watch