I learned about HiPPos in a Ted talk — not the hippopotamus, of course, but the acronym for “HIghest Paid Person’s Opinion.” The term springs out of the frustration of gathering and analyzing data and coming into a meeting with a strong data-driven recommendation… only to discover that decisions are made by HiPPOs, not by examining the data.
IBM conducted a study not long ago that found that less than one quarter of marketing experts used data to make decisions about how to use their resources for marketing. The 23% that they identified as “Marketing Scientists” made decisions based on data. The rest generally had plenty of data to work with, but they didn’t use it effectively.
They went with gut feelings and traditions. This is literally human nature. It’s natural for people to make up their minds and then to pick and choose from the available data to support the decision they’ve already made. Often, those decisions sound like this:
- “We’ve always used cable TV ads. I think the board likes that.”
- “You can’t beat a good phone book listing.”
- “What about a billboard? Lots of other hospitals use those.”
The people in IBM’s survey were usually the highest paid people in the room, so their opinions count for a lot in their organizations. The comments from the other people in the room — the comments made out in the hallway after the meeting, that is — probably sounded something like this:
- “Nielsen says most TV campaigns don’t even break even. Why is that our top choice?”
- “Do you know anybody who uses a phone book to find a new health care provider? Me, neither.”
- “Our website is now the strongest source of sales that we have. I don’t get why we’re going with billboards.”
This may be unfair. After all, it’s probably not true that the HiPPOs always go with their guts and the rest of the company relies on data. Your whole practice might rely on gut feelings. That might happen because of human nature, but it might also be the result of just not knowing what to do with your data.
We often talk with people who aren’t sure whether they have web analytics installed at their websites or not, and most of the people we meet don’t really know what to do with their analytics — or don’t have time.
We can help. Contact us if you’d like to give data-driven digital marketing a try.
Not ready? You can always try AskaHiPPO.