I've gotten quite annoyed by some people's (and companies') use of statistics. Like, a recent Cherrios ad
"Reports show that people that consume more whole grains are shown to have healthier body weight."
"94% of all readers have engaged in an historical event or activity within the past year. this is based on 65,000 respondents. Our goal is to target this demographic"
So, it begs HUGE questions, which, at its most basic is "why?"
Why are people consuming more whole grains shown to have healthier body weight?
Why are readers attending historical events?
and, with the second, what KINDS of events or activities?
These statistics are incredibly misleading. let's take, for instances, the first.
Why do they have healthier body weights? Well, whole grains tend to be much more filling, so, perhaps, they're eating fewer servings. Or, perhaps, it's because the whole grain foods, especially cereals, aren't always covered in sugar. or, is it because those focusing on eating whole grains are also equally focused on eating other healthier foods. will eating whole grain cereal make you healthier. nope, not by itself, at all.
the second, well...
Without answering the "what kind of events" how can any company really decide on a product? saying "they like the civil war and will spend money on it, regardless" is pretty ridiculous. are they buying may different dvd's (the main product of this company)? are they going to re-enactments? or are the going to, say in the case of professors that subscribed to the magazine the stats came from, going to a conference over the Civil War. without that sort of info, WHAT are they ACTUALLY spending money on, it's nearly impossible to decide on a product. you can't just say "Hey, it's Civil War, they'll love it!"
Also, as i've noticed with a lot of Civil War buffs i know, they tend to gravitate toward specific events, battles, figures. It's not "OOO, CIVIL WAR! Let's buy a DVD!" also, the company is not paying attention to other figures, like money actually made in dvd sales vs. other products, such as live performances. Take a look at the film industry. They don't make their money back on the show from DVD sales, they make it back at the BOX OFFICE!
also, there's another VERY important part to the second set of statistics. how many people are actually in the demographic? in other words, when you break it down, is your primary audience 100,000 people? 1 million people? 65,000 people? and then, how many would really be interested in your product from that demographic?
so, yeah, i'm growing tired of this misuse of statistics. They can contain a large amount of info, but, c'mon. I'm not stupid enough to go on something that only offers part of the story. I'm especially wary of statistics presented just as percentages. so, let's say 75% of my friends on facebook are fans of my artist page. that sounds pretty good. but what if i said i only had 100 friends on facebook? all of a sudden, i only have 75 fans. well...that's pretty lame.
so, statistics good. bad use of statistics REALLY REALLY BAD. rant over