As I write this blog, I’m remembering my 9th grade math class with Mr. Wilkerson. I distinctly recall the lesson on the differences between the mean, median, and mode. In case you can’t remember, mean is the average (taking the sum of all data points and dividing it by the number of data points). Median is the data point that lies in the absolute center of the two most outlying data points. Mode is the most common data point in the set.

If you’ve already fallen asleep, marketers – wake up! Here’s how it’s relevant to you.

Earlier in the blog, we were talking about buying local, and the idea that 100 local campaigns can be vastly more effective than 1 national campaign. I know that there are a lot of marketers out there that may disagree, often with the comment “But our national campaign had a 2% response rate!” Sure… 2% on a national campaign is a tremendous success! But that’s an average across a wide area – a mean, if you will.

My question is – locally, in each demographic, what was the mode? What was the most common response rate across each individual market that you pitched your product to? Chances are it was much less than the mean in your national campaign. Larger markets may have had much higher response rates, while smaller markets (the ones that are likeliest to respond to local campaigns) are much lower. The average looks good, but realistically, you burned a lot of advertising dollars on areas that didn’t respond well.

Lord Leverhulme once said “I know that half of my advertising budget is wasted; but I’m not sure which half!” If you’re conducting national campaigns, that’s exactly what you may be doing – wasting half your advertising dollars by ignoring the smaller local markets. You may be trading a 2% national mean for a 10% local mode across all areas.

Something to think about.