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Writing the Legacy of the Insights Industry

Posted by Brant Cruz on Wed, Jun 08, 2016

lightbulb.pngLast week my family and I vacationed in Virginia—a trip that combined the theme park and pool activities my kids begged for, with a big dose of the US history my wife and I wanted them to have. Our first stop was Monticello, long-time home of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s legacy is accomplished and complicated—he was Secretary of State, Vice President, and our 3rd President, but he was also a historian, philosopher, inventor, and slave holder. An avid reader and collector of books, he sold his massive library to the Library of Congress after its collection was destroyed by the British during the War of 1812. What resonated most for me, however, is how concisely Jefferson chose to have his life summarized on his gravestone. He left these instructions:

"...on the faces of the Obelisk the following inscription, & not a word more: 

Here was buried
Thomas Jefferson
Author of the Declaration of American Independence
of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom
& Father of the University of Virginia”

A lifetime of major accomplishments (which might even include the invention of the pedometer. . . you’re welcome Fitbit!), and he lists only the three most important to him?

It got me thinking about the legacy that I want the “information industry” to leave the world—because I know that no single one of us can leave a legacy like this alone. Here’s my shot at one (Jefferson style):

Here is buried
The first true generation of Insights Integrators
Data scientists and artists both
who aggregated and codified the massive mysteries of the what’s and the why’s
and paved the path to true customer centricity 

This is bit more verbose than Jefferson (which shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows me). But you probably get the point. Beyond his headstone, Jefferson also inspired me with several quotes, which I am convinced were prophetic advice for our profession today:

  • On allocating budget to future focused and/or innovation research: “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.”
  • On the dangers of non-response bias: “We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
  • On report writing: “The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”
  • On making data-driven recommendations: “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little history lesson, and I look forward to seeing your suggestions for our headstone.

Brant Cruz is our resident segmentation guru and the Vice President of CMB’s eCommerce and Digital Media Practice.

Join Brant and Vivaldi Partners Group’s Erich Joachimsthaler for a webinar on 6/22 at 12:30PM EST as they share the results of a 90 brand study. Learn how Social Currency measurement helps brands activate the 7 levers that encourage consumers to advocate, engage, and gain real value.

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Topics: consumer insights