Getting confused about causation and correlation

Seth Godin’s post this morning hit the nail on the head.

Have you noticed that in most cities, every time there are lots of umbrellas, it’s raining?

From this analysis, the obvious way to make it rain is to be sure that everyone has an umbrella, preferably a black one, since that seems to be the kind that’s most visible during big storms.

The trappings of successful marketing (or successful anything for that matter) aren’t always the causes. Sometimes they are the caused. Just because Apple did something doesn’t mean that it was responsible for Apple’s success. It may be that they were successful despite some of the things they did, not because of them.

I see a lot of individuals and brands struggle with this concept. We seem to forget sometimes all that goes into success. Being open to visualize success as the result of controllable AND uncontrollable causes is key. Sometimes there are things we can proactively do to aid in success, but sometimes is it as simple as getting out of the way of what is already taking place.

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