Data vs. Creativity

BY Kacie Meixel // Content Director

Finding the unsexy middle ground for more effective campaigns

To start, I should tell you: this title is misleading. I’m not here to wage war against analysts. I’m not pitting data against creativity or vice versa; but rather, hoping to make the case for more data-inspired creativity. And you know what? It IS a little sexy.

Contrary to what many may believe, it’s not “either or,” but “and.”

We’ve come a long way from the Mad Men days when a stroke of creative genius was prized above all else. John Wanamaker’s famous quote — “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” — isn’t as true as it used to be for digital marketing. We now gather data to better understand what’s working and what’s not. 

It’s these insights that inform better communication. We know who we need to reach, when we need to reach them, and how to measure success. But you can’t engage customers with data alone.

Rather, it’s the creative and messaging that carry prospects through the full purchase journey. Depending on who you talk to, there are three or four phases of said journey. Translated into plain English, they are:

  1. When they don’t know who we are
  2. When they’re interested in learning who we are
  3. When they’re about to buy
  4. When they’re customers

In reality, we know buyers do not move forward in a linear way, and there are several subtle touches amidst the big milestones. With that in mind, we can use the data we’ve gleaned from each of these phases to create more meaningful messaging and personalize our creative. 

It’s time to move beyond the whole “creativity versus technology” debate, and employ more data-inspired creativity—using what we know to imagine new ways of thinking, working, and creating. Here’s how: 

  1. Use data as a creative compass

Gone are the days when we limit ourselves to a single universal thought. Data can enable us to extend an experience into places we may have previously overlooked, or help us validate audiences and nuances within them. Even more so, it can help prove the case for creative. Too many ideas have been filed in the bottom drawer because there wasn’t enough ‘evidence’ to support a bold creative approach. This is the evidence we’ve been waiting for.

  1. Push us out of our norms

Data is simply documenting keen observation—like standing in a museum and watching how people move between exhibits. Or looking on as people grocery shop on a Thursday evening. If we let it, data takes us to meet people and places we might not otherwise experience. It pushes us outside of our social ecosystem that only reinforces our current values and beliefs, and allows us to better understand other perspectives, needs, and outlooks. We can use this information to fuse the science of how people process information with the art of creation, and from there, create truly meaningful, motivating, and valuable experiences.

  1. Shift from ‘I think’ to ‘I know’

Using data to support our positions removes subjectivity and allows us to focus on delivering more meaningful work (see point 2). We use data to provide insight, to validate a creative idea, to measure the impact of our work, to optimize for even greater results, and to build greater intelligence. In other words, data helps us reframe the conversation with our teams from ‘I think’ to ‘I know.’

  1. Tell more personalized stories

Data and technology help us to better understand who our audience is and what they need at any given point in time. Because of that, we are able to tell more personalized stories—the most impactful stories of all—and meet them where they are.

Ideas and storytelling that move people are the bedrock of all communication, but can be guided by a holistic, more scientific understanding of our audiences. A strong melding of creativity and data informs decisions that lead to more targeted, relevant campaigns. Because of this, a data-inspired strategy is paramount to success.