Closing the Gap between data and creativity in brand marketing

By Stefan Britton, Commercial Director, Datasine.

At Datasine we recently hosted a roundtable where leading marketing professionals discussed the gap between data and creativity in marketing. While data is largely about bringing structure, meaning and segmentation, marketing is still a highly creative discipline.

As these two worlds collide, how can we bring these seemingly polar forces closer together for the better?

Which is more important in marketing – data or creativity?

Chris Loy, CTO and co-founder at Datasine:

“Creativity has always been at the forefront of marketing. When you remember a campaign, it’s the creative that’s ultimately imprinted in your memory. Marketing as an industry looks for creative ways to reach out and connect with the customer. However, data has always been at least half the equation. If creativity is the heart, then data is the head.

“From focus groups in the 60s, up to micro targeted segments on Facebook in 2020, data is how we predict, evaluate and drive performance. Without the use of data, marketing becomes detached from its purpose. While data is the voice of the customer, the real magic can only happen when you connect the two together.”

Hannah Smith, Creative Content Consultant at the Worderist:

“To be successful, marketing needs to resonate with target audiences and provoke action. At the very beginning of this process you need to know who you are targeting and what motivates those people. Then the creative should provoke the target audience, based on those initial insights. Data is key in terms of measurement – you can’t tell if a campaign is successful without measuring the results.

“I’ve often been told that constraint fuels creativity which I think is a myth but neither does unbounded freedom. It’s all about balancing them both. An over reliance on data can end up with a very narrow brief, not offering much room to play as a creative. However, when done properly, data and insight can offer the right kind of constraint and focus to a brief, leading to much better creative work.”

Does data stifle creativity?

Laura Beauparlant, Founder & Creative Director at Lab Creative:

“Creativity is all about experimentation and if you only ever follow the data you will only give people what they expect – which reduces experimentation. There is a risk that experiments might flop but that’s a part of marketing. We can use data to work out what we can play with but if you play it too safe you run the risk of getting lost in the noise, because you are blending in with expectations. I have seen many clients find success recently because they tried new things – minor shifts can yield great results! I believe both are important but if we are too data driven, we lose that creativity which I think is essential.”

Will Lowe, Chief Data Officer at Engine Group:

“You have to define the problem before you work out what the solution is – is it awareness, brand perception, increased purchase? The “who”, “what” and “how much” needs to be defined in numbers to inform the creative brief. Data has always led the creative process. Creatives don’t like briefs that are open-ended because it makes it difficult to know where to start. We need to know what our clients want and while it might be great to be given breadth to explore, it makes my job easier if I’m given boundaries to initially work within, rather than putting further data points in down the line. Data work needs to be done up front, leaving a clear pathway to give creatives direction, rather than stifling them.”

Is marketing creativity changing because of data?

McVal Osborne – Head of Data and Insight, Social Chain:

“Every new social tool that comes to market allows us to view data in great detail and we’re constantly blending those insights into our creative brief. We constantly test new content from both an observable hard data perspective, as well as human observation. For audience understanding, it’s important to go beyond the KPIs of new followers and engagement and ask deeper questions about what matters to people. Social media also allows us to shift our focus during a campaign. We can constantly tweak and test the communications that go out, before using data to measure the effectiveness of a campaign. Creativity is helping the data industry as much as data is helping creatives. We are seeing interesting ways that data is being visualised.”

What’s the optimal balance between data and creativity to understand behaviours and then appeal to them?

Nisa Bayindhir – Exec VP Behavioural Science, Pulsar

“When we look at target audiences, we only see what is in front of us, instead of the potential that may be out there. Usually quantitative data looks at the outcomes which is very deductive, whereas multimethod data research removes any assumption. I think it’s important to see the potential beyond your existing target audience.

Behaviour is fluid, which is why data is increasingly important. While in the past assumptions were solid hypotheses that marketers could run with, that is no longer the case. Segments such as Gen X, Millennials or Gen Z are now irrelevant and instead, behavioural groups are what define people. For that reason, behavioural signals are the best starting point to create derivatives from.

Data is solution orientation and the creative is artistic, therefore data keeps creativity grounded and offers a sounding board that we can go back to and keep testing. Data and creativity are siblings that can’t be without each other.”

Data continues to be the catalyst to creativity and both should be used to navigate each other. Looking forward, while data becomes increasingly sophisticated, it will help businesses to drill down further into subsegments of their customer base.

Although AI will undoubtedly play a critical role, the ever-changing collective consumer consciousness requires the human touch, businesses must remain on top of this and keep listening.

Photo by Amélie Mourichon on Unsplash

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