Marketing pioneer and retail magnate John Wanamaker once said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”.
That’s the nub of an issue that’s been driving a huge change in marketing: Data.
By accurately attributing revenue to channels, matching buying behaviours to activities, and customers to products, data has the power to inform which half of your budget is wasted. The trouble comes when you try to work out what to do next.
Data without Creativity
Some clients, realising the power of data, feel the need to be led and informed almost entirely by data. An example would be where a board only sign off a campaign idea if it ticks the prerequisite boxes constructed for them data.
Now, I’m not saying that’s what the board of Pepsi did when they signed off that ad campaign, but it certainly makes sense.
I can almost see the market research checklist:
Our audience is…
Global and diverse
□ Include one person from every major ethnicity
□ Include one Muslim
□ Let’s add a transgender person in there
Concerned by global justice
□ Maybe include a protest march in there
Probably someone’s mum
□ Okay, well let’s all have very mild-mannered protest signs, some smiling faces, and people hugging
I’m sure there were a few more specifications in there, but you get the picture.
Pepsi released a statement saying: “This is a global ad that reflects people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony, and we think that’s an important message to convey.”
As Globescan’s 2016 public radar shows, 40% of ‘aspirational consumers’ – the world’s emerging middle class – want to choose brands that “have a clear purpose and act in the best interests of society”. So why not have an aspirational model (Kendall Jenner) taking part in a protest (a clear purpose)?
Data is seductive. It tells you what people like, not how they might feel. It knows what to change, but not how. It tells you how things are now, not how they could be.
As an old adage, attributed to Henry Ford, goes: “If I asked people what they wanted, they probably would have said faster horses”.
Creativity without Data
Sticking creatives in a vacuum will (aside from giving the analysts a wry smile) often lead to overproduced marketing and advertising that has little relevance to the target audience. Your two options become:
- Spray and Pray
- Create for everyone
Option one leaves you trying to justify poor ROI on the basis that the creative must have reached at least the core audience. Option two leaves you with a bigger bill than a pelican.
Data helps hone and refine an approach to give it the best chance to succeed. So, is there a way the two can work seamlessly together?
Getting Creative with Data
No, I don’t mean make up the data to fit your creative. We’re not on Trump’s policy team. Rather, let’s find a way to let creative and data play nicely together.
In essence, the issue is that:
- Creative tends toward the infinite. Combining new and old ideas leads to an infinite choice. Picking one then becomes ‘gut feel’.
- Data tends toward convergence. Take a large enough data set and everyone will see the same trends. At that point, there is no decision left to be made and everyone runs essentially the same campaign.
Bring them together, however, and you have data-informed creative.
There are two main ways they work together:
- Creative is refined by data
In this approach, you come up with your creative ideas around the brand and then pass each idea through the data mill to chisel off the bits that don’t fit.
- Data informs creative
Alternatively, find all your data first, consume and meditate on it, and then use it to create a good brief. This helps inform creative ideas as you go.
I don’t believe that there is a ‘better way’ of doing this – it comes down to the approach your creative team prefer. Some will find that having data in advance will take them out of a creative headspace, one in which you need to play with silly ideas to get to good ones. Personally, I like to have a good brief before I start to help me structure my environment and thinking for maximum creativity.
As Margaret Burke, Director of Brand at Three, says: “If you use data to get an insight and that insight leads you to a great creative brief, that’s brilliant. If you’re using data in the way that a lot of clients and companies do, which is talking only about facts, I think that leads to pretty mediocre, undifferentiated briefs.”
Targeting Audiences with Data
There are also two ways of using data to inform targeting:
- Audience of One
Boiling your data down to a single segment (or two) means you can create just for them.
- Many Audiences
Setting the creative juices going and coming up with many ideas means you can select ideas that work for each of your key audiences.
Which approach you decide to go for is a matter of budget, channel and data available. If you want to focus on a single channel (e.g. social) with limited budget, or you just don’t have the quality data for more than one group, it’s best to go for the former.
To make a real splash across devices and channels, sink big budgets into the latter. Just remember that you’ll need the data to back up your audience profiles.
For many, creating for many audiences is the dream, but lack of budgets and/or quality data makes it impossible. That shouldn’t stop you from dreaming big, though.
A strategic content and data-capture plan can get you started with a single audience while gathering much more information on other audiences. As revenue grows from the single audience and you gain quality data on other audiences, you then have the budget and data required to chase many audiences.
Data has the power to inform, and creative has the power to inspire. If you can enable the two to work together instead of against each other, you have the makings of something truly spectacular.
If you want to learn more about how to use data to empower your creative decisions, we recommend this blog on how to form the beginnings of a Customer Journey Analysis. And if you really want to get the creative juices flowing, get in touch to arrange a meeting. We’ll help your brand get on the forefront of data and creativity innovation.