Data-driven creativity – what it means for marketers and how to ace it

Modern day marketing is fixated on data. Numbers drive the messaging strategy, content, timing, distribution, and all else. So much so that marketers globally are now discussing a ‘creative deficit’. Proponents of the deficit philosophy believe that it’s the storytelling that matters most, not data and that both cannot co-exist. It’s easy to see why. According to science, the left side of the brain controls analytics, logic and language, while the right controls creativity and visual comprehension. Marketers are currently swinging on the left extreme. In a recent survey, 80% of marketing executives said the industry is focusing on “too many metrics.” Furthermore, the survey revealed that 64% of senior marketers in large enterprise organizations believe that data and analytics skills alone are most important in the modern marketing department, while just 31% say there should be an even balance between data and creative. Does this spell the death of the “creative” side of marketing or is it really possible for marketers to rise above the left-brain-right-brain dichotomy?

The choice between data or creativity is a false one
At the heart of it, marketing is all about emotions. The emotional appeal must reflect in everything the marketing department does – from customer communications to employee relations, working with other functions, etc. But data isn’t an impediment to emotions – rather it can help marketers understand emotions better to ensure their messaging strikes the right chords with consumers. Marketing leaders must ensure they don’t create a binary strategy where data or creativity individually matters more than the other. The value lies in marrying the two disciplines to infuse insightful and actionable guidance into organizations’ marketing strategies. So how can marketers ace this blend?

#1 Turn creativity into business value: According to McKinsey research, 67% of the more creative companies report above-average organic revenue growth and 70% have an above-average total return to shareholders. How? The answer lies in making room for creativity in every aspect of business. Most of these winning companies encourage employees to brainstorm, and collaborate in more interdisciplinary and cross-department work that helps them push boundaries, change mindsets, and unearth unexpected insights.   

#2 Never believe in ‘too much information’: When it comes to marketing, any information about consumers is valuable. That’s because it helps them understand the preferences as well as pain points to fuel their creative thinking in the right direction. Without data as an anchor, the creative process risks going haywire and losing sight of the main objective. In essence, data and creativity are two approaches of ‘problem solving’ – the difference being that data listens, while creativity speaks. Film festival Cannes’ Creative Data Lions category, especially Data Driven Targeting and Data Storytelling prove how much data and creativity are interlinked.

#3 Operate at the speed of creativity: 74% of the more creative firms say they frequently have to make fast, on-the-spot decisions, that stem from innovative thinking backed by data.  More data-driven creativity spells more speed, and organizations must be willing to allow multiple departments to work together to deliver on this front. They must also be willing to ‘take risks’ as is inevitable when they attempt something new.   

Data is essentially a part of the creative process
Marketing today is as much the art and science it was 15-20 years ago, with the advantage that data lends it the platform to speak to the right people at the right time and place. Creativity was – is – and will remain central to it. The modern marketing opportunity starts with data and because there are so many levers that marketers can pull across channels, data leads the strategy and direction, while acting as the much needed fuel for the creative engines to run.




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