LinkedIn’s Jennifer Brett: ‘Don't view creativity and data as two separate things. Let your data help you tell a great story’


By Ayesha Salim, Content Lead

January 12, 2017 | 5 min read

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For a brand, using data to drive a storytelling campaign should be a dream. But marketers can find it “intimidating jumping into data”, says LinkedIn’s lead of Americas Insights at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, Jennifer Brett. Speaking ahead of The Drum’s upcoming webinar on brand storytelling, Brett talks about how marketers can tackle data in their brand campaigns.

Jennifer Brett, lead of Americas Insights at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions

Jennifer Brett, lead of Americas Insights at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions

When Microsoft decided to buy social network LinkedIn for a whopping $26.2bn last year, reactions ranged from complete shock to simple curiosity. What could Microsoft possibly want from LinkedIn? One word springs to mind. Data - and lots of it. Brett's job should be easy then, given that she helps clients use LinkedIn's data to optimise their marketing campaigns according to their needs.

But even Brett finds challenges.

“I think the confidence aspect is still a bit of a concern but this can be overcome as it becomes [a bigger] part of the marketing industry. Knowing what is being measured can pose a challenge in terms of what brands are trying to achieve.”

Despite evidence that data in marketing increases ROI by 10 to 20%, many marketers still feel uncomfortable in using numbers or data to help their creative campaigns, believing it hampers creativity. WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell rejects this claim, saying “the definition of creativity needs to change”. Unsurprisingly, Brett agrees saying data leads to interesting decisions and findings.

“I think data can bring such great information and insight into a campaign and a narrative and can really compliment those other aspects that are traditionally viewed as creative. If you have access to great data, don't feel that it curtails your creativity. Don't view creativity and data as two separate things. Bring them together and let your data help you tell a great story.”

But how can brands keep up with the staggering volumes of data and technologies to inform their storytelling campaigns? Today user data encompasses online, offline, locations and purchases. For Brett, it is important for the brand to really focus on what it is trying to achieve from the data and how it will help the brand’s overall narrative.

“The trick there is to not get overly excited because data is available and to just dive head first in. It goes back to the point of, what is your objective? If you start with that, then I'm not too worried about people getting overly technical or focused on data because they have an actual guide to take them through the data and lead them towards the right thing they need to obtain and that can actually strengthen their campaign,” she says.

From Google to LinkedIn

Prior to joining LinkedIn, Brett was delivering very different data insights for large retail brands in the UK at Google, which in her words was the “most B2C you could get”. When she moved over to LinkedIn, she says it was a real “mental shift” in terms of going from thinking about mass market strategies with advertising for department stores versus thinking about much longer cycles and different engagement styles at LinkedIn.

“Google's data is different in the way that rather than [trying to] understand specific audiences, it's much more about understanding trends. So trends in queries, trends in products or even what's happening in the wider cultural environment. Google has amazing insight into that more broader general consumer mind.

“At LinkedIn, the exciting change for me was working for a platform that has its own first-party data that's collected in a different way. And you can definitely draw very different insights from both.”

How can brands create better stories?

Authenticity is something that brands are always told is key to really engaging with their consumers. For Brett, running a campaign just for campaign’s sake is not the way to go.

“The reality is people will always respond better if they feel a brand is offering them value. It should be about your story and your brand's viewpoint and position on it.

“Be clear in your objectives. Why are you telling this story? Any good story has a beginning, middle and end. What is the end point to your story? Why are you talking to customers in the first place?”

Brett will be speaking at The Drum’s webinar with Spredfast: Experiments in Storytelling on 16 January. A panel of experts from Ogilvy & Mather, the British Olympic Association and Spredfast will share insights on their own experiences in storytelling and what makes audiences engage with certain content and stories over others.

This will be a fully interactive webinar, giving you the chance to put your questions to all our expert speakers. If you want to make sure your question gets answered, send it to


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