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Modern Marketing Brand Strategy Data

‘Marketers must be storytellers’: experts on the humanization of data


By Laura Blackwell | Content Executive

December 20, 2022 | 7 min read

We questioned members of the Drum Network about the future of data against the backdrop of cultural and societal changes.

Computer generated image of human brain on purple background

Is data in need of a rebrand? / Milad Fakurian via Unsplash

More and more, marketers have been leaning into first-party (or ‘owned’) data, in response to changes in privacy regulations.

With it, they're re-visiting the value of qualitative and quantitative data. Executive vice-president at Wasserman, Shelley Pisarra, refers to the two as “art and science” respectively. "I would say that’s been a re-examination that we’ve gone through - [looking at our process] and making sure that we’re actually utilizing every single piece [of data] that we have”, says Pisarra.

Historically, the conversation about data has focused on the quantitative kind. But digital strategist at Search Laboratory Anita Klinkosz argues that such data can only serve us “once users have already engaged with a brand, or they already have an intent”.

So, the question becomes: how can brands make sure they’re using the data they do have effectively, and (if necessary) how do they re-imagine their overall approaches to make that happen?

Cultural context

For Yuka Uchijima, head of insight and research at Ogilvy UK, connecting the dots between data points and cultural trends has never been more important. “Obviously, Covid-19 is an example”, she says. “But politically, in society, there have been so many things that have happened in the last three years that we couldn’t have predicted, culturally, which obviously impacts the ‘why’ in the way consumers are engaging with [brands] and the data trails they’re leaving behind”.

Such insight gives brands context as to why their products are relevant to certain consumers and, in turn, where they should be placing ads and who they need to be speaking to - before people even intend to engage with them.

Uchijima’s view suggests that this context requires an understanding that isn’t solely reliant on third-party data.

Is the industry maturing?

Data science senior manager at Artefact, Aleksandra Semenenko, touches on the importance of collaboration in data gathering, and how it can propel marketing forward.

“Now that you can't measure the exact pathway of a person online, you have to set up your campaigns so that the signal you’re gaining from the campaigns is consistent and you can calculate it”, she explains. “So, now your tech people have to work with the brand managers [and] marketing departments, and it’s like a continuous loop of an amelioration of our understanding about business”.

After taking the familiar road for a while, people are now seemingly ready to experiment more with tech stacks and different types of campaigns and digital platforms (Facebook, Amazon, Google). “I think we’re maturing for sure”, affirms Semenenko.

Greater purpose

Joel Copperfield is global director of measurement and effectiveness at Assembly. He proposes that changes to data might be a good thing. “I felt there was a lack of purpose behind it, because it’s been such a buzzword for about 10 years. Well, why? Why are you doing it? Do you have any idea, really? [...] Now, maybe people are being a bit more purposeful about what it is they’re doing”.

Echoing this, marketing strategist at Rawnet, Rebecca Fell, says: “As soon as big data came out, that was it. [We thought] ‘oh my god, it’s gonna solve all our problems’. And all it did was create more problems, because clients were so quick to jump on that trend and go ‘this is what everyone’s talking about, so we have to talk about it, we have to deal with it’”. From Fell’s perspective, it was a short-lived sentiment that has recently completely flipped.

Known’s chief technology officer and executive vice-president of science, Nathan Hugenberger, adds: “We really encourage our clients to think about that phrase, ‘data science’, and lean into the idea of hypotheses and questions and experiments: the science side of things and less mass-data-collection thing, where you’re never sure of correlation v causation”.

Humanization of data

As head of insight at Journey Further, it is Thierry Ngutegure’s job to make sense of data and the value it holds. To convince their audiences of its value, he argues that marketers must be storytellers.

Uchijima essentially agrees, explaining that ultimately, it's about adding depth to that data. Uchijima cites Tricia Wang's concept of 'thick data' as the antidote to big data. "That's what more companies need. I feel like it's exactly that sort of depth and humanization of it that helps us to make better decisions and tell better stories".

The future of data in marketing – and specifically how we use it – looks positively purpose-driven. As for third-party data, just maybe we can live without it.

Modern Marketing Brand Strategy Data

Content created with:


Wasserman is a global sports, entertainment, and lifestyle marketing agency with expertise in creating connections between brands, properties, talent, and consumers.

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Ogilvy UK

Ogilvy is all about depth and breadth - we have London's broadest and deepest skillset in communications our award-winning teams work fluidly across our core capabilities Advertising Brand & Content, Experience, PR and Influence. And we have the UK's largest dedicated team of award-winning behavioural scientists in-house.

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We are Artefact - a data consulting and digital marketing agency with a global footprint. We'll transform data into value for your business.

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Ad Age's Purpose-Led Agency of the Year. We're the modern alternative, bringing together data, talent, and tech to find the change that fuels growth.

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Rawnet is a digital agency that defines, designs, delivers and drives strategic products and services that create a long-term positive impact.

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Known is a modern marketing company that pairs Ph.D. data scientists with award-winning creatives, expert research teams and strategists who leverage machine learning, AI and the company's proprietary media operating system, called Skeptic. Known is anchored by two decades of groundbreaking market research and data science capabilities, which uniquely empower our marketing strategy and acclaimed creative groups, who produce some of the most innovative, cutting-edge creative work in culture. The result? Marketing that is predisposed to succeed and be persistently optimized, directly impacting clients' bottom lines.

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DRPG is one of the longest established, trusted and uniquely integrated communication and production specialists, famous for making anything possible as we connect people, build brands and help grow organisations worldwide.

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Merkle is a leading data-driven customer experience management (CXM) company that specializes in the delivery of unique, personalized customer experiences across platforms and devices. For more than 30 years, Fortune 1000 companies and leading nonprofit organizations have partnered with Merkle to maximize the value of their customer portfolios.

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