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Creativity will save us
July 22, 2021
I know what you’re thinking — what do we need saving from? What’s this common enemy or imminent threat we’re facing right now? Well, there’s a few. But specifically I’m talking about how to use data to inform great creative thinking, rather than being ruled by data to the point where our marketing becomes boring at best, and creepy at worst.
We’re in a good place, us marketers. We’re armed with more data than ever. But, often, we feel like we don’t know how to properly reach them. Why? Because, we’re just not reading it right. Tangled in all the numbers, our communications risk becoming generic, overcalculated and inauthentic. And that’s no way to speak to your audience if you want them to stick around.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how advanced we are with automation and data predictions. If we can't make creative leaps, we’ll be stuck staring at spreadsheets and doing the same things over and over again.
If authenticity is the ultimate destination, we need to come to marketing with a uniquely human mindset while using data effectively. But what does that really look like?
What does ‘data-led creative’ actually mean?
Let’s talk data. Everyone loves to talk about it without really defining what it is. So let’s start thinking about data as the tool we use to help us understand whether what we’re saying is bullshit or not.
Data can sound cold, but, really, there’s nothing cold about it if you read it right. Data tells a long and winding story about the customer’s interests – what they love, what they say, how they identify themselves, what their behaviours are. All deeply fascinating stuff that feels like a peak behind the curtain.
After all, users are people.
So, it’s not data or creative. It’s up to you to come at data with a creative mindset, to extract the journey and the meaning, and to turn those numbers into the epic love story your audience deserves.
Using the data to create meaningful content is the only way to encourage a genuine human exchange between your brand and the customer.
There’s a right and a very wrong way to use data
Data completely dodges creativity when it’s used solely for confirmation. It’s a common behaviour to turn to data when we need numbers to back up big ideas. That’s not using data, that’s manipulating it. And there’s nothing creative about that. Similarly, data is nothing without interpretation and layering on common-sense and instinct.
True creatives don’t just use data to corroborate their goals — they use it to challenge them. Equally, data-led creative doesn’t just mean treading a linear course of data first, ideas after. We have to be flexible with data right the way through the marketing process, consulting it openly at the moments it can really inform your process, decisions and ideas. That’s bold creative.
Also, data isn’t just the stuff in a spreadsheet
You don’t need access to hundreds of data tools to uncover insights. Insights come from uncovering truths that you can only find from research. Good ol’ fashioned research.
At Brilliant Noise, we have a formula for coming up with ideas. Every creative team will have their own version of this. But basically, to get as many ideas out of our brains and onto paper, we spend a limited amount of time thinking about one thing and then move onto the next. We research, we read, we listen, we talk as much as we can to gather insights exclusive to the numbers. Then, we forget it. And let our subconscious take over for the night. In the morning, we’ve usually had another idea.
The key to good ideas isn’t staring into space waiting to be blessed by a higher power with the winning idea. It comes from reading books, collecting articles, watching YouTube, listening to podcasts and talking to other people about the thing you’re trying to crack. This is data too.
By regularly testing, failing, and figuring out what works, brands can reach a level of maturity where they’re actually conversing with their consumers and engaging with their fast-changing needs, not just broadcasting to them. It’s all about keeping on top of that two-way exchange.
Your brand is constructed in the minds of your audience, which you’ll never have complete control over. But a creative mindset is one that embraces change and chance. It's a more random, risky and dangerous approach, and that’s what keeps it exciting and progressive.
So, rather than naval-gazing and attempting to control brand perception, keep putting new ideas out there, experimenting regularly. And fast. Let’s stop fearing failure and start fearing the cycle of doing the same things over and over again. That’s the real threat.
Don’t be creepy
An automated approach to content stifles innovation. And that ain’t good, but the risk doesn’t stop there.
Personalised marketing with an element of data-automation can encourage intimate relationships with your audience, but only when it doesn’t translate as intrusive, calculated or surveillance-y. There’s a very fine line.
The key is knowing when your use of language and presentation of data about the customer is sapping the trust and humanity from your communications. Newsflash: it probably is — online consumers are increasingly holding onto their privacy by denying online tracking and using ad-blockers. But that doesn’t have to block your strategy.
Your brand is operated by brilliant humans, not robots. Audiences relate to brilliant humans, not robots. So don’t let the entirety of your marketing strategy be dictated by data and automation rather than using intuition and creative thinking. As marketers, we should actively avoid just insipidly taking information and re-presenting it. It’s not creative data use, it’s just creepy.
Solve problems, grab attention
Being truly useful to your consumers means you can enter into that blessed world of authenticity. Your product should only be a fraction of the overall story. What you do, say, believe and celebrate in your online content really matters. And, actually, for your consumer relationships, it matters the most.
You have to think like your customer, understand what really matters to them, and present those findings with creative content that considers current trends and really speaks to your audience.
Need an example? When we developed our Electric Adventures video series campaign with EDF, we sent digital creators on road trips around the UK to bust myths around owning and driving electric vehicles. Showing real people, real stories, and real action wins when it comes to providing useful and entertaining content for the consumer. It solves their practical problems while entertaining them with high-quality, highly consumable video content. Tick, tick, tick.
Will creativity really save us? If the alternative is generic and cold marketing, then hell yeah. But what’s your stance? We’d love to find out. Get in touch today to see how we can help you start using data towards radically customer-focused creative.