We’re not sure which wag quipped that, ‘without an opinion you’re just another person with data’, to reverse one of last year’s clichéd marketing memes, but it does highlight the inherent snobbery that surrounds data.
This snobbery is probably a hangover from the ‘below the line’ days of direct marketing, which was often looked down upon by the sexier and smoother ‘above the line’ folk (‘hello, are you one of those direct marketing johnnies?’)
A perceived emphasis on patience-sapping testing and further testing, made the whole lark of data-driven direct marketing look like a game of Snap, where statistically a branded offer and consumer need would eventually align, justifying the entire cost of the previous rounds of competing cards, whilst simultaneously delivering a margin on top. Data, it was presumed, would make this whole game of Snap a lot easier to play, and deliver a steady return on investment, even if you might doze off in the meantime.
This methodical and steady approach to whacking the mole on the head, has led to the widespread belief that whilst a data-driven approach might optimise marketing activities, it won’t deliver what every marketer dreams of…wild, rampant, transformational growth.
We believe this thinking is still holding back creative people from embracing data to inspire big game-changing ideas and strategies.
Partly this is down to the far less complex task of getting to grips with first party data. Focusing on how such data can improve customer journeys on websites can certainly increase dividends, but it’s not going to change the world.
Whilst first party data insight and strategy has been carefully honed over the past decade to increase conversion on apps and websites for example, machine learning is now crunching less structured and chaotic third party data with incredible speed. Brands such as Coca-Cola and Adidas are using machine learning to make sense of social media verbatims, good trends, events, news and even the weather to paint a picture of what the consumer might want, based on algorithms making sense of patterns in the ether of everyday conversation and culture. Rather than innovation being a bit like pinning the tail on the donkey of days of old, when external third party data is properly nurtured by intelligent creative and strategists, it’s instead providing these brands with fantastic stimulus to seek out new markets and create new products which wouldn’t have been generated from a blood, sweat and tears creative brainstorm alone.
We hope that 2018 marks the point when more creative people embrace data to inspire far-reaching change, and view data as something malleable, playful and resourceful rather than fixed, cold and impersonal. Because after all, once we’ve got to grips with data and made it work for us, it will usher in a new era of creativity.