The importance of creativity in a data driven world

image of left and right side of brain showing creativity vs. data analytics

There’s no denying that technology has helped us better understand our customer and how they interact with products and services.

The stuff you can track now is a direct marketers dream! Going back a decade or so ago, you could pretty much only afford to create and test a few different message variants in your mail packs. Now however you can easily, and cost effectively, personalise everything – down to sending bespoke triggered email automatically.

It’s clear there are a huge amounts of benefits to this level of data, including:

  • The ability to make communications more relevant and personalised
  • To help marketing decision making
  • Develop more detailed customer journeys for each audience segment
  • Enable ongoing campaign optimisation
  • Help measure ROI on both a campaign level and individual channel level

Whilst this is all great are you focusing too much on the scientific detail of marketing and forgetting the importance of creativity in our messaging? Surely it’s still the creative message that will achieve the cut through needed in an ever cluttered market place? Here we look at the dangers of getting lost in the data details and losing the art of great communication.


Losing an emotional connection with the customer


Perhaps the biggest danger of too much data is the effect it’s having on developing creative that makes an emotional connection with the customer.

Whilst data can tell us a lot, it can’t always explain the emotional barriers and motivations behind our customers actions. After all, everyone is still a human being and understanding their mindset and psychology is needed in order truly connect with your audiences. Especially when it comes to financial services; as financial decision making is so personal simply because of customers’ heightened monetary and emotional investment.

Hard data simply can not provide this level of understanding. It’s quant research that will enable us to truly understand the barriers and motivations behind people’s actions. And only with this understanding can we can create campaigns that our consumers connect with emotionally.

If we focused purely on data insights rather than emotional insights we would never have amazing standout campaigns like the Cadbury’s Gorillas or the John Lewis Christmas ads.


Becoming afraid to be creative


With a greater emphasis on measurability, it’s becoming too easy to stick to easily measurable, “safe”, campaigns rather than push for greater creativity and innovation.

If you just followed the data there would never be any new ideas, resulting in a collection of similar creative, with no one product or brand having any kind of stand out.

As marketers we still need to be able to trust our gut instincts during campaign development. It might take a strong marketing and brand director to do this but this is often where the biggest gains are.


Getting lost in the detail


With so much data available, it’s inevitable that it can sometimes cause us to get stuck in the detail. There may be 20+ metrics to review at every consumer touchpoint and it would take weeks, or even months, to fully analyse and draw meaningful learning’s from all the data that is available to us. It’s also likely that this data will be contradictory, and most wouldn’t even be relevant to our objectives.

Before we get lost in the detail we need to be able to identify those key metrics that are relevant for that particular campaign, and focus purely on those. This will enable us to really utilise the data that is meaningful, and will make a real difference to your business.


Being too tactical rather than strategic


With so much data there is often a danger of focusing too much on the short-term metrics rather than long term success.

As an example, we had a client (who shall remain nameless!) whose digital team were diligently reviewing the site analytics and making weekly enhancements to optimise site performance. However, after we spent some time reviewing the site, we could quickly see that the information architecture and messaging wasn’t aligned to the various prospect personas needs at this core consideration stage of their decision making journey. After a year of constant refinement the web analytics team were a little frustrated when we recommended fundamental changes to the site based on simple common sense and audience insight. The marketing team however agreed with our point of view and made the bold decision to ‘rip off the band aid’ and restructure the site and its content based on our recommendations.

The results led to an increase in website visitor conversion to customer of X%. This experience demonstrated to us that sometimes you don’t need analytics to improve things or tell you what’s improvable, sometimes you simply need to put yourselves in the shoes of the audience for a moment and the answers soon become abundantly clear!


Misleading data 


Let’s also not forget that, quite often, data can be spun in different ways to meet different objectives. It’s therefore difficult to remain single minded as you can always read the data differently. In fact, it’s worth remembering the quote ‘lies, damned lies and statistics’ when reviewing and taking learnings from data. Whilst data can be useful we shouldn’t be putting all our faith, and basing all our marketing decisions purely on the numbers.

Also, by basing all your decisions on data you are relying heavily on that data being correct. If there is a glitch in the system at any point, e.g data not cleansed properly or sales data not being pulled in from a particular source correctly, you will find yourself making key marketing decisions based on incorrect information.

Unfortunately, managing data quality is tougher than it sounds, especially in a B2B world where data decays so rapidly. When left unchecked, data decay can not only wreak havoc on your data-driven marketing but can also take a drastic toll on your company’s bottom line. Also there can be many factors that are affecting the immediate success of a campaign – a big news story or even unexpected weather for example, that data just can’t pick up.




There’s no denying that data has opened up a heap of possibilities for learnings and more personalised marketing. The real skill however is being able to connect the data insight with emotive ideas. When the two are used together, that’s when the real magic happens.

Is there a time you trusted your marketing instinct and it paid off? Let us know.