Big data is the big deal that has the potential to transform a business by giving its clients what they want, when they want it, where they want it and how they want it.
Data is one of the most powerful tools we have at our disposal today. But the power of the tool is limited by its application, which relies on the vision, creativity and expertise of those using it to turn it into something meaningful.
Data is nothing more than information, but the information in and of itself is of little use to marketers and advertisers. It’s only when clients understand that data-is-people that it starts to have an impact on both strategy and personified creative delivery.
0.5-second attention economy
On mobile phones, we form a decision on the validity and appeal of the content we are viewing in less than a second, recent research has shown. We’re in the age of the ‘attention economy’ where we understand that human attention is a finite resource.
The slice of our attention that marketers and advertisers are constantly vying for is getting smaller and smaller, and smaller yet. This highlights a critical question, often overlooked by marketers: you can pay for reach and frequency, but can you pay for engagement?
The importance of creative that is unique to the target segment is not even enough. I call it the WhatsApp test – if you are not forwarding the content to your own peer groups, then the creative missed the mark. This defines what data-led creative is.
As we become increasingly accustomed to our online world being curated and customised for us, to the internet reflecting our individual needs and preferences, so the pressure on brands increases to ensure they delight us at every juncture.
What this means for marketers, advertisers and content developers is that they need to personalise, personalise and personalise some more.
The power of the personal
Personalisation works by placing the individual at the centre of the communication strategy, in a way that is simultaneously smart and discreet. It’s not just about a name in an email newsletter, it’s about a tailored message that demonstrates insight into the individual’s interests, preferences and spending patterns.
Get it right and clients are delighted and immediately the brand gains equity in the form of recognition and respect.
Get it wrong though and the client is instantly irritated. An emailer from a large insurer serves as a great example. Sent in mid-November to a client in the Western Cape, the insurer offered information on how she could protect her vehicle against hail during the rainy season.
Sounds nice enough, except that November is not the rainy season in Cape Town. The result was that the client unsubscribed from the insurer’s marketing mailers. That’s a debit in the attention column.
Conversely, a campaign Hoorah created for Audi demonstrates how the combination of data and creative can lead to real personalisation.
By utilising the data Audi made available about their customers we were able to create a personalised video to remind the customers when their vehicle warranty would be due for renewal or extension. The video addressed the vehicle owner by name, referenced their specific Audi model, the date or kilometre reading at which the warranty would expire, as well as the dealership at which the vehicle was purchased.
This data was the crux of the message and allowed us to create a personalised video for the individual that addressed their specific vehicle concern. The data was the foundation around which the creative was developed.
Data is queen and creative is king – a royal combination!
The Audi case study shows that by using data in creative, the most important thing to still remember is that there is a human being at the receiving end of the message.
While data should be the foundation of strategic thinking, it can’t cloud the creative or make the message seem forced or formulaic. And that’s where the flair of the creative director becomes more relevant than ever. The savvy executive creative director knows that creative is what tugs at the heartstrings ultimately, but that leveraging the data in a smart way gives the creative wings to soar.
While we are the first to sing data’s praises, it is also important to recognise what data can’t do. It can’t be personable in and of itself. It can’t surprise, engage, delight or invoke much emotion by its mere existence. That’s where the creative still triumphs. And the real ROI is found where data drives creative.
The application of the right kind of data, as with technology in general, is that it has the ability to streamline operational efficiencies and strengthen the quality of decision making. When it comes to creative in marketing, and advertising in particular, data takes the guesswork out of the equation.
It feels like marketers are coming to terms with the power and potential of data, throughout the industry, and they are increasingly aware of its transformative capability. And while data is big, it’s crucial to pay heed to the fact that data is still about people, and the data is merely a tool for understanding and relating to people in a better, more delightful way.
Jay Thomson is co-founder of Hoorah Digital, an advanced digital media and marketing performance consultancy. The agency works with in-house teams using its technology and expertise to optimise clients’ media mix, to bring down overheads and to maximise the profitability of their digital channels.
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