How Marketing and Advertising Creatives Can (Actually Enjoy) Using Data
Modern marketing lies at the confluence of two seemingly opposing forces – creativity and data.
On the one hand, you have an almost mystic force. How does corporate creativity even work? Sure, there are studies and research and methodologies about it, but there is a certain magic to getting those creative concepts and campaigns that can’t be explained.
And on the other hand, you have cold, hard data. Numbers. Facts. While data-driven marketing has an art to it as well, too many creatives have been subjected to “Death by Excel Chart” meetings to really understand that art.
What’s Your Motivation in Your Career?
According to the MECLABS Conversion Heuristic, a methodology to help marketers increase the probability of conversion, the factor that most affects conversion is the motivation of the potential customer.
However, this heuristic doesn’t just apply to a customer buying a product. Because a conversion is any action someone takes.
And that applies to you as well. In your career. Why did you choose the line of work you are in? What motivates you every day?
For me personally, I wanted a job where I could flex my creativity. So I chose a career in advertising and marketing. I started as a copywriter, where creativity is baked into the job description.
So I’ll confess – the rise of data-driven marketing was not something I naturally felt comfortable with at first.
And I use the word “confess” for a reason. Because if you’ve had a career in marketing, you’ve learned how to ride a tide of buzzwords in your career. So over drinks at a networking event, you can speak to data-driven marketing with ease.
Deep down, though, are you really comfortable with data? I’ll admit I wasn’t. But over the years I’ve come to see its value to the marketing creative and, dare I say, its beauty. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that I hope you find useful as well.
Data Can Be Overwhelming — Try to Narrow Down to What Really Matters
One reason data gets a bad rap is because it’s so overwhelming. Many marketers and creatives have sat through mind-numbing meetings where they’re presented reams of data complete with discussions of cluster analyses and negative binomials. These meetings can be especially lengthy and boring because the presenter may be focused on justifying their job or company.
Or perhaps you’re tasked with going through all the data yourself. Endless numbers in spreadsheets and platforms.
In these situations, I’ve found an analogy works well to help me sift through it all. Because we creatives actually do take a similar approach. As a copywriter concepting advertising campaigns with my art director, we would cover the walls in marker comps of concept after concept after concept. Anyone who walked into one of our offices might be overwhelmed.
Having all those ideas – like having a ton of data – can be good start. It helps lead you to places you might not have naturally gone. However, it should just be a start, and the end should look very different. You need to be able to rein it in at some point.
We knew how to sift through all those ideas to find the gold hidden in that fast-flowing river, and ultimately, extract the best concepts.
When working with data, make sure the end focus is on simplification and not just data for data’s sake. To help you rein in the numbers, we’ve created the free Data Pattern Analysis Tool – a simple but powerful spreadsheet tool to help you tame your metrics.
There Really Is Gold in Them Thar Data Hills... When Approached With a Direct Marketing Mindset
What’s the difference between a direct marketer and a brand marketer? In one word – action.
Nothing against brand marketers, but for the direct marketer the creativity must have a very specific purpose: to get a customer to take a specific action like calling a phone number, going to a website, etc.
When engaging in data analyses, it’s all too easy for the type of people who have great data brains to overlook the story that leads to action. That type of storytelling – a technique us creatives love – is key to really getting value from the data.
A key question to ask before presenting any data analysis (or when being presented a data analysis) is, "how will this information actually influence a decision or behavior?" It could be an internal decision at the company. Or it could be a customer’s decision you are trying to influence.
But data without action has little value. It’s not enough for the data team to just crunch some numbers and present the results. What does it mean? How should a behavior or decision be changed because of it?
That’s where the gold is.
For example, we’ve been garnering marketing lessons by working with Ten by Three, a unique nonprofit that actually sells products, and sharing them in our new show The Marketer as Philosopher: Become a Force for the Good.
When conducting a data analysis, our team discovered a vitally important insight.
Ten by Three sells products created by artisans in developing countries to help them pull themselves out of poverty. The products have mostly been sold in brick-and-mortar retailers – Whole Foods, Disney theme parks, local specialty retailers, etc. – and the company is now trying to build its ecommerce business. Each basket has a paper tag attached to it that allows the purchaser to visit Ten by Three’s website and learn about and communicate with that individual artisan.
In the endless busyness that most organizations face, the team at Ten by Three had designed the tag, printed it, attached it to products, and assumed it was working while they moved on to other tasks.
However, the data analysis showed them that tag was an important place to focus their marketing efforts because it aligned with their key goal – drive more traffic to the ecommerce website with no additional budget to do so. An almost impossible task…until the data analysis found a very specific action the team could take.
You can watch for yourself how this insight unfolded in The Marketer as Philosopher Episode 2, The Data Pattern Analysis: 3 ways to turn info into insight.
True Creativity Thrives Within Limits
Endless budgets with no restrictions sounds like a good idea in theory. But every creative knows that the most effective ideas come with a firm understanding of what the business needs and what it can actually execute. Data discoveries are just one more way to add some limits to help a company realize profitable revenue from those creative ideas.
When I interviewed Wharton’s Peter Fader and Sarah Toms about customer-centric mobile marketing, we discussed how Electronic Arts used data to improve the product. “When they realized the power of the data that Pete was just talking about, they had a bit of a crisis about identity. They're like, ‘but we're a creative company. How can we now be all data, all the time?’” Toms said.
Zach Anderson, the chief analytics officer at Electronic Arts, won over those creative hearts and minds with this analogy – cooking competition shows where the chefs are doing incredibly creative things with ingredients that are given to them. So data is really just another ingredient you have at your disposal as you cook up your own take on a classic matzoh ball soup or marketing campaign.
Writing Is Research
Effective copywriters don’t spend most of their time writing. They spend most of that time researching, so they can better understand and therefore better write to the customer.
Direct response copywriter Josh Manheimer told me he read Letters from the Editor in the front of magazines to determine what motivates an audience. I think every conversion copywriter should be skilled at interviewing to help speak the customer’s language.
In other words, we creatives have been using data all along. We just focused on the qualitative end of it.
That is a good reminder when we’re faced with quantitative data. The metrics from data-driven marketing is really just one more research tool to help us understand the value of the product, find the opportunities, and speak to customers in a way that will produce an action.
Get your free, simplified MECLABS Institute Data Pattern Analysis Tool to discover opportunities to increase conversion.
Daniel Burstein is the Senior Director, Content and Marketing at MECLABS Institute. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the marketing direction for MECLABS — digging for actionable discoveries while serving as an advocate for the audience.