Are Data and Marketing at Odds?

Market Trends - March 5th, 2015 by Natalie Issa.

Last week, I attended a SHETALKS Forum event with a panel discussion that included ThreadFlip’s VP of Marketing, Meghan Cast. Meghan brought up a great point about how the marketing profession is moving more and more towards metrics-driven marketing, while the more creative side of marketing is becoming less of a focus.

It’s hard for anyone to argue with Meghan’s point. Every marketer has witnessed the growing importance of tracking, measurement, and leveraging customer data. While in the past, it was was difficult or impossible to measure performance of a campaign, today you can see your metrics update before your eyes, in real-time. What was once left to gut feeling, is now measured with granularity and precision. Even offline customer interactions are trackable today.vitruvian_man_mixed

The question is, does all of this measurement hinder the creativity that was once the cornerstone of good marketing? Are data and marketing at odds?

I would argue that data and marketing can come together, like art and science, to create something that is even more valuable than either one on its own.

Data as a Source of Inspiration

Data can be a great source of inspiration. When you explore your data and look for patterns, you gain insight you wouldn’t have before.

For example, if you’re wondering why a certain segment isn’t converting well, take a look at your Funnel Analytics and explore individual profiles of customers within that segment. Looking through the granular behavioral data and identifying trends among these customers will provide hints as to what isn’t working. Use this insight to guide and better inform an update or campaign, rather than taking a stab in the dark.

Ecommerce profile

It seems intuitive that only good can come from having a deeper understanding of customer behavior. The more we know our customers, the better we can market to them. Data gives us this insight and is an invaluable tool to help inspire the creative side of marketing.

Powering Creativity with Data

Data can also be the engine that powers marketers’ creative strategies. This is perhaps the most exciting way data and marketing can work together, which was never possible in the past.

For example, marketers are now able to create personalized experiences for customers. Personalization requires quite a bit of creativity – identifying the right personas, creating the custom content, designing the experience – but it is also impossible to implement without the proper data.

We’ve discussed before how customer analytics and marketing automation can come together to create better customer experiences by making your marketing more relevant and valuable to customers. These initiatives require creativity in designing and composing campaigns, but their execution is entirely data-driven.

Targeting these campaigns in a consistent way requires data points from all the various customer touch points, such as web or mobile interactions, help desk tickets, email marketing, live chat, and more. It’s only once you collect, centralize, and organize all this data that you can then leverage it to power the creative initiatives and ultimately deliver better experiences.

With both creativity and data working in tandem, marketers have an unprecedented opportunity to reach customers in a personal and relevant way.

Measuring Creativity with Data

Employing data to measure the performance of a creative strategy is the most obvious and common usage, but it shouldn’t be discounted. You simply can’t improve what you don’t measure.

The oft-repeated quote, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half”, is applying less and less to marketing as a result of the mass amounts of data we now have access to.

Let’s take a search campaign – arguably the least creative of advertising campaigns. It starts with identifying keywords, which can often be an art as it requires you to anticipate what terms your potential customer would search for and all the different variations. Creativity is once again used to design the ad copy. Once the campaign is live, you use data to measure performance, while employing creativity to tweak keywords and ad copy. In this example, measurement and creativity work together to optimize the campaign so that it performs bettter than it would have if one or the other were absent.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Some would argue that the key to working with both traditional marketing and data is compromise. They would posit that marketers should learn to identify when to focus on data and when to focus on creativity.

I would, alternatively, argue that compromise is not the answer, but rather marketing evolution is. While compromise can certainly bring harmony, it implies that both sides are at odds and requires each side to give something up. On the other hand, an evolved marketing that leverages art and science together where the whole is other than the sum of its parts is even more powerful, and is the future of marketing.

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