To call it a debate is perhaps not the best phrasing, although that is what it seems to have become as we continue full force through the age of “big data” that is only getting bigger. Many marketers act as if data and creativity are mutually exclusive, arguing that even if both are present there must be more of one than the other. Let’s begin the argument by immediately diffusing it and clarify that the two are not interchangeable. Data is simply information and creativity is what we do with it. Perhaps the real question is how and why you should effectively implement both in your marketing plan. Let’s begin by defining the elusive ‘big data,’ this ever-watching eye of big brother tracking our every step and every technology-fueled decision.
What is Big Data?
Just as a brief recap, big data is seemingly unlimited data sets that can be used to track behaviors, trends, and human patterns in this technological world. While in the past data was gathered on much smaller scales, such as through focus groups, now larger sets of organized data allows us to micro-segment our audiences instead of lumping them into broad categories. This allows marketers to more accurately reach their target audience.
Why You Need Both
Think of the entire marketing process, or even just one campaign, as painting a masterpiece. Frida Kahlo painted works based on her life and her perspective of the experiences she witnessed, creating some of the most iconic artworks in history. Big data allows us to take those initial experiences, or statistical data about them, and view them from different perspectives. Thus, we can get a clearer picture of our world and create bigger and better ideas. It was only through her skill and unbelievable creativity that Frida was able to put her visions on canvas. There is no substitute for her creativity and the same can be said of ours as marketers.
Almost every big company you can think of, especially technology-driven, depend on big data. Amazon, Google, Uber, Network Gaming, all forms of social media, you name it. Big data has changed the game of competitive advantage. Companies not only need people who can analyze the statistics, but those who can generate interesting and relevant ideas that create value, identify niche audiences, find opportunities, and decipher ways to make their products more efficient and successful. Creativity is inspired by data’s insights and uses these facts to develop stories and persuasive messages.
Bill Franks, Chief Analytics Officer for Teradata championed the emergence of the “Data Artist” and argues that there is a level of artistry needed to explore rigorous data in a creative and innovative way paired with business intuition and excellent communication skills. These artists also need a little bit of courage to experiment with new approaches conceived through their insights. Creativity is the way in which the Data Artist defines the problem, designs the analysis, and makes it work.
At 321, we’re not just creatives and we’re not just analysts either. By bringing together brilliant visionaries and meticulous digital analysts we make our clients’ brands unique and relevant. Creativity and data are not polar opposites, left or right-brain, black or white. They are the Holy Grail of effective marketing and allow us to build long-lasting relationships with our clients and limitless marketing possibilities.