Are you blinded by data?

May 28, 2020

Modern marketing is all about personalisation’. You’ve probably heard this a thousand times. You’re probably sick of hearing about it. After all, the importance of personalisation is drummed into modern marketers at every opportunity.

This is for good reason. The stats back up everything said about personalisation – and then some. For example:

  • 74% of consumers surveyed by Instapage (2019) said that they felt frustrated when web content was not personalised.
  • 59% of consumers surveyed by Salesforce (2019) said that personalised engagement based on past interactions was very important to winning their business.
  • 80% of consumers surveyed by Epsil (2019) said that they would be more likely to make a purchase from a brand which provided a personalised experience.

How do you personalise? We all know the answer to this, too. Or we think we do. It’s data, right? We personalise using data. Data gathered on customer behaviour lets us segment our customers, enabling us to deliver more intensively targeted (and therefore – at least in theory – personalised) content.

Well, you’re not wrong. Data has a huge part to play in personalisation. But, personalised content is not the endgame of a marketing piece. It’s a means to an end. When it’s working properly, personalisation works by building a relationship with customers. It’s that relationship which leads to conversions.

Data is a keystone of marketing, but it can only take personalisation so far. It can provide you with some insights – but those insights are only really relevant to the data source itself.

What do we mean? Well, if you’re trying to drive personalisation with insights drawn from transactional data, your content will inevitably end up sounding transactional. Sure, it will help people to find the product or service they’re looking for – but will it help to further the brand/customer relationship?

In order to get that all-important brand/consumer relationship, it’s time to think a bit more flexibly about data. You need to treat it as a piece of a much wider and much more creative marketing picture. You need to integrate it with your creative practices – and vice versa.

You need to develop an Integrator Mindset.

Netflix are a great example of the kind of relationship-building personalisation that can be achieved with an Integrator Mindset.

They seamlessly integrate their data with an interface creatively designed and optimised for the very best user experience. They combine creativity with machine learning to tailor their interface to the individual preferences of the user. The results speak for themselves.

How can you develop this Integrator Mindset, and transform your personalisation from transactional to truly relational? Read on, and we’ll tell you.

Use data to empower – not overwrite – creativity

Creativity has always been at the heart of marketing. Marketing as an industry thrives on innovative, creative content which entertains, intrigues, and engages consumers. In fact, a recent study by Nielsen found that 47% of the total contribution to sales from ads comes from creatives and the creative content they produce.

But, in this modern ‘data boom’, you could be forgiven for thinking that creativity was falling behind data in importance. 97% of companies are even now busily investing in data tech, despite the fact that it’s creativity which really brings home the bacon.

It’s not by any means wrong to invest in data practices. After all, without data on your audience, it would be harder than ever to get to know them. But concentrating too hard on data can leave creativity in the dark.

With data enabling us to predict and quantify customer behaviour, many brands are relying heavily on data to inform their creative content. The problem is, transactional data gives the same kinds of insights (with only minor brand-based variation) across the board. This rapidly leads to a huge drop in creative innovation and diversity.

With brand after brand producing content based on transactional data, very similar formats begin to emerge. And these quickly become stale.

Creativity thrives upon risk and innovation – while data deals in the predictable and quantifiable. On the face of it, the two seem naturally incompatible.

In fact, however, thinking a bit more fluidly about both data and creativity can yield truly fantastic results. Data, when looked at with an Integrator Mindset, can empower and drive creativity.

In order to make data work in this way, modern marketers need to be what we at datasine call “Data Alchemists” – melding data and creativity to create a strong alloy, rather than focusing on one at the expense of another.

Using data to build intuitive relationships

As we mentioned above, marketing is all about building relationships between brands and customers. If you’re relying solely on transactional data to do this, you’re only ever going to have a transactional relationship.

Think about how you build a relationship in real life.

When you’re having a face-to-face conversation with someone, you can see the expressions flit across their face, hear the nuances flow through their tone. You’re receiving ‘behavioural data’ from their every reaction, every inflection, every quirk of the eyebrow and twitch of the lips.

It’s this ‘data’ that we use to steer our relationships with other humans. We do it instinctively – when someone laughs at a joke, our subconscious makes a note of the kind of humour they like. When their voice takes on a sad or worried tone, we steer the conversation accordingly.

It’s this kind of instinctive understanding (and the way we use that understanding to respond) which makes face-to-face interactions genuine. And it’s that element of genuineness which builds strong relationships.

Genuine human conversations are a perfect example of data and creativity empowering one another. When your friend smiles, you receive the ‘data’ that they are pleased. You then use your creativity to keep the conversation on that pleasing level, or to bring up what pleased them again (perhaps when you need to cheer them up).

But, of course, there’s more to this than a basic transaction. When your friend smiles, you don’t just receive the transactional data (‘This person is pleased’). You get a much more detailed insight. You don’t just know that they’re pleased – you also (hopefully!) know why they’re pleased. It’s this deeper data that you use to make those relationship-building creative responses.

That’s the kind of deep insight that someone with an Integrator Mindset seeks from their data.

The Integrator Mindset

Of course, a brand/customer relationship is always going to be more transactional than a regular relationship. You can’t become best friends with every one of your customers.

And, of course, it’s impossible to personalise your marketing on the kind of face-to-face level we’re describing here. This becomes more and more true as you scale.

However, you can still get that flavour of genuine human connection – even at scale. Those with Integrator Mindsets know that blending data and creativity can give us the kind of deep, granular insights into our customers that will help us to build those genuine relationships.

The term ‘Integrator Mindset’ comes from a 2018 McKinsey study. McKinsey concluded that “companies that harness creativity and data in tandem have growth rates twice as high as companies that don’t”. They referred to these companies as ‘Integrators’, and described their marketers as having ‘Integrator Mindsets’.

Someone with an Integrator Mindset can mix data in the creative crucible, and turn it into marketing gold. They can use it to create the kind of personalised content which is so seamlessly pitched that it doesn’t even feel personalised – it feels as though everything is naturally, perfectly, just the way the customer likes it.

Integrators do not just look at transactional data. They view their creative content as data, and draw important behavioural insights about their audience from this ‘creative data’. They can then pour these data insights back into the creative mix, enabling them to create innovative content empowered with a deep understanding of the relevant audiences.

It sounds impossible, we know. But, with the right data and a sophisticated AI, it’s actually quite simple. The process involves something we call ‘Content Atomisation’, which transforms images into data, extracts behavioural information, and delivers actionable insights at scale.

We’ll explain more how it works in the coming weeks. Stay tuned to our blog to find out more by subscribing to our email newsletter!

Beyond prediction, towards understanding

Transactional data can predict what a customer wants to see. A vast amount of creative ad content today is based around these kinds of predictions. But still click through rates are falling. We at datasine believe that this is because predictions based on transactional data are only half the picture.

A truly integrated view doesn’t just predict what a customer wants to see. It gives you a deeper, more nuanced view of the motivations behind their preferences. It tells you why they like what they like.

An integrated view enables you to use creative content as data. This ‘creative data’ will give you huge insights into the kind of creative content you customers care for. And these insights will be on a much, much deeper level than transactional data could ever provide.

Insights drawn from creative data don’t just predict your customers, as though they were automatons. It helps you to understand them, like the humans they are.

And it’s by treating your customers like humans that you’ll get that Holy Grail of marketing – genuine, warm, loyal brand/customer relationships that convert.