Why it’s vital to repair the link between data and creativity

June 25, 2020

Why does art work the way it does? Why can a piece of music move us to tears, or a picture of a goofy puppy make us smile?

You’ve probably got a few ideas. Maybe you associate that music with a particular person or event. Maybe you think puppies are cute. 

Your reaction to any piece of art will probably be in some way personal to you. It will be informed by your experiences, your preferences, and your context, as well as some more general elements of human psychology (and, hopefully, some admiration for the skill of the artist!)

We all know that personalisation is the key to marketing. So, it’s strange that we marketers don’t dig a bit deeper into why our creative content is working. Someone’s reaction to a creative piece is deeply embedded within their own personality and experiences – so why are we not taking more notice of it? Why are we not digging deeper, and using what we learn to enhance relationships with our customers?

Too often, the data tells us what’s working, and we’re content to leave it at that.

Here at Datasine, we believe that the gap between ‘what’s working’ and ‘why it’s working’ is a huge, glaring chasm in our knowledge. We call it the ‘data gap’, and badly needs bridging.

Fortunately, we’re excellent bridge-builders.

How the data boom led to a huge data gap

Data has ruled supreme over marketing for the last few decades. This ‘data boom’ has helped us to get closer to customers than ever before. It’s generated massive amounts of marketing information, which things like AI have allowed us to process, analyse, and draw insights from in seconds.

Data is a vital marketing tool. It empowers our every effort.

But it’s not the be all and end all.

Amid the shiny screens of graphs and statistics, we’re in danger of losing sight of the simple fact of what data is and what it does. Data is information about people, which we should be using to build relationships.

Human brains also store ‘data’ on people. When you know someone’s name, their birthday, their likes and dislikes etc, then you have a lot of ‘data’ on them. 

Marketers have always used this kind of ‘data’ to our advantage. It helps us to provide that ‘human touch’ for which all the best salespeople are known.

When we couldn’t talk to people directly, marketers poured that ‘data’ – that ‘human touch’ – into creative content. 

Creative ads, at heart, are designed to appeal to people on the same, personal level that you could achieve if you were talking to them face to face (perhaps even more so – art can reach deep!).

However, as data became digital, we started to lose sight of the fact that it’s actually an integral part of human (and creative!) communication. We started to see it as a mechanical tool, not as something that could empower our art.

Think of it this way: if you were walking around an art gallery with a friend, and she became transfixed by a particular painting, you’d wonder what it was about that painting that had caught her eye. 

You’d scrutinise the painting with her, perhaps thinking back over what you know about her and her life in an effort to see it from her point of view. You might ask her to explain her reaction to it.

In the process, you’d learn a lot about your friend. You’d spot elements that might appeal to her in other paintings, and point them out. You’d have a great, fulfilling gallery experience together. 

Ultimately, you’d become better friends.

That’s how data should be used.

However, when we start to separate data out from the human, creative side of things, you get a very different story. It’s as though, rather than leaning into the painting with your friend and developing a deeper understanding, you instead dragged her round the gift shop, throwing every print and postcard of that painting into her basket. 

While she might appreciate a keepsake of the painting she liked so much, it’s not the same.

By thinking of data as a digital, stats-based thing, we forget that it can incorporate the ‘why’ as well as the ‘what’ – particularly when it comes to creative content. 

Instead of saying ‘why did my customer react in this way? What does it tell me, and how can I use these insights?’, much data-boom marketing instead says ‘That worked. Give them more of the same!’ It’s not completely ineffective as a tactic – but it could be so much deeper and more powerful.

Bridging the gap

Linking data and creativity is, as we’ve seen, nothing new. This gap is what’s new. At some point we’ve begun to lose the connection between data and humanity. But we can repair that bridge. Not, as you might think, by scaling data science back – but by raising it to a higher standard.

Let’s head back to that art gallery for a moment. The reasons why your friend liked that painting (her experiences, her preferences, her context) are all data. And the elements within that painting which appealed to this data are also (you guessed it) data.

This is where the gap lies. This is the bridge data that data-boom marketing so often fails to utilise. 

By leaning in and asking your friend to explain what she likes about this painting, you are getting an unprecedented insight into her deepest (perhaps even subconscious) data. You’re learning about her preferences, you’re learning about why she likes certain elements, you’re probably drawing a lot of insights about her tastes. 

That’s data you wouldn’t be able to access  if you weren’t first analysing the ‘data’ in the painting with her. 

At Datasine, we have pioneered a way to ‘lean in’ with customers and audiences across the globe, and to look in that deep, personalised, and insightful way at creative content. 

Through our content atomisation process, creative content is broken down into granular facets – including everything from features to mood and emotion. 

This atomised data is then compared against campaign data and engagement metrics, allowing us to see which of these atomised data points draw the most engagement.

By studying these results and putting a dash of human psychological insight into play, we can draw robust conclusions about why audiences like what they like. 

Data, psychology, and creativity – an empowering combination

Utilising creative data empowers marketers to not only give audiences what they want every single time – but to get to know their audiences on a deeper and more fulfilling level than would otherwise have been possible.

It enables creative marketing by making data-driven insights much more flexible, agile, and meaningful. With Datasine’s insights, creatives have so much more to work with than the old, rigid frameworks. 

Empowered by a deeper understanding of the elements they’re drawn to, creative marketers are able to take their figurative friend round the whole gallery, pointing out other paintings they might like, rather than simply giving them more of the same in the gift shop.

This is the future of both data and creativity. And it’s going to make creative content much better for everyone.