Conventional wisdom says data and creativity are forever destined to be the odd couple, and that whenever you put the two together within any organisation the experience won’t be a happy one.

Yet I believe data and creativity can cohabit. More than that, I believe that if we want to produce the memorable, delightful experiences consumers now demand, insight and creativity have to work hand in glove. 

I’m not alone in that opinion, as the recent Cannes Lions champions and IPA Effectiveness Award winners demonstrate.

Multiple and deep insights are providing golden creative nuggets. Take BA’s Magic of Flying real-time billboards, which used real-time flight data to inspire the creative idea.

Or Channel 4’s Viewer Relationship Strategy, which analysed user experience by lifecycle, preference and usage to give power to consumers. 

Both are excellent examples of data underpinning truly out of the ordinary engagement. Even functional brands like British Gas and First Direct are surprising consumers with tailored, real-time content.

Expecting more

As practitioners, it’s easy to become absorbed in the minutiae of programmatic this and location-based that. 

Yet what people really want is to be treated like individuals and given the tools to help themselves. We owe it to keep pace, not just with customers’ desires, but their levels of sophistication.

Customers know that brands have masses of data and creative power at their disposal.

They know brands can recognise shoppers in real-time, on their device of choice, and deliver tailored, eye-catching promotions that reach them just when they want them.

They know what’s possible, and they’re disappointed if the experience doesn’t match expectations.

Take the black dress that’s being recommended to me on my PC, for example. I know what’s possible, so when I look at the same retailer’s app on my phone, I’d expect the same garment to be displayed, in my size and perhaps with a discount. When it isn’t, my experience is that much poorer than it could have been.

Rigour and magic

I believe salvation lies in blending rigour and magic. Rigour is the cold, hard fact of insight. Magic is the creative talent that abounds in this country.

The two functions can no longer be mutually exclusive. Without great insight, creative may be ill-informed or poorly targeted. Creativity without insight lies at the heart of many a social media backlash.

Meanwhile, a data-based body of evidence that isn’t supported by creativity fails to create the gut-reaction that makes people buy.

It bypasses the heart and hits the head with colourless rows of ones and zeroes. Get the mix right, however, with concrete and powerful insights on one side, and a highly informed and idea-generating creative brief on the other, and the sweetspot in between can be the genesis of great campaigns.

The art of the possible

I’ve been privileged to work client-side and at agencies with some terrific brands that really are thinking differently. It’s heart-warming, too, to see clients considering the art of the possible. 

We need more of them to pose seminal questions like:

  • How can I bring together on and offline data?
  • Is it possible to integrate planning across my organisation to maximise the impact of the creative and communications?

And, in these days of ‘ROI or bust’:

  • Where do I find the insight and creativity to know which channels and frequencies are the best bet?

The answer doesn’t lie in silos, where data or creative is worked to a near finish before being presented to the silo next door with a ‘do something with that’ attitude. When consumer expectations were lower, it could work.

But when savvy customers approach every new app or communication with a ‘why didn’t they add/include/change that’ attitude, CRM needs to be ahead of, or at the very least responsive to, customer expectations.

You don’t do that from silos.

That’s why I believe data, analysis, strategy, creativity and the other elements that give CRM power all need to be brought together. Together, each discipline amplifies the effectiveness of each other. Together, they hit the sweetspot of profitable, powerful customer experiences.

So when your customers expect epic, they get it.

You can learn even more about customer experience at our two day Festival of Marketing event in November. Book your ticket today and see how you can create a customer-focused culture.