It sounds boring and even a bit counterintuitive, but data is the single most important factor behind all successful creative campaigns. This realization can be difficult to swallow for those of us with creative backgrounds. I know that twelve years ago, when I first dreamed of being a creative director, I never considered that so much of my week would be spent poring over numbers, stats and other data-intensive minutiae.
Back then, I assumed my days would be filled exclusively with fun, right-brain endeavors like designing logos, crafting slogans, overseeing photo shoots, with the occasional three-martini lunch sprinkled in.
That fact is that while creative strategy requires innovative and original thought, it also requires a deep appreciation of analytics. Here are four key ways that we use data every day to drive our creative process at Elasticity.
Researching your audience: Know your audience. It’s the No. 1 rule of advertising and marketing, only slightly behind “know your product.” If your messaging doesn’t speak to a brand or company’s target audience(s), then you’re wasting both time and money — regardless of how “brilliant” your creative content may be. Unfortunately, audience insights don’t magically appear out of nowhere. They require meticulous research and listening. Whenever we sign a new client, our creative team will spend hours with the company’s key stakeholders learning everything we can about the audience. We’ll then supplement that information with insights that Elasticity’s internal analytics team discovers about the audience. Only when all this research is complete will we get a detailed picture of the target audience — one that includes not only demographics (such as age and gender) but also the audience’s interests and shared history. This data is crucial for the next step of the process: Outlining your end goals.
Establishing KPIs: Every client has different objectives. Some might want to simply increase their brand awareness. Others may want to drive sales. While others might want to increase engagement from their social media followers. Whatever the case may be, the creative team needs to be involved in outlining the key performance indicators (KPIs) of the campaigns. What data will we use to measure something as nebulous as brand awareness? How many additional sales can our client expect from this campaign? What are our engagement goals on Facebook? At the core of these questions is one thing. You guessed it, data!
Creating a strategy: Now that we understand our audience and our objectives, the fun begins. It’s time to start making content. But even here, in the most creative step along the way, we are constantly going back and looking at the data we’ve pulled previously. We use it to establish the tone of the campaign. Would our audience respond better to a snarky, professional or affirmative voice? And where exactly is our audience? Our earlier research should have told us how best to find and connect (social media, search ads, print, TV, etc.) with our audience, and we’ll use that to focus our messaging. It’s not enough to just know where our audience is, we also need to know when they’re there. For example, if the majority of our audience is on social media late at night, then we need to be connecting and engaging with them then and not during business hours of 9-5.
Testing and fine tuning the content: One of the great things about technology (as well as a somewhat frightening thing about it) is that it allows you to quickly measure the results of your marketing campaigns. This is especially true online where Audience Insights, Google Analytics and other digital monitoring software provide immediate feedback on the efficacy of your content. This information is incredibly useful (even if most creative types might choose to ignore it for fear that the data would challenge the genius of their work). These insights can be used to tweak and improve our creative content until we’re accomplishing everything we can with a campaign.
The old trope about creatives has always been that they can’t do anything without a deadline. That may be true. But a deadline is, really, just a time constraint that forces creatives to focus intently on the project. The same is true with data. It’s a constraint that demands that creatives structure their work so that, with the benefit of the underlying data, they can create intelligent campaigns with a higher-than-average chance of success.