In Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, authors Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier define “big data” as information that is accessed at a large scale and can’t be seen on a smaller one. “It’s about extracting new insights or creating new forms of value in ways that change markets, organizations, the relationship between citizens and governments, and more,” they write.
Few would argue the profound impact that big data has had on the business world, and on marketing in particular. Defined by Gartner research analysts as “high-volume, high-velocity, and high-variety information assets that demand cost-effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision-making,” big data has pushed marketers to spend more time thinking about exactly how their advertising investments and campaigns translate into bottom-line benefits and corporate growth.
As this trend has advanced, the marketers that identify and use the data that matters most are the ones that achieve better efficiencies, higher return on investment (ROI), and better decision-making for the future. Smart marketers are identifying opportunities that advance their brands’ positions and capabilities, targeting new customers more efficiently, and serving their existing customers more effectively.
But with so much information at their fingertips and a growing mandate to determine which metrics matter most (and then harness them), are marketers still allowed to be creative in their campaign efforts? Or, has big data killed creative experimentation in its attempt to get down-and-dirty with the numbers?
At Hawthorne, we see the intersection of data and marketing as a particularly creative junction in and of itself, based on the fact that it allows DR marketers to do what they do best: create and develop effective campaigns that are engaging, accountable, and on-point.
As its popularity and relevance has grown, big data has blurred the lines between campaign data and creative, which have historically been “separate but equal” in marketers’ minds. In the Advertising Week blog post “What Do We Mean When We Talk About Digital Creativity?” Heather Taylor writes that “the more creative steps outside of the marketing pool and wades into others—including design, research and development, and customer service—the more it becomes just as vital to contributing to the support and growth of a business as analytics.”
For example, big data can help target a specific consumer group more accurately by defining the demographic more precisely, the regions in which those consumers live, and the best possible TV, digital, and other media placement opportunities. Whether your audience is the Southern housewife or the Northeastern business owner, you can generate creative that truly speaks to that target. In this example, big data makes you “smarter” and allows you to get even more granular with creative messaging.
Not interested in launching a general advertising campaign that speaks to everyone in the United States?
Great—you can use big data analytics to zero in on more specific audience groups. That, in turn, translates into more specific media, distribution, and creative decisions. Big data makes everything smarter, across the board.
When creative decisions factor in data on the front end, the potential for waste is minimized. With fewer cuttings on the editing-room floor to trip over, creative teams can focus on more important tasks and put their brilliant brains to work on approaches that truly engage audiences across the spectrum—from TV to print to digital to social, and everything in-between. As a marketer, you can push your creative as hard as it can go, drive your media as far as it can go, and reduce the margin for error. Few would argue the value of these benefits in a world in which CMOs are pushed to generate top-level results at the lowest possible cost.
So while that startup company or veteran brand puts millions into a compelling Super Bowl ad to build mass awareness, parlaying the same beautiful, branded creative into a smaller, focused campaign driven by big data insights is the more affordable and desirable goal for most. By effectively blending data with creative and not making the two entities mutually exclusive (or worse, competitive), marketers can keep the creative juices flowing while also achieving campaign financial goals.
Jessica Hawthorne-Castro is CEO of Hawthorne Direct.
The above blog post was adapted from the “Agency Insights” column published in the September-October issue of ER magazine.