Data is important, but make sure it doesn't constrain your creativity.

posted February 16, 2017


Jessica Neville

There is an ever-increasing volume and sophistication of information readily at our fingertips in today’s marketing landscape. Marketers preach that data is revolutionizing the marketing industry and providing endless opportunities to reach audiences and tailor targeting and content like never before. Among marketing professionals there seems to be a common obsession with data.

Don’t get me wrong, data is extremely important, and an integral part of our practice here at dagger. Metrics online and offline provide important insights to help tailor distribution, targeting and content creation. Whether you’re looking to gain awareness or increase conversions, the right metrics can reveal what is working, and what isn’t to optimize your marketing strategy. And as marketers, we should always be looking for insights to drive insightful decisions. 

I see examples of brands using data every day, from Kohl’s who is using customer behavior data to drive its fashion products to eBay who is analyzing the purchasing behavior of its customers to identify new parents and target them with products as their child ages. 

However, I caution that data isn’t everything. And here’s why:


Not all data is useful

It’s important to know what data is useful for your brand and business, and how to properly analyze and use it. Not all data is important so don’t spend all of your time and resources analyzing data. Not to mention there is always the possibility of sourcing bad data, misinterpretation of data, or biased data. 


Data doesn’t always capture emotion and context

Human emotion is hard to measure, as is social and cultural contexts that can influence metrics. The 2016 election is a great example of data getting it wrong. Election polling data was not able to entirely capture human emotion, nor the cultural and behavioral differences in different parts of the country. With forecasting data predicting a Clinton win of 70 percent and higher, pollsters and voters alike were shocked with the outcome. Data failed to predict the emotional decisions that were made on November 8th, 2016.


Data isn’t creative

Perhaps most important, relying solely on data can kill your creativity. The ever-increasing volume of data goes hand in hand with the ever-increasing amount of technology and innovation available to marketers. As marketers, we have the opportunity to be the first to use emerging technologies with our audience and to use existing marketing ideas in innovative ways, so don’t let data hold you back in exploring new ideas and territories. Data only exists for what’s been done, so truly creative, out of the box thinking may not have readily available data or even proven ways to measure success. Don’t let this scare you —experiment, be innovative, but be authentic to your brand.

Increased privacy

More recently, a weariness has risen around sharing data among today’s population, particularly with younger generations who have seen the consequences of data sharing on an individual and national level. With an increased importance placed on privacy, we may have less audience data available to us in the future. So we can’t let data be the sole driver of our marketing strategies.
We live in an era where we have an infinite amount of data available to us, and because there is so much we can’t possibly understand or use it all. Data and research can help identify consumer needs but don’t let it be a limit to original or unique ideas. Humans are extremely complex beings and data can’t always show us how to understand them on a deeply personal level. It’s big thinking and creativity that drive great marketing campaigns and allow you to connect with your consumers.
There’s no denying the importance of data in marketing and how useful it can be in marketing. Use data to inform your brand marketing strategy and generate actionable insights around what’s working and what isn’t. But don’t let data be a constraint. Don’t let it kill your creativity.