data doesn't kill creative
September 30, 2016

Data doesn’t kill creative, it feeds it (how to use both)

By Paul Laughlin

This week I had the opportunity to speak at the CIM’s “Marketing Analytics & Creative Conference” in Cardiff.

#CIMSmartArt proved to be a great event. Expertly chaired by Sameer Rahman, it focussed on the challenge: Is data killing creative?

In a room with a mixture of data-led and more design/creative focussed marketers, 4 speakers had opportunity to share their experience. The result was an encouraging conclusion. That both better use of data analytics (or wider customer insight) and creative design should be the goal.

Most speakers were coming from a wider marketing or creative agency perspective & it was great to hear how they valued data & analytics. They knew they needed insight to guide & feed their work.

The venue was a good one too. In the relatively new venue of Cardiff & Vale College, we had plenty of space for speakers, delegates and time to network. Thanks must also go to the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM Wales), for hosting such an informative free event.

Softer Skills not Data Scientists

To kick things off, I spoke on a couple of themes which are becoming familiar ‘soap boxes‘ for me. First, echoing a webinar I gave for the Directors’ Club, I shared why Data Scientists may not be what businesses need – as the critical gap for most companies is analysts with strong softer skills. To expand on this, I then summarised a number of the key themes from training that Laughlin Consultancy provides. That is the training course on ‘9 step model for effective analysis‘. From effective questioning, right through to solution-focussed action, I shared the importance of planning, stakeholder management & communication skills (amongst others) to have impact.

I’m glad to say this talk was both well received & referenced by every other speaker, as out thinking aligned on several points.

Creative Marketing on a Budget

Next up, was Daniel Lewis, Marketing Director at Spindogs agency. Daniel shared on the need to remember that the data you use are not just abstract numbers, but represent real people’s lives. His work focusses on helping companies more at the SME end of the market, than those with big budgets for extensive ad testing. So, he shared how much could be achieved with free or more affordable data.

Through the case study of helping an estate agency chain break into a new community, which was sceptical of outsiders & chains, he shared how to better understand your target market to guide creative & comms strategy. Using data from Google Trends, Zoopla, Mosaic, Facebook ads, surveys & client interviews, as well as public sources – they developed a segmentation and rich personas to guide more targeted offers, interactions & comms. Good to see how much can be done on a small budget (even if an insight analyst could do more).

Design Matters

Following a welcome networking break, Jeff Patreane, founder of Caffeine Creative, shared on design. His engaging presentation opened our eyes to design being everywhere, as well as how much good design relies on data & a clear target market or insight. Arguing passionately for design not being art, he explained why a craft-like focus on form & function is critical. More than aesthetic or personal opinions, good design achieves its goal. Jeff also shared some great examples of bad infographics (worthy of being displayed on WTF Visualisations site. But he also went on to explain how a good, simple, clear infographic compresses time & space – to tell one story well. A compelling vision of why design expertise matters just as much as insight or data.

FinTech using Data & Creative

Finally, we heard from Sally Allan, CMO at Wealthify. She was able to tell the interesting story of how this FinTech startup (spin-off from Active Quote), created a marketing strategy and went about designing their brand & digital proposition. Akin to the constraints shared by Daniel, this isn’t a project with a big budget for marketing or data (although they do apparently buy great coffee). So, with necessity being the mother of invention, it was intriguing to hear how they made use of data from a variety of sources to inform their marketing strategy work (including PEST, SWOT, segmentation etc). Like an effective secondary research approach, they made us of data & surveys available from the BBA, FCA, BSA, Deloitte, KPMG, Which & MoneySavingExpert amongst others. Given my experience with training insurers to use customer insight for Conduct Risk, it was interesting to see them adopt the FCA’s Consumer Spotlight segmentation to select their 3 target segments.

Sally was joined by her digital marketing manager. It was encouraging to hear his commitment to robust ongoing A/B testing and active monitoring, as well as UX usability research/testing. One handy tip was also a list of the freemium or cheap tools they used for monitoring & testing. These included more thorough use of Google Webmasters tool-set than many do (beyond Trends & Analytics, use of Experiments, Funnel Analysis & Page Speed tools). Wealthify have also managed to reconcile their sales tracking (back to site traffic) with ‘in house’ CRM system, as well as using MailChimp and a tool called Decibel Insight.


Conclusion for creative types

The Q&A session that ended our morning together reiterated the sentiment that data & creative both matter. Delegates were clearly engaged with how to use data sources more effectively, as well as how to work more closely together with designers & ‘creative types’.

If this is the future of marketing, the prognosis is positive.