Every day, digital exhaust throws off trillions of data points based on consumer behavior. It represents a wealth of information detailing how people interact with their digital devices, what they purchase, and the content they search for and consume. With behavioral analytics, programmatic media, and technology advancing every day, our ability to understand what people like, want, and need is unprecedented. Moreover, our ability to leverage this information to improve customer experiences with personalization seems limitless.
But the challenge to actioning this unlimited volume of data is that the sheer amount of it quickly becomes overwhelming. Data becomes easy to collect, but without human input to extract the right insights about the right people to create the right experience, the vast majority of that data is, at best, input, and at worst, a distraction. Data is valuable but, on its own, powerless in driving behavioral change. It is only by investing in creative talent who can translate that digital information into actionable insights and experiences that a company can utilize data for competitive advantage.
So Many Arrows But Where Are All the Archers?
Too many businesses today only focus on investing time and money in accumulating data and technology while neglecting investments in procuring talent to interpret and apply the information into action. As Rishad Tobaccowala always says, “Everyone’s buying arrows, but there are not enough archers.” People are over-revving, overspending, and over-emphasizing all the inputs by only focusing on accumulating data instead of how to create ideas based on what that data informs. With this lack of investment towards insight and experiences that reach consumers, what remains is a quiver full of arrows that are either never fired or blindly miss the target.
The other trend is increased investment in tools and technology. But what’s a Ferrari without anyone to drive it but a beautiful lawn ornament? This is data without the people who can drive and fuel the higher quality experiences that change minds and behavior. We extract data from people, about people, to market to people more effectively, but data can’t do that job alone. Only humans interpreting and applying it can create both the experiences and content needed to reach the right person with the right message at the right time, which is the goal of effective advertising. If you are investing heavily in data, carefully review your spending to determine if you have the people and process to take advantage of it.
“So What?” and “So That?”: The Human Side of Data
Another trend I see is companies seeking to accumulate more and more data without a plan on how to apply it in an ethical and meaningful way. For data to be relevant, actionable, and useful, we need to answer two simple questions: First, so what? Second so that? “So what” to determine why we should care. “So that” explains what will be done differently, given the insights gleaned from the data. If we can’t answer both, the data is nothing but white noise.
To benefit from data, we need creative minds to analyze and interpret the information to enable a company to learn from it, “so what,” and apply it in an innovative way, “so that.” Inspiration and creativity are uniquely human commodities, and both are needed to analyze and interpret data into action that inspires engagement.
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The Perfect Marriage of Data and Creativity
With data, data everywhere, it is easy to become disoriented and overwhelmed. A recent study suggests that content production is massively outpacing consumption; people are maxed out, making it even harder to reach them amongst all the white noise. Amidst such digital chaos, marketers often turn to audience targeting and algorithms, favoring data and volume of content over true engagement. Investing in technology can help businesses, but not if it comes at the expense of creativity and content that engages and connects with an individual.
Instead of letting this treasure trove of data go to waste, invest in the human capital to process it and help inspire a marketing renaissance. With the integration of creativity and data, marketers can drive sustainable growth. Great ideas give data the power to connect with people and create change, but only the human mind can generate those ideas. To turn data into memorable experiences that engage people with a brand and change their perception, marketers and advertisers must support and invest in the people to do the critical thinking to make it valuable and actionable.
Combined with compelling human ideas to engage and connect in new ways, data can radically transform the growth trajectory of a business. It has the power to transform digital engagements to become more personal, relevant, and effective. But it is not a silver bullet: although it can inspire ideas, data is impotent in the absence of creativity. Human intelligence is crucial in assigning meaning to data. Ultimately, data can only elevate us to new heights if we recognize and value the human capital investment required to action it.