Will data kill creativity?

DeadThis is something I’ve been rolling around in my head for a while now. And I’ve decided to make a case for and against this argument.

Creativity’s dead, dude

Have you ever been walking down the street on a sweltering day, were super thirsty and thought to yourself “Man, I could go for a lemonade right about now,” just as you walked past a store that had a sign in the window that read:

Ice Cold Lemonade – $1.00

If so, you reacted like I did. You rushed in and bought one. Because you got the right offer at the right time. This is what data, if used properly, can do for marketers. The reason why we rely on creativity so much is that we don’t target our offers correctly. We don’t know how to target just the lemonade drinkers, so we go after the soda drinkers or gatorade drinkers or beer drinkers and promise them that lemonade is the next best thing, or even better than what they’re drinking now.

Proper use of data will allow us to target accurately with no spillover into audiences who have no desire for our product. Imagine what kind of data we have access to right now or will have access to in the very near future. Here’s a small example:

Imagine your grocery store i.e. Safeway (who knows what you purchase – and when you purchase) sells your purchase data to NBC and TIVO. NBC, in turn, uses that data to sell air time to Country Time Lemonade. Now if digital television works the way it should (or will), NBC should be able to hyper-target Country Time Lemonade commercials to the people who have bought it in the past, or show tendencies to purchase lemonade-type products, and show these commercials (whether streaming or on regular television) at times just before the viewer tends to go out and buy his/her groceries. On TIVO, banner ads could be coordinated to run, real-time with Country Time Lemonade offers on the bottom of the viewer’s screen just prior to shopping behavior. Going one-step further, these ads could be further targeted to run only when the temperature rises above a certain threshold.

Now, if we could target like this, i.e. the right time, the right place, the right person. Do we really need to say anything more to them than Country Time Lemonade at Safeway only $1.00? I think not.

Creativity is on its way out.

Data Shmata

Consumers are emotional creatures. They bond to people and brands that share similar values or make them feel better about themselves. The way to do that initially is to get their attention through creative means. You may be able to use data to target lemonade drinkers, but only by creative means will you be able to make Country Time Lemonade appeal more than a competitor’s brand. Data alone cannot build brand affinity.

In fact, creativity will become more of an asset in the future because even though much data will be available, many companies will fail to use it properly, merely because they will not understand how to. You see evidence of this today with failed CRM programs from multinationals. A quick example:

I purchased a digital terminal for my cable over 4 years ago, and yet I am still receiving limited time offers from my cable company to purchase a digital terminal for a steep discount (with free on-demand movies, to boot). Now, I’m sure they’re putting this offer out there to increase loyalty and bundling of products, but due to their misuse of data mining, they’ve made me more disloyal (“Why don’t I get any free movies?”).

So, creativity will still be king for generating attention in the marketplace. We’re a long way off from living in a data-ruled world.

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2 Responses

  1. Hey I think that when using data becomes too ubiquitous and many companies start using it to accuratelytarget the audiences…creativity will become more important factor in differentiating the companies..!Nice article btw…!

  2. Thanks for the feedback Nikunj. I just think agencies get too caught up in creating the next “Where’s the Beef?” or “Subservient Chicken” because it’s easier than actually segmenting the data that’s readily available.

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