Data Driven or Human Centered?

Here’s how your brand can be both

What if you knew exactly what your customers were going to be interested in next year? How would you prepare? Would you change your products, your services, or your pipeline? Or reposition your brand?

From geo-targeting and online reputation management, to social media engagement and email open rates, the potential for brands to gather consumer data in an effort to predict purchasing preferences and decisions seems almost limitless at the moment. But the truth is, data can only take a marketer so far.

Yes, data provides invaluable (practically irreplaceable) insight, but regardless of your target’s location, their media habits and preferences, their consumption patterns, etc., you still need to connect with your target on an emotional level. That means a brand level. This is something we at Creative Department have focused on since our very first days. We have always believed in the power of simple, authentic, benefit-focused communication on a human-to-human level.

Because the fact is, data can lead you to a consumer’s door and you can knock and knock, but without the right message he won’t open it.

The good news is we’re seeing brands be more human in tone and, thanks to analytics, more personal. On the surface, this seems almost contradictory — more technology leading to more human-centered output. But, it’s part of the trend towards authenticity in a world of clean food and fake news.

What does this mean for brands? You have to be able to balance. To act on your data without sacrificing the human element. Here’s what to keep in mind to make sure the analytics you’re collecting on your marketing efforts are contributing to building a stronger relationship with the people you’re trying to reach.

Question everything—don’t take any data at face value.

For data science to be most effective, it needs to be applied alongside cultural perspective. Evaluate it against your contextual knowledge. Behind every data point is a deeper story that could lead to a more powerful insight. Look at where the data set originated, how old it is, who put it together, and when it was last updated.

Don’t get bogged down—know what you’re looking for so you can quickly assess and move forward.

Identify SMART, or SMARTER (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time bound, evaluated, and reviewed) goals from the get-go. Every time you receive a new analytics report, look at the key findings through the filter of those goals. This will provide you the focus you need to avoid drowning in data overload. It will also help you explain the data and its potential impact to team members and colleagues who are not as immersed in it as you.

Get comfortable with self-reflection and be ready to pivot.

Be prepared to pull the plug mercilessly. There’s a good chance the data you’re collecting may reveal truths that are difficult to face. That campaign you just invested a quarter’s worth of time and money in might not be performing well on social. Your tagline hashtag might not be getting traction. Hint: documenting those SMARTER goals as mentioned above will help you see the path forward when the data isn’t as positive as you hoped.

Remember that you’ll have more power when you use data to predict—not to react.

One of your goals should be using data to help your brand become less reactive and more predictive over time. Most likely, this will require you to collect and evaluate multiple data sets, mapping when and how often people interact with your brand on top of where and why they’re engaging.

Acknowledge the influence of a third party validation and make it work for you.

Customers trust each other more than they trust what brands tell them. And, just like you now have access to an unprecedented amount of information about your consumer, they now have access to a lot of information about you. From product reviews to social media influencers, make sure you have a strategy for how you’re going to transparently engage in consumers’ conversations about your brand.

Know that from here on out, there’s no excuse for not understanding your audience.

Consumer understanding has always been a driver of great commercial ideas. Now that we have the power to understand people’s preferences on an almost subconscious level, having empathy for their behaviors and choices is more important than ever. It’s the one and only way to make sure the data you’re collecting has a meaningful, positive impact on both your brand and their lives. Enlisting people who are skilled at tapping into that empathy and bringing it forward—creative professionals like strategists, designers, and writers—is our passion.