All my friends know I’m obsessed with sneakers: I own more than 20 pairs, from jogging sneakers to casual ones. The same way, people who work with me know that I’m obsessed with data. If regarding my obsession with sneakers, I try to express my creativity, being obsessed with data means something else. It actually means the opposite of being creative, doesn’t it?
In the past few years, I have become a marketer obsessed with data. Having a job in a company like IBM made me be more preoccupied with the mathematical build of a funnel rather than what happens in each stage. Let’s be clear: there is nothing wrong with this. The true challenge arose when I forgot to also use my creativity and deliver an authentic story with which consumers could empathise.
The industry is obsessed with data. Our marketing actions must look well in an Excel document, and not exceed a budged threshold. Optimising and reducing costs, the analysis of data or reaching our business objectives are the keywords. We forgot to be creative and tell authentic stories. If the industry continues to be obsessed with data, the only story we are going to tell in a few years is that of the failure to deliver a relevant message to the market.
As a digital marketer, I have trained to stop listening to my instincts. Before sending an email with a proposal, I need data. In order to approve a creative proposal, I need data. Even before giving an opinion in an informal conversation, I think about the data I have to argue my opinion. I am uncomfortable putting a campaign on the market without having a flowchart which would ensure the achievement of my goals.
I was recently looking at the digital campaign of a bank in Romania. Even though I was its target, I admit I didn’t empathise with it. It seemed superficial to me, as if it were made just to be made. I almost felt like a corporation that’s being communicated a cold message: a few decent visual executions and a catchy headline which in fact wasn’t truly covering my consumer insight. I honestly don’t even remember it, I just know that it didn’t bring anything out in me.
As a consumer, their message didn’t convince me, I have seen their ads on all the digital communication channels: I have forgotten them and now I am moving on with my life as the client of the bank whose message caught me off the bat. From a marketer’s point of view however, I could figure out that the entire digital campaign had a good media infrastructure. And I also realized that this is what marketing looks like when it’s being reduced to a single Excel document.
This is where most of the industry seems to be: we are no longer necessarily interested in the story per se, or the emotion, or the storytelling. I believe that we should find the balance in having the data, understanding it, and testing it, and then finding that consumer insight which we can push into the story we are about to deliver. Reason – emotion; data – creativity; none without the other, all of them dosed equally, both in the strategic planning, and in the message reaching the consumer.
Perhaps the most important thing I learned is that we should bring together in the same room the finance or the data guy, and the creative colleague, the one who listens to his instincts, and to let them reach an agreement which would please them both. Meaning, to jump out of the Excel document and go directly to the PowerPoint slides, and then back to the Excel, to combine them, and – if necessary, to go out in the field and talk to the consumers.