‘Businesses are not structured to enable data and creativity to work together’

While marketers want to bring data and creativity closer together, most brands are not set up to ensure the most effective merging of the two, according to marketers from Spotify and Marie Curie Cancer Care.

Speaking at Marketing Week Live today (27 April), Marie Curie’s head of digital Claire Hazle argued that many brands face organisational barriers in making the most of their data to maximise the effectiveness of creative executions.

“A lot of companies are not structured to benefit from bringing data and creativity together,” she said.

She explained how at the charity her digital function acts as a “hub to bring teams together”, but added that this might not happen naturally at many companies. She said it requires both a concerted effort to get different functions to collaborate an ability to “bring data to life” for creative professionals with emotional and behavioural insights.

She gave the example of recent Marie Curie campaigns via email, social media and mobile that used data to power dynamic personalised messages – something that was a significantly different tactic from its “comfort zone” in paper-based direct mail. One prerequisite, she said, was “getting people more comfortable with the idea that you can’t see all these thousands of pieces of creative before they go out the door.”

Hazle added that the campaign investment only became possible because the brand had “built up to it” by testing in stages.

Spotify’s senior director of international marketing Nikki Lambert, who also spoke at the debate, said the need to join up data and creativity became very apparent to her after moving to the music streaming brand. She described the Virgin companies, at which she held a number of roles, as “emotionally brand-led” while Spotify is focused on data.

READ MORE: How data differentiates Spotify’s user experience

Lambert said Spotify has “a tonne of access to [what people listen to] but we don’t know the why” – in other words the reason for listening to a particular song at a particular moment. Its strategy for boosting usage and engagement is to utilise historic data to provide a number of song recommendations so users can “connect the dots” by making the selections themselves.

Examples include Spotify’s Year in Music initiative at the end of each year, where the brand shows users their most played tracks of the previous 12 months, and Discover Weekly, which aims to create emotional engagement by offering new music selections so users look forward to receiving their playlist at the start of the week.

One organisational challenge Lambert has is “making everyone feel comfortable with first-party data”. She also described how bringing staff from “random departments” into development sessions helps to join together different perspectives across the organisation. As a result, those working daily in analytics or product engineering can be alerted to ideas and features they might not consider based on data alone.

She had one word of warning, however: “It starts to feel like data can do everything for you but one thing we increasingly realise is that you can’t replace the human touch.”

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