How big data can enable creativity

Iain Lovatt on how investing in the right technology can allow marketers to strike the best balance between the data and the creative.


Sponsored by Blue Sheep

History’s great marketers became great when they began to know their customers better than their customers knew themselves. How did they do this? Through surveys, questionnaires and some A/B testing. That’s all big data really is, but on an exponential scale. What we find time and again, however, is that marketers are simply not utilising the data available to them. 

As well as the big data challenge, the modern marketer must respond to campaign results in real time. The shelf life of a marketing campaign is now minutes and hours as opposed to days and weeks, and at the peak of your campaign you need to be able to respond to the results faster than ever before. 

The volume of data to analyse is now huge and those without the right technology in place to quickly measure campaign results and utilise all the incoming data will be restricting their ability to focus on the creativity of the message. 

Average marketing vs extraordinary marketing

Take an email campaign, for example. The first thing to analyse is how best to spend your time – on the data or the creative? By harnessing all your available data you can outperform the creative two-fold. That means that spending time on the available data, including previous open rates, preferences and segmenting the audience, leads to a 200 per cent improvement in email success. 

So when deciding whether to spend more time utilising big data versus the design and email creation, you will generate more clicks, opens and conversions by focusing on the data variables and personalisation.

However, using data in this way is fraught with danger. Get my name wrong and I’ll unsubscribe, tell me something about myself that is incorrect and I’ll disengage entirely, message me with presumptions that are wrong and I may even complain on social media channels or write a bad review. 

Getting it wrong can have serious consequences, so it is understandable that many marketers are tempted to play it safe with a non-personalised message in a generic email that covers all client types, demographics and sizes.

However, in trying to avoid any negative reactions, the marketer has inadvertently generated no reaction at all, falling into average marketing with average open and click-through rates. 

The competition, in the meantime, has used all the collected data about their customers and targeted the right audience, on the right device,
at the right time and with the right message through effective segmentation – and has achieved better results.

What is the solution? We cannot invent more time to allow maximum attention to the data and the creative, employ extra marketing personnel, overrun on the campaign or throw more money at it. We must decide how best to balance our time between the data and the creative for every campaign.

Data counts, extractions, uploads, v-lookups, name concatenations, de-duplications, merging fields and enhancements all take time, resource and dedicated brainpower. This is before insights, segmentation, big data insights or optimisation can be considered. 

Getting personalised marketing right is vital. Google Maps (bottom left) uses ‘giant’ data to provide a seamless service

It can all feel like too much bother and far too risky to get the data wrong, so we focus on the creative and turn our backs on big data. 

The right tools

Mass email tools are so impressive these days. They can provide you with dynamic content blocks for personalising email content, tell you what time emails are opened and the devices used, provide hotspots, analytics, geo-mapping and re-mailing functionality. 

Do we use all this data? No, but if you do change your mind-set and invest in quality, reliable data practices, put in place plans to collect the available data, get your prospects’ names right and unify your customer data to get your message fine-tuned to the individual, then you will have engaged in extraordinary marketing and will deliver extraordinary results. 

A real-world example of the power of data can be seen from our ‘giant’ data friends at Google, with the launch of the new Google Maps. If I want to find myself a hotel then Google, in real time, can collate all the information about me, including my preferences, my desired locations, reviews and prices. I am provided with all the information I need to make my decision. I can locate my boutique hotel immediately and am presented with all the information I need to reserve my hotel quickly and easily. 

I progress to the booking website and am told there are three rooms left and eight other customers are looking at the same hotel, so I make my booking fast. I confirm that my recommended choice is the one I have personally selected for myself and think I have found a gem. I feel good about my research skills, and myself, so I buy with post-purchase happiness. I am a happy buyer. 

With hotel booking websites ten to a dozen, we are now habitually moving towards bookings that require little or no creative work to allow
a purchase, highlighting an example of real-time, big data-driven marketing.

Unfortunately, many marketing departments now feel like they are drowning in a sea of data with a constant struggle to increase personalisation of the message. 

Fortunately, the technology that now exists enables marketers to harness and utilise big data for targeted, personalised marketing quickly and easily, but if we do not devote time to invest in consolidating information into a singular customer view, create data integrations and embark on a data strategy, then we will spend too much time on the data and will not be able to devote time to the creative.

The creative is important, but when the modern marketer is left with the choice of whether to allocate their time to the available data or the creative, it is imperative they utilise big data. 

The modern world demands the right message on their preferred device in a personalised way, so businesses need to invest in the technology that provides the platform to engage in extraordinary personalisation and targeted messaging. 

The result? Confident in the knowledge that their data is accurate and correct, marketers will have more time to spend being extraordinarily creative. Quality use of data in addition to extraordinary creative equals successful, lead generating, marketing campaigns.

Iain Lovatt
Chief executive and founder 
Blue Sheep

The Quadrangle 
Imperial Square 
GL50 1PZ

T: 01242 545340



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