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At the Altar of the Future: How to Successfully Wed Creativity to Data

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What does it mean to be human (and a marketer) in a world where even the most creative and intuitive endeavors are being turned into automated, optimized, and streamlined processes?

With the onslaught of stories about the launch of new, fantastic pieces of software or technological advancements that'll make life simpler and computers able to make essential data connections, it seems that we're quickly entering a full-blown "Artificial Intelligence Age."

At the root of AI are perception and cognition, which also happen to be two of the fundamental tenets of the marketing industry. It's no surprise, then, that software, algorithms, and AI applications are consistently used to help marketers and make their job of "adaptive persuasion" more effective and efficient.

Far from being a substitute for the creative process, though, data is empowerment. By offering deeper and more comprehensive consumer insights, data fuels curiosity and raises enlightening questions that help creatives cultivate the emotional connections essential to impactful marketing.

Data is in fact invigorating, then, and much more relevant and necessary for marketers today than ever before.


Algorithms and Creativity: Made for Each Other

At a base level, algorithms and data sciences provide essential details about consumers that enable the creation of meaningful and impactful campaign stories. Beyond story, they also reveal those individuals who are most receptive to a company's mission and goals. They further allow businesses to deliver messages across devices and in the proper consumer context while improving overall effectiveness—making the time and money invested work much harder.

Powerful human insights, when combined with data that bolsters creative interpretation and imagination, can create bold and meaningful advertising and marketing solutions.

Every statistically significant test—whether a data test, such as a new segment, or a creative test, such as design elements—is educational. Of course, there are always a lot of "ifs" and "buts" in these tests. But because algorithms are now a key component of how companies strategize and perform, data scientists can use them to arm creative teams to make informed leaps.

What, then, is the best possible way to marry the scientific mind with the creative one?

The Real-World Benefits of a Wedding

By working in lockstep with data scientists, creatives can better understand who their targets are; what they desire; and what their challenges, behaviors, and motivations are. Creatives can then devise more actionable and efficient marketing solutions and influence consumers' decisions.

In a time when people are looking beyond information for relevant, timely, and focused content, insights from data enable more direct messaging that fosters decision-making. Moreover, a brand that can connect to a specific consumer need or emotion strengthens its relationship to the market and therefore grows.

Nivea's sunscreen print advertisement is a perfect example of this connection. The ad expanded the notion of "beach protection" by supplying parents with a removable bracelet they could use to monitor their children's locations. Fitted with a built-in locater that featured geotracking technology and synced to a mobile app, the bracelet fused intricate data systems with very raw emotions.

Using data in this way enables companies to inform and improve the consumer experience. But only by funneling it through creative minds that are powered by innovative thinking and have the courage to try something new are they able to design the appropriate consumer experience and craft long-lasting brand narratives.

Three Strategies for a Successful Marriage

As companies hope to further engage with their customers, getting creatives and data scientists to unify is essential—so that data folks begin to think creatively, and creative minds get comfortable with data.

That goal may seem overwhelming right now, but understanding that this is an evolving and unconventional partnership, and that it's a collective process, will maximize the inherent value a marriage would offer. Focus on the following three strategies to cultivate it.

1. Foster a connection

Both teams should physically work together with each other. Each can create something insightful on its own, but through collaborating, even before the briefing process starts, the teams have the potential to ignite a spark that will grow your company-consumer relationship.

For creatives: Creatives need to be excited about data and appreciate the new possibilities this revolution, in empowering their creativity, affords them. Data scientists help them embrace this mindset. Creatives must also recognize that those scientists, as humans, are consumers and therefore have a point of view on their creative work.

For data scientists: Most of their job responsibilities and workday might be with numbers, but while collaborating with the creative teams they can learn to "talk human" by being exposed to different tools, such as embedding and contextualizing the numbers in the larger consumer/business narrative. Ultimately, it is the behavioral insights that enhance and differentiate a creative brief. Working together also enables data scientists to better understand the other team's expectations.

2. Enhance communication

Sometimes, even with collaboration, it can seem like your teams are speaking different languages. The thing you, as a leader, need to do is help them invest in the relationship by encouraging communication and building trust.

For creatives: They should play the role of devil's advocate and give constructive feedback on things like the design of the measurement and optimization process. In this way, data scientists know that they are "thinking with them." Likewise, creatives should ask questions about, and become actively involved in, the data mining and harvesting process, which will help those scientists devise relevant, thought-provoking questions and enhance the information gained.

For data scientists: It's their job to wed the creative's gut to the theoretically crafted test design and its parameters in order to optimize the entire journey. By sharing the measurement and optimization process and delivering test results with constructive feedback, they can help creatives logically understand what's working and what's not.

3. Create unity

Only after both teams successfully collaborate and learn to trust each other's abilities and intentions can unity be fully achieved, so leaders should align their teams through a shared vision.

For creatives and data scientists: Continuing to discuss and celebrate each other's points of view helps both teams appreciate the other's credibility within and outside the workplace. Such an inclusive environment could not only unlock the missing puzzle piece that everyone has been looking for but also mean that neither team will have to create in a vacuum moving forward. And although cohesive processes are certainly important, structuring around a shared vision ensures that you're ultimately unifying goals.

* * *

Marketing is in the business of creative solutions, not in the data business. AI and machine learning tools that are making major advances in perception and cognition are simply offering a new way of doing that same business we're in—but helping us get better at our jobs.

And that's something we should embrace.


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Shravya Kaparthi is director of strategy and decision sciences at RAPP, an Omnicom Company. She has 8+ years of cross-cultural experience inspiring creative solutions across consumer-facing, data-driven industries.

LinkedIn: Shravya Kaparthi

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