Stop talking about data and start talking about insight

It's time we stopped talking about data and started focusing on the insights it can deliver, writes Jamie Bell, creative partner, VCCP me

I hate data. Well, not actually data itself, but the word ‘data’. It implies cold calculation, logic, and inhumanity. It refers only to the calculable inputs, which in turn devalues the creativity that comes out of the other end.

Data implies that what we do is largely mechanical, but my experience in the direct space has taught me that ‘big data’ is anything but a Spock-like, robotic methodology. Big data is as personal as it gets, digging deep under the skin of unique customers, to understand them on a personal level.

As an integrated creative director I love what big data has to offer. It gives me a rotoscopic view inside the mind of customers so that I can understand their motivations and create work big on idea that will also deliver (heaven forbid).

Howard Gossage famously stated that "People don’t read advertising – they read what interests them". Which probably explains why Gossage was the role model of the untouchable Steve Harrison, who taught me just how powerful direct could be when you have a pertinent, unique insight about the customer in your gun sights.

People read what interests them

Big data is there to find out exactly what that ‘interest’ is. Big data is not the end product, it is there to deliver all of the information we need to make our actual end product blow the customer's socks off.

Customer 2.0 expects more from a brand than his or her granddad ever did. They expect brands to know them, to understand them, and to interact with them in a personal fashion that recognises who they are and what motivates them.

So, what actually is big data? As far as I’m concerned it is the combination of hard data married with smart strategic thinking born of human understanding, to create a personal insight. Personal because it is tailor-made with a particular customer at its heart.

Personal insight is the future of all advertising. Marketing around the globe is now data-driven and at last, the value of measurable, customer-centric marketing has been realised. Through social media, eCRM, smartphones, multiscreen, smart TV combined with the long list of traditional channels there has been a magnificent shift towards powerful, relationship based creativity.

With greater data insight comes a need for even greater creativity

The role of creativity in marketing has been overshadowed by talk of big data. But creative ignored is not only profit lost but also potentially a customer lost. Forever. However pertinent your data, marketing and advertising with creativity at their heart win out by producing longer-term, meaningful engagement. And I am talking about the engagement that actually matters, such as brand loyalty and repeat purchase, not something as disposable as a ‘like’.

So let’s stop talking about data and start talking about the personal insight that data actually delivers. Let’s stop talking about what goes in and shift our focus back to celebrating and fighting for the great creativity that can come out from the other end.

Or once more, in the inimitable words of Howard Gossage "If you have lemons, make lemonade".

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