Why We Need to Find Harmony Between Data and Creativity

Two pillars that will help ensure that your creative finds the perfect hue

June 19, 2015

LinkedIn creative effectiveness

Within the last five years, marketers have come to understand that successful campaigns are both data-driven and deliver a great story through the creative. What’s still often nebulous is whether you need equal parts of each and which one should be your guiding star.

The pitfalls of a lopsided approach are easy to see. Good creative without smart targeting is like a piece of art misplaced in a museum that goes unnoticed – it’s a missed opportunity for everyone. Conversely, highly targeted ads that seem to follow people around the web can be off-putting if they’re not telling a compelling story, and they may fall flat with their intended audience.

The growing recognition that data and creativity need to be closely intertwined is being represented in the turnout at Cannes, an event that used to be all about celebrating creative work. Now it also draws the most data-driven of product executives, like my colleague Russ Glass who leads our LinkedIn Marketing Solutions product team. The Cannes Lions Festival even launched a Creative Effectiveness category in 2011 to recognize “creative work that has produced a measureable and proven impact on a client’s business.”

So, as an industry, we’re clearly becoming committed to figuring out how to find the sweet spot between data and creative in our campaigns. We’ve all seen examples that delight us, like the well designed, clever and timely messages from hospitality companies like Airbnb and HotelTonight, to name a couple of examples of good marketing I’ve received recently. But how do we foster a new and more holistic approach within our own organizations?

Two Key Pillars to Ensure Your Creative Flourishes

If you’re a data-driven marketing organization to begin with, like LinkedIn is, I think there are two key pillars to internalize that will help ensure that your creative flourishes. Those are understanding your audience – what they want, need, fear and love – and understanding yourself as a company. The latter encompasses your voice and perspective, as well as your “why,” or the reason you need to exist and the service you alone can provide.

That thinking really informed the way we developed our mobile products at LinkedIn a few years back. We had to make everything work on a small screen – from our overall member experience to our recruiting tools to our Marketing Solutions products – and it was an opportunity to rebuild LinkedIn from the ground up. So we led from member insights in the development process, launching experiences we felt confident our members would love after extensive testing, and it’s been a success. Fifty percent of our traffic now comes from mobile.

I know this isn’t a universal opinion, but I believe that data is helping creative professionals do their best work. For one thing, measurement gives tangible proof of the immense value their ideas are delivering and makes creative reviews a lot less subjective. But even more importantly, the availability of data has made A/B testing on digital channels a best practice, and that’s taken a lot of the guesswork out of campaign activations. We even see this trend unfolding on the LinkedIn platform, where content marketers are testing their headlines and images to see what garners the most engagement and optimizing their campaigns accordingly. But it’s really ubiquitous across the digital landscape.

Bridging the Gap to Deliver Exceptional Experiences

Truly, the best products and marketing campaigns are the ones that bridge that gap between art and science to deliver truly exceptional experiences. They get us engaged, shape our perceptions, stir our emotions and ultimately impact the business.

I’ll leave you with one last example. Think of the popularity of the Nike+ running app and how it was released at an ideal time in 2010 when the notion of the “quantified self” was becoming a movement. Nike brilliantly leveraged that insight about consumer behavior and took it to a new level – further cementing Nike as a truly valuable partner in people’s athletic pursuits. And in itself, it’s an incredibly rich source of data about consumer behavior that Nike can use in the development and marketing of other products. To me, it’s an inspiring example of how data and creativity can work ingeniously together to enhance the human experience.

If you’re headed to Cannes, I wish you a wonderful, productive trip full of good discussions about where our industry is headed. I also encourage you to follow along with the LinkedIn Marketing team via our Cannes content hub and follow the conversation on Twitter with #ConnectInCannes.

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