This article discusses the growth potential that can be unlocked through the union between two extremely different entities, yet are ideally suited to one another; creativity and data.

Concepts and numbers have always had an uneasy relationship in the blue sky thinking world of marketing. Creativity is an instinctual process of building emotional bonds with customers, something that data scientists and analysts don’t understand – according to creative types.

It is right however to assume that a heavy handed application of quantitative analysis does mean that a little of the magic surrounding creativity fades somewhat. However, get the blend just right and you’re on your way to unlocking significant gains.

Progressive organisations have long abandoned the belief that creativity and data are fierce adversaries. Organisations that have combined the power of human ingenuity and the insights gleaned from data analytics have taken a significant leap forward compared to their peers who are yet to understand this notion.

The best of the best on the other hand, have taken the concept of uniting these two foes to wage a much greater battle through the integration of hard numbers and the inspiration derived from creativity, across the entirety of the marketing value chain. Such an approach is embedded deep within the DNA of the organisation from brand strategy to consumer insights and beyond. Functions such as customer experience, product, pricing and content within these organisations are well versed in the fusion of skills required to drive modern marketing to unlock growth.

Below are my observations around the the way in which some of the more advanced organisations approach the marriage between data and creativity.

1. Equality. A fundamental ingredient towards a long lasting and successful partnership

Creative functions within these organisations are becoming more data driven in their approach, whilst conversely, data driven functions are developing greater empathy and understanding of the principles surrounding the creative process, and are as a result becoming more creative themselves. The areas where this is most noticeable are customer insights and customer experience.

Customer experience has historically been under the guardianship of creative and strategic thinkers about how to meet and exceed customer expectations. However, in today’s digital age, analytics can unearth a multitude of additional insights such as customer intentions, propensity to purchase, triggers and interests that can bring to light unmet needs, friction and customer needs and wants. Organisations that are ahead of the curve regularly consult such insights as part of their day to day activities around enhancing customer experience.

Traditional organisations, whilst they may have gifted creative resources and talented analysts tend to use both sets of resources in isolation and are as a result missing out on the benefits that an integrated approach can bring. By bringing data analytics to the forefront of the business, it provides analysts with a voice in the creative process which creates a feeling of empowerment and ownership amongst analysts.

2. Collaboration and sharing of responsibilities

Organisations that have adopted this new approach of integrating both creativity and data have established new structures that enable them to innovate more effectively, not only in terms of scale but also in terms of sophistication. Such companies have embraced a concept that is referred to as agile marketing and have established small nimble and cross functional autonomous teams or squads that execute on targeted and specific business objectives. Such an approach enables employees that posses different skill sets and outlook to sit side by side and in so doing enhance problem solving capabilities through this collaborative approach.

Such a collaborative approach ensures that everyone has a stake in delivering projects and its agile nature means that teams are able to do more and faster without bottlenecks such as departmental approvals typically associated with a waterfall approach. Being agile means that organisations can conceive and experiment with new ideas quickly in order to fail fast and hone in on the areas that have the greatest impact on their customers and in turn their business e.g. content, messaging, pricing, product features and packaging.

3. Sharing of a collective vision

Traditional organisations have tended to hire experienced and talented individuals that excel within their specific field. Whilst this approach makes sense, organisations that are disrupting their respective markets – and others too as the case might be for some, hire individuals that are not only experts within their chosen fields but those that possess an all round capability. Engineers that are creative, marketers that have a solid grasp of numbers, and technologists that understand the creative process. Such an approach enables the business to see multiple perspectives and approaches to problem solving that a traditional approach would otherwise miss.

Conclusion

It is a widely held belief within many traditional organisations that data just isn’t exciting and therein lies the problem. At the end of the day, the data held within their analytics tells them all about their customers, how they behave and what their needs are. These insights can and should be applied to guide and inform the creative process and in some cases inspire new ideas and there’s plenty of evidence to support these theories – Amazon, Apple, AirBnB, Uber and Facebook are just a few that spring to mind – consider them dependants of creativity and data. This is why data and creativity are a perfect match for one another.