The last 10 years have seen a seismic shift in how we not only engage with each other, but how we engage with brands. Nearly every action, whether it be the click of the mouse or the minutest purchase, is captured, tabulated and tracked; much of this is then collected and deployed to determine the choices brands make in engaging their audiences.
A byproduct of this reliance on data has been a shift in emphasis from advertising creative as a form of entertainment in and of itself — to just another piece in the data puzzle. With the explosion of ever more sophisticated tools available to capture, segment and predict, most marketers have become obsessed with big data and all it represents. And as a result, we may be losing the need to appreciate the sense of delight and just good old entertainment that good advertising can bring. Have we turned from the intuitive and creative practice of inspiring humans to fall in love with products and services to safer, more clinical, choices that deliver on the numbers, but take no chances creatively? Evidence would point to yes.
A CEB study of almost 800 marketers at Fortune1000 companies found that those who do use data to the excess do so poorly. And that this data, stripped of a human voice, largely falls upon deaf ears. But brands are starting to wake up. During this year’s Advertising Week, Pepsi’s head of music and entertainment marketing, Bozoma Saint John, pledged to “use less data” and “unlearn” the brand’s reliance on it in order to remain culturally relevant. This from a brand that has long relied on the “wow” of relying on pop culture in its ads. It’s becoming increasingly evident that without entertaining and engaging creative, the numbers only take you so far in the pursuit of loyalty and relevancy.
The brands that are succeeding these days are those that are balancing the new data economy with an equal investment in the magic of the narrative and brand experience. Take Intel/SMS. A legit tech brand introducing a new wearable, benefiting from the entertainment/pop culture halo of rapper mogul Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson.
What this means from a marketing and agency perspective is that the power of the CTO is merging with the foundations of the CMO and as a result, CXO’s are fast becoming the kings of consumer engagement, utilizing their skills to blend the timely nature of ads, tweets and pins, with the timeless nature of the brand voice, image and live engagement.
When the appeal is to the heart, rather than the data point, consumers can tell the difference. When they feel that emotional input, not data metrics, is driving, they respond accordingly and are truly entertained. So go ahead and use the data, but use it within the framework of human connection, a far more creative and amorphous element that’s much harder to harness into an algorithm. To the brands and marketer that understand this will go the spoils.