How Big Data Enhanced the “Art” of Marketing

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JESSICA HAWTHORNE-CASTROIn this special guest feature, Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, CEO of Hawthorne Direct, explores the situation that with so much information at their fingertips, and a growing mandate to determine which metrics matter most (and then harness those metrics), are marketers still allowed to be creative in their campaign efforts? Or, has big data completely killed that aspect of marketing in its attempt to get down and dirty with the numbers at the expense of stretching creative limits and experimentation? Jessica is the CEO of Hawthorne Direct, a leading technology-based advertising agency specializing in analytics and accountable brand campaigns for over 30-years. Throughout her tenure with Hawthorne Direct, she has fostered long-standing relationships with the company’s expansive base of diversified clients resulting from an unwavering commitment to unparalleled service. Prior to joining Hawthorne Direct, Hawthorne-Castro was a successful TV literary agent with William Morris Endeavor (formerly Endeavor). Hawthorne-Castro holds a Magna Cum Laude MBA degree from Loyola Marymount University, with a double emphasis in Management and Marketing. She also holds a Cum Laude Bachelors degree from UCLA’s School of Arts and Architecture.

There are many different ways to define “Big Data.”

Authors Viktor Mayer­ Schonberger and Kenneth Cukier define big data as something that one can do at a large scale that cannot be done at a smaller one. They say it’s about extracting new insights or  creating new forms of value in transformative ways.

Research firm Gartner defines it as “high-­volume, high­-velocity, and high­-variety information assets that  demand cost-­effective, innovative forms of information processing for enhanced insight and decision  making.”

By any definition, big data has pushed marketers to think more about how their advertising investments and campaigns translate into meaningful results. The most successful marketers today are those who can identify the most relevant data and use it to make smarter decisions, advance their brands’ positions and capabilities, engage new customers and operate more efficiently.

The marketing profession gets more data-driven every year. With so much information out there and increasing pressure to let metrics be the guide, this begs the question: has big data crushed the creative side of marketing?  

Marketers should strive to strike a balance between the demand for accountability and data-driven results and the demand for creating compelling content that engages our clients’ customers. Data and creativity do not have to be mutually exclusive. In fact, data can fuel creativity by pointing marketers in the right direction and freeing them up to do what they do best — create campaigns that resonate with consumers. Big data and creative do not have to be kept separate.

As Advertising Week Social Club’s Heather Taylor put it,“the more creative steps outside of the marketing pool and wades into others –  including design, research and development, and customer service –  the more it becomes just as vital to contributing to the support and growth of a business as analytics.”

The possibilities for big data are endless. To start, it can help marketers more accurately target a specific consumer group that needs their product. Today’s consumer is inundated with advertising, messaging and content. Amidst all this chaos, they primarily (only) respond to the messages that are relevant to them. They days of launching a general advertising campaign that speaks to everyone in the U.S. are long gone. 

Marketers can use big data to more precisely define their target demographics, pinpoint the regions where those consumers live, and identify the most impactful TV, digital, or other media placement opportunities. Once a marketer has used data to nail down this audience, then it’s time to generate creative that speaks to that audience. Big data makes marketers “smarter” and allows them to get even more granular with their messaging. They can use the insights from the analysis to make better decisions about media and distribution. 

Big Data as not killed the “art” of marketing. Far from it. The most effective campaigns are those that reach consumers in a meaningful, memorable way. Capturing attention and eliciting a response requires more than the right offer at the right time. The tone, words, and design matter. The most powerful campaigns are those that stimulate an emotional response in the recipient, whether it’s amusement, ambition, anger, fear, pride, hope, etc.. For that, you need creativity. Big data can point you in the right direction, but “art” is required to drive a campaign home.


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