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I love how business has suddenly become the groupie of data.
Everywhere you turn, there seems to be some story about it’s power and importance – as if it’s something that has just been discovered.
Seriously, the value of data is as old as the hills and while there are now more and more ways to discover it and fine-tune it, it’s hardly like a whole bunch of industries weren’t utilising it’s power for decades.
Of course, when I say ‘utilising it’s power’, that doesn’t include direct marketing companies who continually fail to grasp the concept that ‘knowing how many people ignored their message’ doesn’t mean they create effective communication.
While data is hugely important, the reality is it only tells you what happened – not why – which is why you need people who can understand or investigate what’s not being said as much as what is.
But I digress.
The [alleged] point of this point is that because adland latches on to trends like a fat boy holds on to cake [even though we tend to latch on to them much later than other industries. ‘Behavioural economics’ anyone?], we have jumped on the data bandwagon to such an extent that we’ve seemingly forgotten how normal human beings respond to stuff.
Instead of using the findings and learnings of data to create stories that have emotional value and meaning to our audience, we are now seeing more and more ads that basically regurgitate the data as the actual message.
I remember when Playstation 3 came out and their print ads talked about the number of polygons the machine could render in a second.
This was a brand that had previously done some of the most amazing work ever created and here they were, doing ads that were seemingly more for the benefit of the engineers ego than to entice the gamers heart.
In short, they’d gone from emotional to rational.
From culture creation to category convention.
From inspirational insight to repeating the words of the focus group or client brief.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying data isn’t important because it is and – when used correctly – can be commercially liberating. However it is important not to forget people are moved by ideas/messages/communication that have emotional meaning and value which is why ads that say stuff like “Tests show the new air base in our basketball shoes allow you to jump, on average, 2.1cm higher than before” are ever going to be as powerful, motivating or effective as work that simply says “Let’s you float like a butterfly”.
Data has many benefits and values. Using it as your creative strategy isn’t one of them.
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