Uwe Hook, group digital director at OMD Worldwide, is the keynote speaker at the Inside Series event on July 17, part of B&T’s MAD Week.
Until recently, most of the decisions we were called on to make were based on hunches, insight and a little bit of data.
Occasionally, a field like direct marketing would develop into something quite data-driven (“You might not like the #1 mailer layout compared to #2 mailer but #1 mailer resulted in double the calls. Let’s go for #1 mailer.”).
The internet came around and with it a deluge of data. Anything can be measured, anything can be tracked. A constant stream of data feeds and data points.
But we need better insights – not more data.
How can the right data be filtered when there is so much of it? Failure to extrapolate the right data will only make the job tougher for any brand looking to truly understand its customer’s mindset. Failure to understand customers equals failure to grow and remain afloat.
The thing is, though, it’s clear that many marketers just aren’t getting to grips with Big Data. It’s not data that’s the problem – it’s the lack of insight into how that data can be mined, analysed and acted upon. Data can tell an extremely powerful story – the trick is in knowing what to do with it once you have it.
In the late 1840s, Dr Ignaz Semmelweis was an assistant in the maternity wards of a Vienna hospital. There, he observed that the mortality rate in a delivery room staffed by medical students was up to three times higher than in a second delivery room staffed by midwives. In fact, women were terrified of the room staffed by the medical students.
Semmelweis observed that the students were coming straight from their lessons in the autopsy room to the delivery room. He postulated that the students might be carrying the infection from their dissections to birthing mothers. He ordered doctors and medical students to wash their hands with a chlorinated solution before examining women in labour. The mortality rate in his maternity wards eventually dropped to less than 1%.
Despite the remarkable results, Semmelweis’s colleagues greeted his findings with hostility. He eventually resigned his position. Later, he had similar dramatic results with handwashing in another maternity clinic, but to no avail.
Ironically, Semmelweis died in 1865 of Streptococcus pyogenes, with his views still largely ridiculed. Even decades after his death, doctors had to be persuaded that washing their hands could save the lives of mothers giving birth. Semmelweis had the data, he had the proof, but that wasn’t enough to change minds and persuade doctors to take action.
Almost 150 years later, data mining and the proximity of the internet to most of what we do is dramatically changing the proximity of proof to decision. Almost anything you do now is a research opportunity, data and possible insights just a click away.
The big question
What are you going to do when your hunches don’t match the data that’s now pouring in?
The data shows, for example, that texting while driving is more dangerous than driving drunk. It doesn’t feel that way, of course, but will you respect the data and stop responding with your important “LOL” replies?
The data shows that the vast majority of wine drinkers can’t tell the difference between a $20 bottle and a $100 bottle. Will that keep you from buying the fancy wine? How much is the placebo effect worth? How much better does it feel to taste a glass of fancy wine compared to a glass from a $15 bottle of wine?
Any data shows that the most famous colleges underperform the cheaper, no-name colleges. Still, every parent wants their kid to be enrolled in the famous colleges, paying a massive premium.
Our lives are filled with thousands of examples of counter-intuitive data-driven findings. That’s where creativity comes in. We need to counter the avalanche of data with faith in creativity.
Data has the tendency to lead to small decisions. Google didn’t buy YouTube based on spreadsheets, it was a leap of faith. Big political movements are not based on data, they require a leap of faith. Successful advertising campaigns are based on data-driven insights combined with a creative leap of faith. Advertising is about creating an emotional connection.
This connection can’t be quantified or driven by instincts. It requires a leap of faith in trusting your instincts. The instincts of people that sifted through data and insights. The instincts of people who created a strategic framework. And then trust their guts to deliver breakthrough creative.
The Martini-slurping creative lords of an era gone by have been replaced with the Diet Pepsi-chugging data nerds. Both need to come together to deliver a product that delivers on the promise of an emotional connection.