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Data is bigger than numbers

Data Is Bigger Than Numbers

Michael Willems

Head of Content+

Mindshare Netherlands


Data is hot. It’s arguably at the top of the agenda at most brands and agencies, where not a day goes by without a fresh point of view or provocative take on the subject. Why? Because data seemingly arms members of adland with the power to create advertising and content that is profoundly relevant, personal, and efficient. But has it really? There’s certainly plenty of people willing to talk the talk, but I see very few actually walking ...

So what’s holding us back from creating more profound, data-informed work? I’d contend that many marketing professionals have a misplaced focus on actively “engaged” user data (e.g., website statistics) and the media metrics that often accompany these findings. In other words, we’re too busy concentrating on gathering learnings on the already interested few, as opposed to the critical mass who aren’t yet interested in our brand, product, or service. This results in briefs lacking genuine insights into people’s lives that can really drive progress. To stimulate interest and growth, brands have to go beyond what they are eager to tell, and consider what the people actually want to hear.

To arrive at real actionable insights that can lead to outstanding creativity, it is therefore imperative to conduct a proper diagnosis of a brand – a diagnosis that is informed by data that goes beyond existing online metrics. As a starting point, we should at least be talking to broader groups of people within a market segment via focus groups or in-home interviews. We also shouldn’t neglect the value of observing people in their natural habitat, whether that be by conducting “shop-alongs” or doing thorough sentiment analysis. Of course there is also undeniable importance in understanding the behavior and key drivers for current users – but perhaps this is best understood via specific loyalist research studies or one-to-one conversations as opposed to just media engagement. Finally, we shouldn’t ignore Brand Trackers and how the masses interpret a brand. Do they know it exists? Can they name it spontaneously? And if so, what associations do they have of it? And how does this compare the competition?

The point I’m making is not to ignore media engagement data. Rather, I’m advocating for thorough diagnosis that is informed by more “traditional” tactics, in conjunction with new and evolving data metrics. This will be far more powerful than just relying on the latter. To talk to people in the right way, we need to make more of an effort to truly understand the collective whole rather than the active few. This ultimately leads to stronger creative work and more effective contact strategies.