Creativity = data + imagination + empathy.

homerThere’s a reason that organisations that have real diversity thrive. It is not just a tick box exercise. It’s the synthesis of people with differences of opinion, personality and thinking.  It’s the ultimate “Avengers Assemble” team (as WPP UK Country Manager Karen Blackett puts it). These teams are not groups of people who love hanging out together (they may do, they may not). They are teams whose natural inclination is to go in different directions, to go at different paces and with different motivations. Whose behaviours don’t fit one nicely orchestrated corporate values box. But who come together with a single goal. In our case to grow our clients’ business.

It’s a rare person who combines the best of what used to be described as left brain and right brain thinking. The geography of the brain might be out of date, but you all know what I mean. Imagination and speculation combined with forensic concentration on data. Yet the best answers for brand growth will come from such a combination.  And such a combination might require that diverse team working in synthesis.

Data understanding alone gets you only to the half way mark of great thinking. Imagination and empathy take you the rest of the way to brilliance.

When people bemoan the split of creative and media they’re probably talking about this really. And whatever building or logo people sit in there’s a need to combine good concrete data analysis, including a robust understanding of the difference between correlation and causation, with the ability to dream, to confabulate, to storytell.  In the end imagination is what the planner must use to fill in the gaps between the data points.

Let me give you one example of a food brand where the data team found that discount offers performed significantly better (and against expectations) if served to potential customers the night before rather than immediately before use.  They of course immediately doubled down on serving messages at this time. There was a great hike in the short term response.

This is interesting, but not as interesting as why? Why this is case and what impact that could have? The discount in question wasn’t a large one, and the food brand was in the mass market category. Let’s use that one data point to imagine the customer.  As so often there was no budget for more research.

The coupon was being predominantly taken up by people who were properly budgeting for their lunches, who were planning ahead. So far, so interesting. There’s so much more though. For any great team the nugget of data could be used to drive the creative execution not just of the offer, but to feed into broader creative development, strategic positioning of the brand, menus and service values of the organisation. Maybe a new type of offer would suit this customer segment’s lifestyle for example, 5 lunches for the price of 3 to ensure that careful budgeters commit to one food outlet, thus breaking category norms to drive loyalty and repeat business. What else can we imagine from this one data point? How can we empathise with this audience? (And for the true meaning of empathy see Trott’s blog: ”Sympathy is emotional, empathy is rational”). If they’re planning meals carefully during the week, are they budgeting for a blow out at the weekend perhaps. Would a partnership with a glossy magazine be a great move, so that the frugality has an upside, with some affordable luxury? Or the chance to win tickets to an ITV Saturday night live show?

One tiny bit of data, that could so easily be siloed in a DM team. One tiny bit of data that could lead to a brand growth transformation. In tough competitive times, no nugget of data should go unexamined as true creativity means data analytics combined with imagination and empathy.


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