Data in the creative process? Yes, please.


Two cans of paint titled Data and Creative spilled on hardwood floor

One of the biggest challenges for any message maker is to get inside the mind of the audience. So, the more info – reliable, true info – that we creative practitioners can get, the stronger the insights and more resonant the message will be. Back in the day, the only real resource was the focus group. M&Ms and a table full of consumers posing as marketing experts. Hypothetical at best, misleading at worst. Digital developments have changed the landscape.

Data makes messaging better.

There. I said it. But I’m not talking about AI creating stilted chatbot dialogue or inserting the perfect color car in a banner ad. I’m talking about good old, messy, human creativity, and how we can all benefit from more – and better – data.

There are basically two kinds of data: forensic data, and predictive data (please keep in mind that I’m just a creative person, not a data expert, so…) Forensic data is the kind that tells you what worked (past tense). It’s historical in nature. 20/20 hindsight. The allure is its absolute certainty; finite and incontrovertible. Orderly, in columns and matrices. Good to have, don’t get me wrong. In our business of measuring response and determining its impact on the bottom line, forensic data is what keeps the lights on and the monitors glowing. It can help suggest improvements in messaging, to some degree. But this kind of data is output. It leads to reactionary messaging adjustments.

The good stuff, from a creative standpoint, is predictive data. This is input to the creative process; behavioral intel, the kind that can help inform message development. Predictive data helps identify what your target audience is thinking based on what they’re actually doing – what search terms they’re using, which pages they’re spending time with on your website, what kinds of questions/comments they’re submitting in chat. Predictive data won’t provide finite answers, but that’s the whole point: creativity is a world of infinite answers. Ideas are experiments that need to be tended and observed, not proofs to be solved. Bring on the data. And let the creative process run its course.

So, let’s get messy. Let’s mix it up. Sit the analysts next to the creatives and see what happens. Bring your spreadsheets and your dashboards. Just don’t be upset if they get a little creative on them.

This post was written and published by Mike Powell at Eicoff. To learn more, visit


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