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Will Data Stifle Creativity?

| 4 min read

This is a question which is getting debated in all centres of creativity including advertising. It is an important question to set the belief system in place as we believe everything starts with belief.

In our view (backed by data), data and creativity are two sides of the same coin. This will be an ongoing debate. In this edit, we share our perspectives.

As Tham Khai Meng puts it, we can view the universe as one large quantum computer. The matter is everywhere, but the information is more important than matter. So since the dawn of time, we’ve been collecting data and gaining insights from it. The famous drawing on the wall of the Caves of Lascaux, a depiction of a dead bison and a dead man, killed in the hunt for food. This was one of the first pieces of data. And it provided a vital insight for our caveman ancestors: a key to survival. This continues throughout human history. The giant north-south axis of the Pyramids of Giza helped the Egyptians mark the floods of the Nile, and to know the time for sowing and reaping—another example of humans procuring insights from strains of data.

Human beings have always been processors of information. What are humans but DNA? At our core being, we are all information.

Data can often be the catalyst for truly inspiring creative work. An example: on the simple, raw data point that just 4% of women believed they were beautiful, Dove built its Campaign for Real Beauty—with no story more famous than “Real Beauty Sketches.” The award-winning campaign is one of the most-viewed ads of all time, an inspiring, culture-changing story borne from a singular piece of data. And while information becoming intelligent on its own is a long-standing science fiction trope, we’re seeing it come to life. These days, data science is helping doctors become better healers.

The key lies in gaining insights from data. Moreover, the crucial step comes in the human ability to take the insight and craft a great story behind it. A piece of data, such as Dove’s discovery of women’s perception of their beauty, is a static piece of information. But when great creative minds take that data, gain insight, and go to work, they can build compelling stories.

The key to this opportunity is for brands and retailers to recognize how today’s data is different from their familiar associations with it. It is not about static information, but it offers real-time indicators of the mind of the consumer. As such, embracing data is consistent with how brands and retailers have always sought to understand consumers better through market research and other insight tools.

However, in order for brands and retailers to evolve a greater appreciation of these new information sources, they need to stop thinking about “data” as technologically specialized information.  Data is not the enemy of creativity. When applied correctly and meaningfully, it in fact expands how brands and retailers have traditionally understood and integrated consumer information — generating new insight and creative opportunities.

Bringing data into the heart of creative solutions will allow for products that can become more relevant because it can meet consumers with their contextual needs. So-called “traditional” supply models can now benefit as well, with creative approaches that are integrated, holistic, and organic.

Strategic thinkers at brands and retailers need to become better at communicating the power of data to creative people in ways that they can appreciate and utilize. The current disconnect is not intentional; it merely reflects the challenge to integrating the right and left-brain thinking.  We all share the same goals of creating solutions that increase relevance for consumers. We, therefore, need to bridge the divide between strategy and creativity by demonstrating that the power of data can add value. It can take the creative and brand teams to a new place by connecting solutions to more effective results.

To accomplish this, we need to convey the value of data in new ways. It is not just about more information, but about new insights into how people are thinking and acting, socially and as consumers.

  • Data can be a tool to fuel inspiration in the creative process.Connecting brand, transactional, social conversation  will give a view of the canvas on which the creative will be playing. Understanding these in real-time, can identify white spaces in the hearts of their consumer.  It can reveal where passion points can become places of intersection with the brand, introducing more relevant ways to connect.  This information can focus a creative solution on what is pertinent now, an advantage over research from last year’s product intelligence.
  • Data can be an asset and driver for creative solutions. Data upfront can be the raw material fused to inform or power creativity. The data you can identify and use has the power to illuminate and guide the creative output. Imagine consumers keep telling you what they like and don’t from the large market pool (which is far larger than your own small data) gives brands and retailers the ability to create relevant product and communication propositions.

The successful history of brands and retailers is marked by continuous evolution.

At brands and retailers, we still have two fundamental tasks:  (1) We have to create breakthrough products that will be noticed; and (2) We have to create work that provides shareable value.  In this evolving consumer and brand landscape, this cannot be done without looking at the world in a new way.

Data, in the hands of smart creative and strategic people, can be inputs that drive creativity to a new level.

Coming to the context of fashion and lifestyle businesses, gaining insights into a fashion that is an art form is a non-trivial problem. Many analytics platforms stopped at the limitation of the linear capabilities of traditional tools. Keeping “Visual Intelligence” as the key pillar of showcasing insights that have zero translation loss, is the key. In this context that we use Artificial Intelligence as tools like “Computer Vision” and “Deep Learning”.

In Summary, data (mind of consumers) when combined with creativity can help brands and retailers create empathy, an intimate connection with the feelings of the customer and help truly understand their needs better than any other company.

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