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At multiple instances, content marketers get stuck with the difficult choice to make between going by creative instinct or relying on data. While data helps immensely in targeting the audience better and understanding consumer behaviour, there is no tool to measure the emotional reasons for which a consumer buys a product or falls in love with a brand. 

Creative content has a huge role to play in forming a connection with consumers at an emotional level which no other format can do. It has the power to motivate and impact the complex mind of consumers. Data-driven content helps brands avoid marketing spends spillage, and reach out to the right audience by understanding their preferences and general behaviour. caught up with content marketers and experts to know if one can even figure out the right balance between data-driven and creativity-driven content.

In times of content overdose where the consumers are spoilt for choices, it is only creative content that can make a brand stand out - which no amount of data can do. 

Piali Dasgupta

According to Piali Dasgupta, Senior Vice-President – Marketing at Columbia Pacific Communities, “While data is the new oil, cutting-edge creativity is the only thing that will keep your content afloat in the attention economy, where the average human attention span is less than that of a goldfish. 

She explained, “Marketers (and their bosses) have to understand that ultimately it is a human being in flesh and blood that you are communicating to. You are not communicating to data. Behind every piece of data, is a customer, for whom real human emotions and compelling storytelling matter. And that’s where the magic of creativity comes in.” 

Although, she added, “Obviously, in this day and age of ROI-focused marketing, one can’t be creative for the sake of creativity. Creativity has to be backed by data. But it’s important to sometimes listen to your gut, and go with your instincts. And most importantly, to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Yes, the same customer who is overwhelmed by the amount of content that comes his way each day.”

Ranjeet Kumar

For Ranjeet Kumar, Head of Brand and Content, Scaler, data helps us find the cause, leading to insight to create a compelling creative content piece. Therefore, both data and creativity go hand-in-hand. 

He gave the example of Facebook’s famous award-winning film, Pooja Didi, and said, “Facebook launched the Pooja Didi campaign during the Covid period. For Facebook, social media conversations were the point of instigation. At that time, several people had lost their jobs and so many conversations on social media revolved around the same. The campaign was built around the same conversations, which acted as data, upon which the emotions were built that we must not lose hope and can build things if we take the matter into our hands.”

Pooja didi film:

He further said, “Whenever we think about an idea, there has to be a cause. Data is the basis of the brief. One should cultivate the habit of using data and insights as the starting point. We need to have a starting point of cause. If there is no cause or insight, then any good creative idea could be used to create content for any random brand and it might end up getting lost in the plethora of content already present out there.” 

Anish Varghese

According to Anish Varghese, Chief Creative Officer, Liqvd Asia, both data-driven content and creativity-driven content are equally beneficial for a modern creator. Where to apply and how to apply both is what makes a difference. 

He said, “Both data-driven and creative content are important. One can’t say which is more important than the other. Over time, we learn to find the right balance between the two with the understanding we gain by juggling both together, linear or non-linear.” 

Even during the pre-testing phase of the campaigns, so many times, they garner poor ratings, but when the marketers take that leap of faith, it works wonders for the brand. 

Scaler’s Kumar added, “Sometimes data works and sometimes it doesn’t. There is no silver bullet to it. We will never be able to gauge the effectiveness of any campaign before signing it off. It’s next to impossible. A lot boils down to experience, knowing the consumers with past data and leaning a lot on marketing instincts. All combined together give some wisdom to take a calculative call.” 

Hardik Shah

Hardik Shah, Vice-President - Digital, Puretech Digital, commented, “In my experience whenever you have a compelling creative idea, one should think about the content discovery opportunities. If you can think of platforms where the content can be disseminated, and easily discovered by users, you should go for it.”

Varghese then went on to say that creative content is filled with relatable and tailormade situations which give an emotional angle/human connection among the audience. Whereas data-driven content is more performance-related, or something related to a quick conversion. A lot of snackable content is based on data-driven insights.

Shah seconded Varghese’s thoughts and said that in most cases the data-backed content drives pull traffic - where the user reaches the content because they are actively seeking similar content for e.g. search platforms, and therefore it is a popular form of content. “However, in the case of creative ideation, one must also think of ways in which it will be pushed to its target audience; only then this kind of content will deliver performance,” he said. 

Shah further emphasised that weightage on the creative content should be as much as it is on the data-driven content.

He commented, “While data-driven content actually focuses on existing data points to tell you if there is enough interest in certain topics or content themes, what it doesn't take into consideration is the actual user persona, their purchase journey, their pain points and what they think, feel, say or do during their journey.”

“We have seen that when we created customer personas with adequate research we were able to identify the pain points of a consumer where not enough searches were being made but upon integration of the content in the consumer journey - we saw a good uptick in the final conversions.”

For example, a large volume of consumers search for credit card eligibility criteria, credit scores etc. but when they check the details and see that they fail to match the criteria, very few go back and search for a solution. 

“However, if you understand the pain point and provide a solution (to get a credit card against an FD) it will always work. Data wise there is no input on the possibility of this solution working, but when you experiment with creative solutions it does give results,” added Shah. 

Dasgupta of Columbia Pacific Communities argued that there’s no denying the fact that the role of data today is all pervasive. Personalisation is key in marketing. And personalised content is heavily dependent on creating a buyer/audience persona, which in turn, is dependent on data mining. But the trouble with being data-obsessed is that one lets creativity take a backseat. And that’s never healthy. 

She said if one was asked to name the top five memorable campaigns of the last decade, the person is likely to name the ones in which storytelling triumphed over everything else. 

“For example, data suggests that the ideal length of a marketing video is between 30 seconds to a minute. Yet, “Reunion”, the popular Google ad from 2013 done by Ogilvy and Mather, spanned over 3 minutes, and is considered one of the most iconic ads of this decade. 

If Ogilvy were to adhere to the 60-second diktat, the Reunion would not have been what it is. But they took the leap of faith and had a client that supported their vision. And creativity. 

The end result? An ad that went viral.” 

Dasgupta concluded, “It’s important to listen to data, absorb it as much as possible, and let it nudge you in the right direction. But it’s equally important to not become formulaic, and try to invent a “winning formula” for creating content. Ultimately, the goal of communication is to connect with people. And connections are not made with formulae, but with soul-stirring creativity, authenticity and colouring outside the lines.”