Data Fuels Creativity, Agility Breeds Relevancy

3 ways data can drive meaningful, inspiring and relevant content

This essay is part of Data + Creativity 2020, a Muse by Clio insight report exploring that critical intersection in marketing—and how to leverage it to create more impactful work. Click here to download the full PDF report of 12 essays, or here to read them on the Muse site.

Data can fuel creativity in many ways. Over the years, audience and behavioral insights at Pinterest have helped advertisers and creators make inspiring content for all types of user interests and marketing objectives. 

More recently, 2020 has taught us that listening, empathizing and connecting with people and culture are more important than ever. And with so much changing so quickly, you must be agile. If you aren't, you put your relevancy at risk.

Creativity and inspiration are personal. Deploying data in the right ways will help you make your communications connect in a more meaningful manner. 

Here are three of my favorite ways brands can leverage data and insights to make inspiring and relevant content starting today, if you're not already:

Add depth to your audience

Who you're speaking to is foundational to any creative idea or campaign. It's important to remember that as people, we define ourselves well beyond our age and gender. Marketers should do the same. Mine data and analytics to create more depth and richness to your audience profile, and your creative teams will thank you. Nuance and specificity serve as great sparks for a big idea—and fun ways to extend one.

Some specific data to consider: What are your customers searching for related to your category? What other unexpected interests do they have? How early did they start planning before the actual moment of purchase? Are your research and attribution windows long enough to understand how their decisions evolve along the purchase journey? What types of imagery and content are they engaging with, or even saving depending on the platform? 

Beyond using smart keyword targeting on Pinterest with terms like "sustainability" and "healthy eating," Imperfect Foods uncovered their potential customers had interests that weren't as intuitively linked to their brand. "Finance" was one of them—and the discovery helped inform their creative strategy. 

These extra layers of detail will give you a more complete and rich audience profile when writing your creative brief.

Discover and inspire new use cases 

The products and services we sell are often a means or a tool to something bigger. An accessory to an outfit. An ingredient to a recipe, or better yet, an awesome dinner party. A finishing touch to a once-in-a-lifetime experience, from your wedding day to a dream vacation. (I know, I'm planning one right now).

Businesses are often built on the backs of some of these most obvious and universal use cases, but incremental growth and innovation are often sparked by new use cases. These can be expressed and exposed through data in several ways:

• The creativity of your customers: Humans are creative beings. CRM, social listening and third-party platform data can help you uncover insights about the new and unique ways people are using your products. Identify these trends to fuel innovative product development, content strategy and opportunities for community engagement.

• Adjacent interests: Data can expose correlation between one interest, behavior, moment and another. Consumers are multi-dimensional. Challenge yourself to expand how you connect with them by leaning into their other interests—while still being authentic to your brand, voice, value proposition and benefits. You'll surprise them with the creative connection.

• Cultural listening: Covid-19 has taught us a great deal about how important it is to truly understand and speak to how people are feeling, behaving and searching—in that moment. Keep in mind that it varies based on location, so optimize your creative accordingly to land local relevance with the state of the world around them.

In the last few months, flavor company McCormick took advantage of all three of these. Listening to Pinterest search data, they created content that met the demand of parents looking for ideas and inspiration, like kids' activities and pantry recipes. A simple but helpful ad had confidence in and stretched their audience's creativity, giving them a Pantry Hack: 3 Ways to Use Turmeric. New use cases were born overnight, and they were able to create a connection in a time when their audience truly needed ideas. 

Iterate at the speed of now

Whether it's in-campaign optimization or quick-turn evolution on the next one, the days of set-it-and-forget-it annual campaigns are over. The data is too accessible, the expectations of consumers are too high, and behavior is changing too quickly. Miss an evolving trend, and you lose an opportunity to stay relevant when so many people are open to new ideas.

As Covid-19 spread, brands like Kohl's quickly set up new creative and production processes that turned around new assets within three days based on audience search data. They used creative on Pinterest to respond with ideas for Virtual Prom Style with critical information about their new limited-contact store drive-up option. 

While these quick turnarounds were initially in reaction to faster trend cycles, many marketers with similar approaches are stating that they're here to stay. The operational components are in place, speed isn't sacrificing creativity, and contextual relevance has never been more important.

Ultimately, data in itself is a creative opportunity. Brands and creatives who see it as that can reimagine their audiences, inspire new and innovative use cases, and evolve as quickly as culture and trends are today—which don't seem to be slowing down. So why wouldn't you? 

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