Going Back to Basics: The Value of Values for Creatives

Understanding the why, not just the what and how, of human behavior

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.

After more than a quarter of the year spent working and living during a global pandemic, one thing is clear: The creative industry is still in the business of responding to—and anticipating—changing human needs. The best approach to identifying and addressing these changing needs, especially during a time of disruption, requires a mixture of strategy, actionable data and a deep understanding of human values. When done well, this mix can separate the leaders who can anticipate what comes next from those who simply react.

However, not every creative team is prepared to track issues or events and anticipate how these impact evolving sentiment. By clinging to traditional data sources to inform marketing initiatives, chances are short-term changes in consumer behavior will catch everyone off guard—and decision-makers will end up either over-correcting for short-term changes or missing longer-term shifting patterns. Why? Because human behavior is far more complex than what simple surveys can identify. 

Understanding human behavior 

Across the world, consumers are displaying their feelings and emotions on their sleeves, and often their social channels. But we believe it's not enough to understand "what" consumers are saying or "how" they are behaving—we need to understand the "why." Once the "why" is understood, all creative can be proactively shaped by an informed understanding of the audience—ultimately driving more thoughtful, meaningful engagement.

However, many of today's consumer panels and databases are reactive—focusing on discovering, digesting and analyzing behaviors as or after they happen. So, we've developed a different approach: Our Values Compass™ is a predictive algorithm that graphically represents a group's values and subsequently identifies their attitudinal, purchase behavior, and media consumption habits. This provides additional insight into the underlying drivers of consumer actions, which we use as the foundation of creative ideas. With these insights, creatives can develop campaigns based on tailored human understanding.

Applying nontraditional insights, traditionally

We have found success leveraging the Values Compass™ to help many of our clients build stronger connections—both internally and externally. When Pennsylvania-based healthcare provider Gateway Health tasked Deloitte Digital's Heat with helping identify the best ways to convey their commitment to addressing the social determinants of health, the team kicked off a comprehensive research stage consisting of both traditional interviews and Values Compass™ data. As a result, each core audience was understood based on their values, which inspired the new creative positioning around helping members untangle complicated situations, so they can break through the circumstances that keep them from whole health—regardless of the changing world around them.

The creative articulation of this new positioning, which branded the social determinants of health as Wholecare™, shines in the new visual brand identity. With warm, welcoming colors such as orange and yellow, which stand out in the managed care space, a modular design system consisting of shapes that come together to form a whole, and candid photography shot in natural light, the new visual identity helps position the brand as human, approachable and caring.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, many brands hit the pause button right as Deloitte Digital's Heat and Gateway Health were planning to unveil the program they had been building for months. However, the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on Gateway Health's community shines a light on the relevance of their new Wholecare positioning. Without leveraging the deep insights of the Values Compass™, the new positioning may not have been relevant in the rapidly changing landscape. Instead, the new positioning has the ability to authentically connect with the values and needs of its audiences now and in the future. 

Keeping an eye on the horizon

Once business leaders have access to a broad spectrum of data, it is vital to deploy it in a thoughtful manner. Across the board, brands can't afford to make a creative misstep—as a result of heightened economic pressures on every business and the increasing volatility in the market—because it may impact the bottom line. The key strategy to getting ahead of this challenge is using data which can reflect dynamic customer values. Insights derived from values can also help inform how a business defines itself, which can influence why it produces certain products or services, and ultimately can shift what a business does at its core. As businesses across the globe are rethinking their models, now is the time to dig into the underlying values to find the path forward. 

One component of this path includes broadening the conversation beyond just a singular brand. When we reset how a company thinks about customers on an emotional level, the focus shifts from individuals to elevating the human experience across the full ecosystem. With Gateway Health, for example, the new visual identity changes the way the brand identifies itself end-to-end. From its mission, vision and values, the renewed identify is all anchored in the foundational insight of the impact of the social determinants of health on the lives of Gateway Health's member base. Since relaunching, providers in the healthcare industry have responded positively to this new positioning, seeing the opportunity to play a new, larger role in the health of individuals. For marketers, the potential for creativity in this broadened context is unlimited—ranging from brand, marketing, campaigns, services and products.

Overall, the resonance of creative work is determined by the ability of leaders to capture and digest consumer data, understand inherent customer values, and apply these insights to design initiatives that reflect how consumers act today. But tomorrow and beyond, the use of data will be primarily grounded in values-based decision making which unleashes the potential for endless creativity.

Profile picture for user Nelson Kunkel and Maggie Gross
Nelson Kunkel and Maggie Gross
Nelson Kunkel is chief design officer at Deloitte Digital, and Maggie Gross is head of strategy at Deloitte Digital's Heat New York.

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