How Data Will Shape the Next Frontier of Creativity

Seeking insights to navigate unprecendented shifts in 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.

2020 has been pretty eventful, to say the least, and we're barely halfway through it. As much as this is a stressful period, it's also a fascinating time to observe behaviors and learn about what people will start, stop and continue doing for the remainder of 2020 and into 2021.

Data and creativity have played a crucial role in helping public and private sectors assess, anticipate and prepare for the shifts ahead. Geolocation and tracking show us people's movements (or lack of) during the pandemic and how they are actively engaging in social activism. Social listening and observation now give us a clearer-than-ever picture of societal sentiment—and how optimistic or pessimistic different segments of the population are in the face of what has unfolded. Our daily searches paint a clear picture of how the news cycles and events sway our interests. The songs we're listening to and the movies and documentaries we're watching represent what captures our imagination and what we all seek to learn and reflect on. How we are spending our money right now tells us much about how people are navigating and relating to what we're all going through.

These changing consumer behaviors are providing unique data-driven creative opportunities for brands, and in many ways the pandemic has sharpened the ways marketers can use data to address consumer needs. Most agencies already have some kind of framework in place for this. With our heritage in data, search, and the largest people-based platform in the industry, 360i works under a philosophy-turned-process called Rigorous Imagination. Our approach to planning starts with lots of rigor by interrogating a business challenge and gathering information about the consumer, the competitive landscape, what's happening in culture, and any additional data and information that might help give us an edge. Then imagination takes over to jumpstart a robust conceptual idea to be applied to our experience roadmap—think of this as a sophisticated consumer journey meets strategic communications plan meets user experience design. This shows us where our idea will thrive the most based on the brand, category and how consumers navigate the need state being addressed.

Prior to the pandemic, New Orleans Tourism came to us to help prove they are the most musically diverse city in the world (from jazz to brass, hip-hop to gospel, indie to funk) and attract a new demographic of visitors obsessed with music. Our engagement with playlists on platforms like Spotify offers rich data around listening habits and behaviors. With that intel, we created what we dubbed the Offline Playlist, a carefully crafted collection that reflected the city's true sound, as defined by years of listener habits. Then we invited lucky fans who engaged with the playlist to experience it live, from start to finish, in its original order at the iconic Preservation Hall. This Offline Playlist has turned into a historic concert, a live album, sponsored Spotify content, broadcast commercials, out-of-home, social and influencer content, and a full-length award-winning documentary. And it all started with thinking differently about data. It's inspiring to see how data creates the focus needed to maximize the freedom we crave when developing new ideas for clients. 

Post-pandemic, as we navigate shifts in behavior not seen in our lifetimes, the importance of data-driven insights will only increase. Behavioral data will serve as fuel to take data-driven creativity even further. It will allow a level of confidence among creativity that will come into its own as new constraints appear and become a catalyst for innovative thinking. There will be bolder risks in creative execution, more strategic direction, and a better examination of targeted audiences. The ability for creative campaigns to generate data will lead to a more in-depth look into how consumers are interacting with the work.

Data has become even more central than ever over these past few months because it helps us predict and project behaviors by showing us how brands can better serve their base and tap into new audiences and need states. With shifts happening across the consumer segments that brands engage with, data will increasingly play a vital role moving forward in helping brand actions adapt and pivot even faster—and brand expressions can become more fluid. And the use of A.I. to harness and analyze the fast-changing inputs we're receiving will become the norm, which allows more energy to go into the creative process itself. 

Progressive marketers and agencies were already tapping into rich data to inform creative work and make it more effective, but the new frontier ahead of us will only accelerate and reinforce the importance of creativity being rooted in data. The challenge will be leveraging data not just to keep up, but to get ahead. As we've experienced, the world can be unpredictable.

Profile picture for user Menno Kluin and Raig Adolfo
Menno Kluin and Raig Adolfo
Menno Kluin is chief creative officer and Raig Adolfo is chief strategy officer at 360i.

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