Aligning creative and data for improved customer experience

First published by PerformanceIN, November 2021.


Creative, being the use of imagination, and data, being fact and statistics, are typically seen as opposites. However, when combined, these opposites can create a more exciting and engaging user experience.

In the world we work in, creative is used to help users to complete tasks. Whether that is to aid their understanding of a message, its relevance, or to provide enjoyable ways of navigating content. And while there will always be a level of subjectivity over anything ‘creative’, this means it becomes more of a tool to be used as part of a solution, not the solution in isolation.

Likewise, data by itself is just a collection of information. You could just present all of that data to a user… but what would they do with it? You have to turn it into a story in order for it to be meaningful. The best way to make your story? Enter into a clear and mutually beneficial relationship with the user where both sides get a roughly even value exchange, they let you know them, and you serve them relent content.

Let’s look at an example of a sample brief:

Get more users to download and use an app.

You could use pure creative to design a social post or email to do this, but how would you know what to include? What makes it relevant? By using data gathered from other people who have been on this journey, or a similar one, we can start to understand:

  • Which features resonate most.
  • App user profiles.
  • When people most download the app.
  • Tone preferences, e.g. functional vs. emotional.

Straight away you have some actionable insights that will inform the basic approaches you might take, but it wouldn’t stop there. The best creatives don’t work in absolutes and certainties. They are curious. They want to know more about how effective their work is. Introducing segmentation or multi-variant testing, and constantly iterating approaches to maximise engagement, helps refine the creative solution. Data is the only way to do this objectively.

It’s also important to consider that no brief exists in isolation; everything you learn from the execution of one can be applied to the next. Without a good collaboration between data analysts and creatives, you can’t ever be sure you’re telling the story in a way that resonates or has the desired impact.

There are much more complex examples of the two working together. It could be that you want to build affinity with users by celebrating their relationship with the brand, or something more functional, like helping users stay engaged with an app by looking at common pain points and how to overcome them. However, the process is the same and still requires there to be a clear objective, coupled with data and creative working together to bring the ideas and story to life.

Working in CRM means we are within an area that is rich in first-party permissioned data sets. It’s great to have a creative team that is obsessed with the numbers and a data team that is passionate about creative being rooted in real data. This means we can always be objective about our creative solutions, ensuring that they have a purpose far beyond looking ‘pretty’. We measure our campaigns in proven behavioural change as well as pounds and pence, and that’s only possible because of the alignment between data and creative.