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Magic Numbers: Data and Creativity with Lauren Gell


Perceptive's research consultant on The Spark SNTA project, why the marketing industry is hungrier for data and why collaboration is key

Magic Numbers: Data and Creativity with Lauren Gell

Lauren joined the Perceptive team in 2018, bringing with her a sharp, analytical mind honed from a Bachelor of Business Studies (majoring in marketing). Over time, that mind has grown sharper, particularly in qualitative and quantitative research. As a Research Consultant, she's been involved in large-scale international and local brand tracking studies, segmentation research, NPD testing, media, depths and advertising research. Lauren's organisation, strategic thinking, and talent for transforming research results into clear, digestible material have proven exceptionally valuable to the team.

LBB> What’s the number one question that clients are coming to you with when it comes to how they can better use data to enhance the creativity of their content and experiences?

Lauren> There is no one magical question, unfortunately. What I have noticed is more clients are willing to give us more creative license when it comes to harnessing data – all while keeping within the guidelines, of course. 

The whole marketing industry has become hungrier for data, from your typical brand health studies to segmentation and new product development. Clients often feel a sense of relief, especially when conducting NPD testing, that the product they are looking to launch will land well.

LBB> How can you make sure that data is elevating creative rather than forming a wind tunnel effect and knocking all the interesting or unique edges off that make something distinctive?

Lauren> Collaboration is key with the client. Most recently in our case, we worked closely with Colenso who were commissioned by Spark. They shared Spark’s vision on what they wanted the campaign and user experience to look like and any changes to this along the way. From there, we carefully curated a survey and methodology that aligned to the client brief.

It is important to note though that with data we can hypothesis, but the results may not always be what people want or expect. However, we are a curious bunch and will hunt for the most interesting stats and insights to help fuel creative.

LBB> Can you share with us any examples of projects you’ve worked on where the data really helped boost the creative output in a really exciting way?

Lauren> The Spark SNTA project we recently completed with Colenso is a brilliant example of an ad agency (Colenso) and data agency (Perceptive) working together and delivering their strengths for a client, in this case Spark. 

This was a unique project to work on and one we hadn’t done before at Perceptive. SNTA is an instore gift generator fuelled by thousands of data points. Perceptive was responsible for gathering the data that creates the user experience, which we did through a New Zealand-wide survey of 2000 people. Say you are looking for a present for your mum who is into sports, the SNTA gift generator selects a few products that are aligned to what our sport-loving mums selected in the survey.

Through the survey, we also asked fun facts about New Zealanders, such as how many like to binge watch a TV show in their spare time, blast music, go for a roadie in summer or host an elaborately themed dinner party for friends. The survey was specifically and carefully designed to help this UX experience.

LBB> More brands are working to create their own first-party data practice - how can a brand figure out whether that’s something relevant or important for their business? 

Lauren> The difficulty of developing your own first-party data practice isn’t so much gathering the data. That part is relatively easy, many businesses are knowingly or unknowingly gathering first party data from social media, email newsletters/subscriptions, loyalty programmes, and website visits. The difficult part is organising it. By that I mean using a single source of truth for your customer data. With data coming from multiple sources, you need to have a system in place that collects it all and understands that Joe Bloggs from your customer loyalty programme is the same Joe Bloggs who is subscribed to your marketing emails, who liked your new product post on social media and clicked a link on your last post that led them to browse your product page for five minutes. Without a single source of truth, you end up with customer data siloed in all these different areas of your business with no real understanding of how customers move between the different touchpoints of your brand. 

LBB> We talk about data driving creativity, but what are your thoughts about approaching the use of data in a creative way?

Lauren> Data can be used and shown as creatively as you would like, but it always needs to stay in context. By that I mean keeping in mind how the question was posed to respondents. As a research agency, we are always available to clients to check any content or stats before they are launched to the media.

LBB> "Lies, damned lies, and statistics" - how can brands and creative make sure that they’re really seeing what they think they’re seeing (or want to see) in the data, or that they’re not misusing data?

Lauren> This is where the help of a research agency is useful. We’re trained to pull insights from data so businesses can make informed decisions. When I say insights, I don’t mean statistics. A statistic is a static number; an insight is the story the data is revealing, which are far more valuable to businesses.

For example, imagine we found 90% of cat owners purchase treats for their cat. While interesting, that 90% stat doesn’t provide much meaning on its own. It isn’t analysing the situation to understand why 90% of cat owners purchase cat treats. However, an insight - the why - might be that cat owners really, really like spoiling their cats with treats, therefore, it is important for a client in the pet food space to make sure they have a treat product in their repertoire.

LBB> What are your thoughts about trust in data - to what extent is uncertainty and a lack of trust in data (or data sources) an issue and what are your thoughts on that?

Lauren> The most common issue I have seen is misusing data and taking the data out of context. The data itself is correct but how the media spins it can make it incorrect. This highlights the need for researchers and businesses to work closely together and communicate any constraints and data that can’t be shared out in the universe. Sometimes people are wary of not being in control of the process, but they must learn to trust the experts and our processes as it’s what we do every day.

LBB> With so many different regulatory systems in different markets regarding data and privacy around the world - as well as different cultural views about privacy - what’s the key to creating a joined-up data strategy at a global level that’s also adaptable to local nuances?

Lauren> I can only speak to my own experience here, but business partnerships are essential. For example, at Perceptive we have partnered with Cint, a global software leader, which helps us manage the various data and privacy requirements around the world. When it comes to creating a global strategy, recognise what you can and can’t do on your own, and partner with trusted industry professionals to cover those gaps in resource, skill or knowledge. 

LBB> What does responsible data practice look like?

Lauren> It is quite complex and is ever evolving. As researchers, we have comprehensive training on the dos and don’ts when it comes to handling data. This is anything from fieldwork and ensuring we have enough privacy measures in place to making sure we report on and visualise the data in an appropriate and accurate way.  

LBB> In your view, what’s the biggest misconception people have around the use of data in marketing?

Lauren> That data is both scary and boring. The reality is it drives all the decisions we make!

LBB> In terms of live issues in the field, what are the debates or developments that we should be paying attention to right now?

Lauren> Data quality has always been key to the success of any market research survey. Over the last few years, the number of fraudulent respondents has increased dramatically. We are constantly working on new ways to identify and remove these respondents.


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JSK Communications, Sun, 08 Jan 2023 20:46:00 GMT