Data Is Way More Than Just Bits and Bytes

By Ginger Conlon

When most marketers think about data, they think demographics, response rates, and the like. But there’s more to it than rows of customer and performance data.


During his session at the Ad Age IQ: Marketing & Technology Conference, TBWA\Worldwide Global Data Director Baker Lambert advised attendees to think differently about data, to use it to inform creative.


“Right now, 100 percent of the topics in data are about ROI, segmentation, [etc.], Lambert said. “Instead, think differently.” He cited as an example Nissan using National Donut Day as a data point that informed the creative for a campaign: The car company used a Nissan 370Z doing donuts to shoot sprinkles onto donuts.


Another example Lamber cited was a pharma retailer that tracks social listening and available health data to uncover key health issues across geographies. It then uses that insight to market the right products in each geography.


Lambert recommended that marketers combine all types of data to discover the unexpected. “You can do advanced audience segementation, but so what,” he said. “What’s better is [predicting] who’s likely to churn.”


What’s best, Lambert asserted, it using data to unlock creative executions. “How we’re using data for creative jazzes me,” he said. “It makes creatives bionic. We’re always looking for triggers so we can proactively pitch ideas to clients.”


Lambert shared his three rules for using data to inform creative.


People, not machines, produce insights. “People want to dump data into a box and want it to tell us what to do,” he said. “That doesn’t work. It gets complicated logarithmically. Then you’re looking at same data over and over.” What marketers should do, he said, is build a variety of data sources they can use.

Start with the question and then get the data to answer it. Marketers can spend a lot of time data mining and not get a lot out of it. Where do you find the data you need? Build a hypothesis, then determine which data will provide the clues to help figure out if the hypothesis is true.

It’s not just what data to use; it’s when to use it. Data isn’t just about the how or why of campaigns. It’s also about opportunity. Use data before campaigns, to help create them—not just to optimize them after they’re in market.


“Think around an issue,” Lambert said. Brainstorm the data types, trends, and what-if questions that can help address it. “Take data and use it to identify opportunities.”

About the Author

Ginger Conlon, chief editor and marketing alchemist at MKTGinsight, catalyzes change in marketing organizations. She is a frequent speaker on marketing and customer experience, and serves in advisory or leadership roles for several industry organizations. Ginger was honored with a Silver Apple lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the marketing industry.

Find her at @customeralchemy and on LinkedIn.