Marketers have access to more data than ever before. But when developing data-driven marketing strategies, it’s easy to become so obsessed with the numbers that it stifles creativity. In fact, according to Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing and PR Officer of Ally Financial, how to balance data with creativity is “the most important question in marketing today.”
During the latest season of my podcast, All the Social Ladies, I spoke with marketing executives at leading finance brands, who revealed some interesting insights about how they’re using data.
It’s an exciting time to be working in the financial services industry, says Melissa Musgrove, Vice President, Head of Social Media at Regions Bank: “The companies that we think of as financial services, the big banks, the big financial services institutions, they aren’t our only competitors anymore. We’re seeing social networks like Facebook and Snapchat provide financial services.”
With technology companies entering the mix, consumer expectations have spiked. Says Musgrove, “We’re seeing the digital consumer look for ease of use, we’re seeing them look for personalization, they want us to know them, they want us to know what we need even before they know that they need it and come to them with experiences and content and solutions that are customized to them.” The necessary levels of personalization and anticipation required to create an exceptional customer experience has made the use of data absolutely integral.
As financial services becomes an increasingly competitive field, Ally Financial is continuously looking for new ways to disrupt. Says Andrea Brimmer, Chief Marketing and PR Officer of Ally Financial, “I think the way that we’ve continued to disrupt is by leaning into what got us to where we are today which is this undeniable relentless focus on the consumer and doing things to solve for customer pain points.” In order to do that, marketers must balance data with creativity.
“We are really trying to be smart about how and when we use data,” says Brimmer. “I think using data to create insights, using data to validate an approach, using data to find people at the most relevant time with the right message is the right use of data…I don’t believe in any use of data that hampers or inhibits the creative process, because I still believe very much that this is a business of the heart and that we are paid as marketers to have a golden gut.”
“For us, part of the creativity is how do you get creative with the use of data?” she continues. “How do you use the data to find creativity in the way that we place media? How do we use the data to find creativity in the way that we speak to people and when we speak to people?”
Northwestern Mutual has fully embraced the use of data in its creative process. In fact, its Chief Marketing Officer, Aditi Javeri Gokhale, has often called data “the new currency.”
“I leverage data first in all my decisions. That’s sort of been my philosophy,” she says. “I feel like data and insights have the power to reach new customers in really relevant and authentic ways.”
Data is the foundation of the brand’s approach to marketing. By digging into qualitative and quantitative data, Gokhale and her team are able to uncover insights and then figure out how to connect with consumers in a unique creative process in order to break through the clutter.
Northwestern Mutual’s most recent brand campaign is a perfect example: “We know that people feel deep anxiety about money,” explains Gokhale. “But my role as CMO was to go beyond the obvious and dig for an insight that reveals something that is so core to human beings but also taps into something that is unique. What we found was, regardless of age, gender, or income, there is a constant tension that consumers feel between living for now and saving for later. So that was the insight that led us to the new brand campaign, Spend Your Life Living.”
When it comes to using data intelligently, insights are where the magic happens. Says Gokhale, “It’s not just a bunch of numbers, it’s the insights that you get out of it.”