Is Marketing more about Design or Data?

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As the data marketing specialist, we are obviously always working with data and advising on the insights it can offer to our clients. However, we have encountered many marketing campaigns where – despite utilising the best data strategy available – a poor creative or message has doomed that campaign. Therefore we completely value the importance of both the data and the design aspects, and the clear benefits of the two areas working together.

Data and Design – better together

Much like the age-old arguments around the importance of Art versus Science, both elements have an important role to play – in this case in creating successful marketing campaigns and strategies. Bear in mind that:

  • A great piece of design with creative messaging will be largely useless if sent to a misinformed and/or untargeted audience.
  • A carefully selected marketing list of prospects, identified and segmented according to existing customer insight will be unlikely to respond to a poorly thought out creative piece.

Data-informed design

Ideally, design should be informed by evidence and data. The information a business has about its customers, their preferences and behaviour should always be shared with your design team or external designer.

The better that creatives understand what makes your existing clients tick, the better they can use this information to communicate with them.

The better that creatives understand what makes your existing clients tick, the better they can use this information to communicate with them. Furthermore, when working on acquisition pieces aimed at prospects, more detailed information about the type of audience you are targeting will help the designers better target their design and the use/positioning of messaging.

With these factors in mind, make sure when working with a designer that you give them a solid overview of key details relating to your target audience for the product you are featuring. However, that does not mean simply sending them a spreadsheet filled with numbers and data; it is important to translate that technical information into key points that the designer can easily refer to and then translate into your creative.

Recent CIM debate

Recently the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) hosted a debate at the House of Commons on whether big data truly does spell the end of creativity in the marketing profession. The key arguments included:

For data spelling the end of creativity

  • Data is the new currency of business. A greater understanding of where marketing expenditure is going leads to more tangible business impact.
  • The sophistication of data analytics tools is increasing, while the cost is decreasing…we edge ever closer to maximum possible insight.
  • There is room for creativity within data, and those who are numerate and able to use analytics tools will be the new creatives within marketing.

For creativity holding its own

  • Data is rational, but decisions are often irrational. Consumer decisions are not made in the way that data often suggests.
  • Marketing’s function is not to simply analyse existing behaviour, its ultimate ambition is to change it.
  • Data science functions will most likely become automated, but that is impossible in the case of creativity.

So, even when arguing the two sides of the debate, the marketing and design world as a whole agrees that data and design are not mutually exclusive and should be used in combination to create the best possible campaign to help you achieve your business goals.



- Do you feel the marketing focus has shifted from design to data in recent years?
- Have you seen any positive or negative effects from any such shift?
- Have you found one area more beneficial than another?