With so much data available to marketers today there is a risk of being distracted by it. Whether that results in an over reliance on, or even a resistance to using it, data is sometimes not exploited for its best use. 


David Ogilvy once said that data is used “as a drunk uses a lamppost: for support, rather than illumination.” It is the ‘illumination’ of possibilities and opportunities that data provides, and it should not be used to support preconceived ideas, or personal bias. 

Summing up the potential misuse of date in one quite astute observation, Ogilvy challenges marketers to consider how they are using it. Personal bias and preformed opinions can influence, if not blind, marketers to the insight that the data is presenting. Data should not result in debates and disagreements within the marketing team, instead there should be one clear message that acts as the foundation for clear, tangible, next steps.

Insights derived from the data can influence marketers in two key ways. It can help form the basis of a brief or, it can turn an existing brief completely on its head or at the very least be a sense check of what has already been proposed and established. In the first instance, research can be commissioned to explore something a marketer, or a brand, believe to be true but want verification. The results of this then allows the brand to better understand their consumers, and with this insight marketers can subsequently identify opportunities. In the second instance, if a brief has already been established, then the research conducted will help further the creative process. 

Where the insight from the data is providing the catalyst for the creative process, Dave Trott sums it up neatly that advertising should follow the structure of, ‘Impact. Communicate. Persuade’. This can only be achieved with clarity of thought and ideas, both of which have been fueled by concise insights derived from specific research results.

Whether the data and the insights are being used for a print, direct marketing, digital or video campaign – whatever the medium – the campaign needs to achieve Return on Investment (ROI). Successful campaigns have one central, powerful, message at their core. Advertising is the voice of marketing, they are not the same thing, and the voice needs to speak to the target audience in an authentic way. By basing creative ideas from consumer driven insights, the resulting communications resonate on a deeper level with the audience. Because brands need people to remember them, even if the brand has little or no relevance to their own individual lives – if brands can achieve that, then they resonate and engage with their target market on a deep emotional level. 


Over the last year, we have seen some great examples of this type of thinking in action.

In 2016 Pret launched a campaign based on consumer insight that told the brand there had been a seismic shift in attitudes towards healthier foods. This insight was instigated by the double-digit sales increase in health vegetarian options Pret had seen in 2015. In response to this, Pret launched a pop-up shop to cater specifically for vegetarians. With little advertising outside of social media, Pret saw sales increase by almost 14%, to £676.2m last year. 

Group Marketing Director, Mark Palmer says, “if customers are good enough to give you their time, you need to listen. Marketers find it hard to listen, they usually have their minds already made up. That is a mistake because if customers want to be part of your brand, you need to take them seriously.”

Led by Pearson, a leading learning company, Project Literacy, was borne out of the insight that 1 in 10 people alive today are illiterate. The campaign contained a variety of touchpoints, including a feature length 90-second film featuring quite graphic and powerful images, with a haunting song acting as the voiceover. This film has had 12m views worldwide, with social media platforms further increasing the campaigns reach. 

Spotify capitalised on the nature of the data they receive from their customers to launch, in November 2016, a campaign completely based on consumer insight. Combining consumer listening habits with worldwide events, Spotify created ‘Thanks 2016. It’s been weird’ campaign.

Spotify advert using data

image source: Adweek

Spotify’s chief marketing officer, Seth Farbman, told Creativity, “There has been some debate about whether big data is muting creativity in marketing, but we have turned that on its head,” adding, “For us, data inspires and gives an insight into the emotion that people are expressing.”


Each of these campaigns demonstrate the power and benefits of consumer insight. The brilliance of them is in their simplicity. Just as Ogilvy stated, the data truly has helped these brands to shine a light on new possibilities – having used insight, derived from data, to generate wonderfully creative ideas upon which to base their advertising campaigns. Placing authentic stories, created by uncovering the wants and needs of your audience, at the forefront of brand communications, is one of the most effective way to captivate consumers.