Data + Design: The Perfect Marriage

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Data and design have come together over the past decade in a marriage we couldn’t have forecasted. Some say they rushed into it, some say they’ll never last—but we believe they’ll live happily ever after. Because together, data and design have revolutionized how we market to customers. It’s something that has been on our minds as we shape the future of this industry, and consequently, became a primary topic at our panel in collaboration with Austin Design Week.

This piece focuses on talking points from MODintelechy’s Co-Founder, Scott Thomas and Creative Director, Joanna Brown, at ADW2021. See here for a full event recap.

 

Using Data to Tell Stories

Sometime recently—probably around the time everyone finished binging Mad Men on Netflix—a certain perception about advertising, marketing, and creatives made its way into our collective consciousness. For some, it was a deep reverence for an expertise that folks chose not to understand. For others, it was a stigma applied to a craft that’s simply too subjective to be properly measured. You’ve probably guessed already that the answer is neither. It’s not even somewhere in the middle. The truth is we’re thinking too small about marketing, it’s role in our ecosystems, and its potential impact. Marketing is now a marriage—as strategies can only thrive when data and design work in harmony.

First things first, we must shift our mindset—well before execution. Long gone are the days of focus groups, market research, and trusting marketers to build fully-realized strategies based on intuition and intuition alone. It might tell a story, but that story doesn’t belong to the customer. In order to fully understand our customer, we have to pop the hood and dive into the data and analytics that tell their stories. Then we know we’re starting from a place of truth and making decisions based on behavior that’s real—instead of a blind hypothesis.

Client Asks Often Don’t Reflect Their Needs

When clients tell us they need to push out digital ads because they already “know” who their audience is, how to reach them, and what they’d like to say—we know it’s time to take a step back. Because while our instincts can stumble into success, the data will tell us a clearer story about what is actually happening.

It would be someone approaching you with the need of catching more fish to eat, but only ask if you can take this baseball bat to the ocean to catch sand sharks. They know they need more fish, but they’re making wild assumptions about how you can help them reach that goal. They’ve already chosen their audience with the sand shark, their channel with the ocean, and their vehicle with the baseball bat. If we take a step back and do a tiny bit of research, we can help them understand that their audience is actually bass, and we can use a fishing pole to catch them at a pond in their neighborhood—the right vehicle and channel.

The same innovative, strategic approach is being used by reputable companies to rethink how they’re marketing to customers—adding data, measurement, attribution, and science to their strategies. But data itself is not the complete answer. It’s how you marry data and creative to move and influence people. This is where the magic really happens.

Data + Design = Storytelling That Converts

Before this data revolution, there was much more autonomy in design. Like a shot in the dark, campaigns would be built with a little bit of research and a lot of convenient assumptions. With data-driven design, we can optimize our approach to hit our target audiences with more consistency. But it only becomes memorable with the right storytelling techniques.

Effective storytelling is based on multiple factors: Empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing. We use all of this data to build recommendations on the audience, the channel, and the vehicle we use to put that idea into the world. These components are carefully blended into campaigns that drive our audiences to act.

Once the campaign is launched, your work is done, right? Wrong. In fact, campaigns should be treated as fluid tools that both convert customers and gather additional insights. With data metrics at our fingertips, we can make agile adjustments to improve our strategy—adapting the concept, functionality, design, and messaging to reflect our continuously growing understanding of the customer. And lucky for us, we’ll never run out of data.

Thinking Deeper: From Campaigns to Journeys

As we touched on earlier, most clients box themselves in by thinking about campaigns as isolated strategies. However, this singular campaign approach doesn’t consider the whole customer journey.

Lets take a look at a simple hypothetical: Say a company approaches us with an ask to use digital to drive demand. Using prescriptive ideas around audience, vehicle, and channel—this company has already decided they want to optimize a specific touchpoint they’ve identified themselves and convert as many users as possible. With money in the marketing budget, they want to wrap the campaign in a $10,000 raffle with a new entry per click through. “The more clicks, the better” they thought—and a very attainable goal for us. But what happens after they click through?

With our new philosophy, we’d transform the ask into the need by focusing on the holistic customer experience. Several users might click the CTA with hopes of winning $10,000—but what’s going to convert them into a customer? You’ve driven customer engagement with an incentive that’s unrelated to your business, but what’s driving customer satisfaction? Unless it’s leading to a complimentary landing page, or an additional touchpoint that adds value to the experience, the effectiveness of the campaign will dwindle. If you’re thinking about the customer’s experience beyond the campaign, your landing page might include additional CTA’s—a link to an educational blog, a form to collect lead information, or a simple link to start shopping immediately.

Whatever the solution may be, every step in the journey should be designed to add more value than the step before it. This dynamic, intentional experience not only impacts the client’s goal, it adds additional value in the form of more data points. It’s with this deeper thinking that we help clients shift their mindset to the new normal—where data drives everything.

What Does This Mean For The Future?

So what does this mean for the future of design? In a word: Everything. On first thought, you might think a data-driven approach to marketing will cut down the need for good design—but that couldn’t be further from the truth. By using data to tell our stories, we’re only getting more refined, more thoughtful, and more effective with how we communicate with our customers. Creative briefs are now loaded with actionable data, walking designers deeply into the context before they even make a sketch. When the right preparation meets the right discovery, design becomes not only better—but easier. Marketing is no longer a subjective shot in the dark, but instead an intentional strategy to meet your customers where they’re at.

At MODintelechy, we’ve embraced the seismic shift toward data-driven design. And as our industry continues to evolve, we’re already thinking about what’s next.

Ready to embrace the future of data and design with us? Drop us a note and let’s lead the way together.

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