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The Avengers and alchemists: data-led creativity at Shell Brands International

Are you future ready? Data & Creativity with Wunderman and Shell

The challenge for brands is no longer a lack of knowledge on who their consumers are, but why they behave as they do. Marketers have access to a wealth of data points about consumers, but using that data effectively remains a challenge for many companies: Wunderman’s Future Ready study demonstrates that 68 percent of brands feel they cannot fully access the data to which they have access.

Despite that, data-infused creativity is seen as the future of marketing. Now that access to big data is so widespread, inventiveness is returning to the fore in terms of delivering value to a brand. The Global Economic Forum’s latest The Future of Jobs report put creativity third on its list of most vital skills for 2020 as a result of automation replacing much of the actual decision making process.

In a video interview for The Drum, Daniel Bonner, CCO of Wunderman asked Dean Aragon, CEO of Shell Brands International, for his take on how marrying creativity to data can empower marketing of the near future. Aragon believes that, no matter whether a brand is B2C or B2B, ultimately its interactions with consumers must be on a B2H - business to human - basis:

“There’s a lot of big data but not enough deep data. We somehow stop at the question ‘what’, we don’t ask the question ‘why’ often enough? If you’re going to get into the deep insights you really need to ask the question ‘why’ as many times you need, to get to the real psychological levers.

“You cannot reduce humanity to data points or trend lines. If you use data to really get to know the people you’re trying to engage it will unleash better creativity, more relevant creativity.”

While the term ‘data scientist’ is increasingly creeping into the language of marketeers, Aragon argues that the role should be closer to that of a ‘data alchemist’, someone able to both identify and respond to the insights within the data.

Avengers vs. X-Men

Despite the ever more complex agency-client landscape, both Bonner and Aragon were keen to stress that collaboration is ultimately the key that will enable that data-led creativity. In response to Bonner’s question about what form that collaboration should take, Aragon said:

“Creativity is an all hands on deck activity. I don’t think there’s a client-agency divide; we’re on the same team. I also believe in curating different superpowers, where it’s not about competing abilities but completing abilities. You can think about X-Men or the Avengers; when you have all these superpowers the creative process becomes stronger because you’re harnessing different strengths.”

In order to harness those complementary strengths, Aragon believes that it is necessary to challenge both partners. He revealed that whenever he closes a call with an agency, he sets them the challenge to “please scare me”.

So while creativity is finally back at the top table of marketing roles, it isn’t enough to just claim you perform ‘data-led creativity’ and have done with it. It, as with all the best forms of marketing communications, requires a deeper look at the human psychology that underpins that data, and using that to inform the creative work brand and agenc

Featured by The Drum

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