Why data-driven content needs the right brain

October 20, 2016Content measurement

By Olle Lindell – Video Producer 

Data-driven content’ and ‘big data’ are popular terms these days.

While there is no doubt that data-driven content is the future, there needs to be a real discussion around just how much to rely on it.

But first thing’s first.

What is ‘data-driven content’?

Quite obviously, it’s content that’s been created and targeted based on market research data.

In practical terms, this could mean an article written about the highest ranking topic on Google Trends, or a video shaped by what Facebook Analytics tells you that your mates dig.

What is ‘big data’?

I rather like how Lisa Arthur at Forbes put it: “Big data is a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis”.

You can read her excellent article, here.

Practically, it’s when you take ‘data-driven’ to a whole new level and gather data from a very large number of sources. If you’re lucky, these also come in various formats, like text, photos, video etc. Hopefully, you then use this to make important business decisions.

Like how to shape your marketing content.

Needing the right brain

All in all, data-driven content is very powerful stuff, and for anyone remotely serious about marketing, it should not only be embraced – but mastered.

The only problem is that it might be too easy to embrace for some. It’s all about optimising output, based mostly on quantitative research1 (i.e. number crunching) – something that can sound incredibly inviting to your typical chief marketing officer (CMO), business development manager (BDM) or head of marketing (HOM). Just throw money at it, completely justifiably, and expect great results.

No intuition, personal experience or creativity needed!

No magic.

Unfortunately, we human beings are incredibly complex creatures, and just as we need both the left and right side of our brain to operate at peak performance, so does truly effective content. There needs to be a perfect harmony between the logical and calculated and the crazy and creative.

Using a little bit of your right brain, this quote by Sigmund Freud about people, could also be applied to data: “It is impossible to escape the impression that people often use false standards of measurement — that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.”

Think about it: Some things just can’t be measured

Studies have shown that giving someone relevant data about a problem doesn’t necessarily help them solve it.

And just based on the immediate, measurable reaction, it’s very difficult to judge how effective a piece of content is. Are a million impressions, which amount to no or even a few purchases, worth more than a thousand that lead to a bunch of lifelong fans of the brand?

Maybe the viewer is someone who can’t change banks right now, but will think of yours five years from now, when they are ready. Or someone who likes buying things in bulk, who will buy stacks of your product a year from now, long after you’ve stopped analysing the effects of your marketing campaign.

Of course we want to reach as large an audience as possible, but we mustn’t forget what the purpose of the content is in the first place.

It’s not just to be seen, shared and delivered as a sugar hit.

It’s to be remembered, discussed and enjoyed, representing a brand throughout its existence.

Finding the perfect balance

The point is: Think honestly about the effectiveness of your data-driven content. Be careful not to plant yourself in one camp – and believe me, this topic brings some controversy and will probably split your office in half!

Follow the data.

But don’t forget to give your content some soul!

The overnight test

Here’s a relatively effortless and easy test to determine whether or not your data-driven content is ready to go live:

Allow some time to process your idea. Finish the outline and leave it overnight. Yes, your client can wait an extra day to make sure that their thousands of dollars amount to content that actually works.

Imagine yourself as the target demographic. Since most clients aim to target men and women aged 18–75, this shouldn’t be hard.

Reflect honestly. Ask, would I:

  • Engage with this content if I stumbled upon it?
  • Read or experience all of it?
  • Act on this content?
  • Share it.
  • Remember it?

Even better, ask a friend who has no stake in the content.
If the answers are yes, go for it!

If no, go back to the drawing board and put your right brain to good use!

Chances are that a little consideration and a small tweak will make all the difference.

1 – Quantitative data = information that can be measured and written down with numbers. Like your age or height.
Qualitative data = information that can’t be measured in numbers and are more subjective in nature. Like how soft your skin is or how blue the sky is.


Got questions?

If you’d like to learn more about how you can optimise your content marketing, why not talk to one of our consultants here?