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Data with a human touch Linking digital marketing and creativity

Data-driven digital marketing is now the mainstream. Even with highly advanced data analysis, however, marketing professionals are not able to produce messages that reach people on an emotional or intellectual level without effectively adding a human touch. But how can a human touch be incorporated in digital marketing?
We address this question in a conversation with Takeshi Uozumi, who works in digital marketing at Dentsu Digital Inc. He is joined by Satoshi Umeda, a Dentsu creative director who wrote a Japanese best-selling book about how language ability can be a strategic tool. We wondered how Mr. Umeda would approach this question, since he had started out in marketing before becoming an expert in verbalizing people’s inner voices. We asked both gentlemen about their thoughts on digital marketing.

Data with a human touch Linking digital marketing and creativity

Takashi Uozumi (left) and Satoshi Umeda

The need for common features in data analysis

Uozumi:

Human resources and techniques have become available for analyzing data as, for example, when big data came into common use. Nevertheless, when we look at what is finally output, there seems to be a gap between the data analysis and the output results. After a vast amount of data has been interpreted, what should be the output? That is the issue I want to explore.

Umeda:

I started my career in marketing, before moving to the creative side. I think that people involved in producing advertisements cannot avoid digital marketing, including in their creative work.
That said, there is, perhaps, a difference between people whose job is analyzing data and those creators who work as producers in terms of how they use data.

Uozumi:

Owing to technological advances, we are now able to conduct detailed analyses of data on individuals, feed back that data to the individuals, and output content to those targeted. Creating messages tailored to every individual has its limits, however, so we have to categorize people in groups to some extent.
Therefore, the question is how to analyze data on groups and output it. Often when we see the data for a particular group of people there is a tendency to average the results, and we end up with messages that are based on that.

Umeda:

It is a question of whether data derived from averaged results is actually meaningful. For example, if we tried to produce a typical Japanese face by compiling data from a wide range of Japanese people to create an average face, not a single person would actually have that face.
In other words, even if we base our concepts on group data, we will not be able to derive information on real individuals, and, accordingly, produce messages tailored to individuals. So, instead of trying to look at a single tree from the perspective of a forest, we should look at the forest based on its individual trees. But can one generalize, and apply to the whole, items that are based on individual observations? And should we try to verify those items using data?

Uozumi:

Having joined the company around the same time, Satoshi and I talk about this frequently. Now I conceptualize this issue as searching for common features.

Umeda:

For instance, take the four numbers, two, four, six, and twelve. Rather than look for the average, we should pay attention to the fact that all four are even numbers. That is what they have in common.
For people, as well, from now on it will be important to search for commonalities in their thoughts and feelings. I believe that can be done in digital marketing. It would be fascinating were we able to identify and analyze common features, instead of just look for averages.

Uozumi:

Having joined the company around the same time, Satoshi and I talk about this frequently. Now I conceptualize this issue as searching for common features.

Umeda:

For instance, take the four numbers, two, four, six, and twelve. Rather than look for the average, we should pay attention to the fact that all four are even numbers. That is what they have in common.
For people, as well, from now on it will be important to search for commonalities in their thoughts and feelings. I believe that can be done in digital marketing. It would be fascinating were we able to identify and analyze common features, instead of just look for averages.

Uozumi:

Let me add that searching for common features can be carried out by digital means, but producing a relevant message to send in response to any commonalities we might discover will, as you would expect, require human creativity. That means having people directly involved in digital marketing is the ideal approach.

Data with a human touch Linking digital marketing and creativity

Satoshi Umeda

Formulating hypotheses in search for common features

Uozumi:

I search for common features in groups and then produce something that relates to what I find. To explain what I mean, let me refer to some copy that Satoshi produced for an advertisement for the Japanese canned coffee brand, Georgia.
The ad honors thousands of workers with the message that “The world is made up of somebody’s work.”
Although everyone is different in terms of their jobs and how they value work, when you hear that message, you will find it takes an equally positive attitude toward all working people. That is because Satoshi drew on the commonality of people who work and inserted that into the copy.

Umeda:

Actually, when producing that copy, the task of finding common features was handled collectively by the client and members of my team, and they did that work intuitively. Now, when I look at digital marketing analyses, I think we proved the hypothesis that such intuition is essential.
But we live in a time when people seek proof and explanations, and are not willing to rely exclusively on intuition. Thus, digital marketing should serve as evidence of what people conceptualize and whether intuition is accurate.

Uozumi:

Although relying exclusively on intuition is too restricting, conversely, if we are dogmatic number crunchers who only use data for solutions, we will just end up with averaged results. Therefore, it is vital to use both intuition and data.

Umeda:

In addition, how data inputs and outputs are designed is very important for finding common features. We need to formulate a clear hypothesis at the input stage before entering the data, and verify whether that hypothesis is correct at the output stage when the data is analyzed.
Based on my experience in marketing, I have come to recognize that common features are not discovered by chance. They will not be evident unless we formulate a hypothesis.

Uozumi:

That is my view, too. Having a hypothesis formulated by people, as well as big data for verifying and supporting the hypothesis, is really the ideal situation.

Umeda:

If we have no hypothesis but just have a vast amount of data, we will become overwhelmed by information and not be able to see anything clearly.
So, if data is organized into 100 parameters, we will get 10,000 items, which would be extremely difficult to comprehend.
Moreover, such data cannot be properly evaluated unless basic criteria have been clearly specified from the outset.
Having hypotheses that lack clarity and depth are also major reasons one can become lost in data.

Data with a human touch Linking digital marketing and creativity

Takeshi Uozumi

Working with data and people to create new sales methods

Uozumi:

With the evolution of digital marketing, the ways that businesses and customers interact have changed. In the past, a short-term process leading up to a purchase was analyzed as a customer journey, but now it is common to observe customers over a much longer time span.

Umeda:

During that time, it is essential for businesses to become part of their customers’ lives. They should be pursuing customers over many years rather than just for a short time, treating that as a customer life journey, so to speak.
The issue has been discussed in the department where I work, but even now, I believe that tackling it by using data alone is not a good idea. The reason? Data is cold and lifeless. That is the biggest problem with data.

Uozumi:

In digital marketing, there are already efforts to identify life events by using data to understand changes in customers’ lifestyles and turning points in their lives. Meanwhile, different capabilities are needed to determine what can be done for customers and what sort of messages should be sent to them. Unless people are involved, the data will lose its vitality.

Umeda:

For example, we can assume that when certain men buy athletic swimwear, they are interested in improving their fitness. Well, what kind of output should we produce? The inclination in digital marketing today is to recommend related products.
If people intervene, however, they can take a step back and see an opportunity for providing information on healthcare. Instead of simply displaying products, we can offer ideas for helping these men improve their fitness.

Uozumi:

Because we try to understand customers’ lifestyles in depth through digital marketing, how we produce output to respond to them is very important; it is a human endeavor.

Umeda:

How can we send messages that will not irritate consumers? If consumers dislike the output content, our efforts are counterproductive and run the risk of reducing consumers’ attachment to a company or brand. People’s creativity is absolutely crucial for ensuring that the output is not perceived unfavorably.

Uozumi:

The value offered by companies is shifting from goods to services. In that context, rather than functioning as a means of selling things, digital marketing must serve as a lifestyle tool for providing consumers with excellent personalized services. We are conscious of this at Dentsu and, by working even more closely with our creators, I believe we can help companies with business innovations.

Umeda:

As a creator, I would be happy were we not to oppose big data but, instead, regard it as an ally for verifying our intuitive work. I hope that approach will drive the development of digital marketing.

Satoshi Umeda

Satoshi Umeda

Creative Director
Promotion Design Division
Dentsu Inc.

Takashi Uozumi

Takashi Uozumi

Manager
Promotion Design Division
Dentsu Digital Inc.

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