Too often in creative circles, data can get a bad rap. There’s often a feeling that data is the antithesis of creativity, beauty and inspired storytelling.
But approached in the right way, data can be absolutely stunning. For any doubters, just check out Knowledge is Beautiful by David McCandless.
The key is to make data work for you. In other words, don’t just ‘do what data tells you,’ explore it for interesting stories and deeper insights instead.
"But how?" I hear you ask. Simple. To find beauty in data, search for the Three Ps: Patterns, Passion and Problems.
There’s no denying there’s something inherently pleasing when it comes to patterns.
From the intricacy of a freshly fallen snowflake, to the rigid discipline of a parade, humans are naturally born to recognise and appreciate patterns.
The best way to find interesting patterns in consumer research is to take a bird’s eye view of the data, and look for clusters and consistency amongst certain groups.
Is a particular behaviour, attitude or belief consistently more pronounced among one subset of the population? In longitudinal studies, have you noticed a steady increase/decrease, or interesting seasonal peaks and troughs?
Of course, if this is all easily visualised (rather than having to search for it in a raw csv export), patterns will literally jump off the screen at you. It's for precisely this reason that interactive dashboards, such as those developed by Attest, are so important when interrogating data.
Very quickly, these patterns will form a story that underpin your creative ideas.
Passion is a fundamental ingredient for strong stories. When combing through your research, head straight for the extremes. Who’s scoring your brand a 10 (or a 0) for NPS? Who’s claiming they’re ‘extremely likely’ or ‘extremely unlikely’ to purchase from you – or your competitors?
Even better, if you’ve got open ended responses in there… why did they respond this way? Look for the heartfelt articulation of their feelings towards a particular issue.
This data is gold. A few specific truths are far more useful than bland generalisations, and if you can harvest these from your data, you’re far more likely to achieve success when you build your campaign around these findings.
To find a compelling, original story to tell within consumer data, you’ll need both quantitative and qualitative responses.
Creativity isn’t just about lightning strikes of inspiration while meditating on a remote mountain. It’s ultimately about searching for problems, understanding them fully, and then coming up with solutions.
For this, there’s nothing better than reading through open-ended responses that shine a light on the daily challenges and frustrations of your target market. If you channel these answers in your copy and creative output, your audience will feel that you really understand them. If your product or service can actually solve their problems, you’ve got yourself a happy customer.
And it all starts when you take the time to gather the right data and understand the problem.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
So while some people will always see data as chaotic and intimidating, the open-minded and curious among us will see a treasure trove of opportunity.
What’s more, it doesn’t take a degree in advanced mathematics to find those juicey insights either.
The Three Ps – Patterns, Passion and Problems – give us a framework to turn data into interesting, creative stories.
Through this prism, sets of scattered numbers and answers become a digestible instruction manual to finding human truths that will resonate with your audience.
The insights you gain will deliver impact in all areas, from original ideas, to creative campaigns, to building your core brand.
In the right hands, data is beautiful.