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These three C’s will help ensure data fuels your creative process

Finola Austin

Drill deep into your audience sentiments and not only will it bolster current content plans, but plentiful new ideas will emerge that your consumers will love because, in reality, they helped shape it.

Finola Austin, R29 Intelligence

Creatives often view data and research with suspicion. “Best practices” seem counter to innovation. Creative testing can feel like a hurdle rather than a help. Most fundamentally, the data literate and creatively minded often feel the other group is speaking an alien language.

New media companies such as Refinery29 act as a translator for brands, helping them speak to the most powerful generation of women in history. Successful data intelligence teams must also act as a translator for creators and clients, humanizing data and identifying insights that act as creative catalysts rather than restraints or roadblocks.

We have a simple formula for tapping into insights to fuel the creative process. We call it the “3 C’s” — consumer, content, and culture. It’s a formula any brand or creator can replicate, regardless of scale or budget.

Consumer

Regardless of the type of organization you work for, your audience or consumers must be central to the process. In our case, we’re constantly seeking third-party data about young women, especially Gen Z and millennials, as well as conducting our own research. When designing studies, we look to identify white spaces or take on myths and stereotypes around young women’s attitudes and behaviors.

We’ve researched millennial motherhood; our users’ relationships with technology; and women’s emotional relationship with their finances. This very specific research fueled new content production, which included entrepreneur diaries and in-person workshops for women seeking to launch side businesses.

This tack can work for any segment you wish to study. Drill deep into your audience sentiments and not only will it bolster current content plans, but plentiful new ideas will emerge that your consumers will love because, in reality, they helped shape it.

Content

Past and current content is a wonderful source of insight for future content production and optimization. Assess content performance data to identify areas of exploration and use A/B testing to choose between headlines and images to gain a deeper understanding of your audience.

Such research can identify verticals in which you might consider doubling down, as we intend to do this year in “wellness.” This could facilitate some extra editorial staffing with experts you might not have thought to work with before. And this, in turn, can provide your organization with a distinctive point of view while counteracting a cluttered landscape with a simplified approach.

This strategy complements a trend among many of our clients: Brands specializing in travel, food, apparel, and more are repositioning as wellness- and lifestyle-focused entities, making them the perfect partners.

Culture

Clearly, you need to keep your finger on the pulse of the cultural zeitgeist through social listening and following industry dialogue. As a media entity, Refinery29 also leverages the know-how of our in-house category experts. Many of our most successful branded campaigns, such as Shatterbox – our initiative to increase the number of women directors in Hollywood, supported by Dove chocolate – have been rooted in these wider industry conversations.

Across brands, agencies, and publishers, creative and analytical thinkers are being asked to work together to craft great content. All content producers are increasingly tapping into both sides of their ambidextrous brains. Wherever you work, starting with the “3 C’s” can make your approach to data both conscious and creative.

Finola Austin is brand strategy director for R29 Intelligence, the research and strategy business unit at Refinery 29, a leading media and entertainment company focused on young women.

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