I am a creative professional, and I love data.

There, I said it.

You wouldn’t think it’d be such a hard thing to admit. Or, maybe you would. There does seem to be this perception of mutual exclusivity between creativity and raw data. It’s as if one side acknowledging value in the other is some kind of contemptuous slap in the face to its own.

It’s confusing, really. Almost like we’ve learned nothing from the marriage of James Carville and Mary Matalin, the ultimate proof that opposite ends of the perceived spectrum can and do thrive when brought together.

It’s no different when you integrate the worlds of writing and design with data gleaned from qualitative and quantitative research. Think about it. Even Haiku has mathematical and geometrical components to it, and it’s been around since the ninth century.

We haven’t been around quite that long. But we have, historically, understood the importance of using research to drive creative strategy and execution, especially when delving into new markets. It seems obvious, but embarking on any creative initiative—brand, admissions, advancement, digital, direct, social—without having the research to guide the inevitable decisions that will need to be made is like walking around in a very large room with the lights turned off.

You probably won’t get physically hurt; you’ll just have no clue what’s going on around you.

To land on the most effective creative it’s absolutely critical to have reliable data.

  • What do internal constituencies think of your institution?
  • What to external audiences think of you?
  • What’s holding alumni and potential donors back from giving?
  • How do prospective students rank you versus your competitors?
  • What matters most to prospective students and their parents?
  • What are some things you do really, really well that are most relevant to prospective students’ needs?

Probably the most important thing data can do is answer the one question most fundamental to any creative strategy and tactic: Why?

Why will this approach to brand identity work best? Why shouldn’t we take the creative in that direction? Why will one digital execution work better than another?

There’s an incredible peace of mind that can come when you bring those two seemingly disparate worlds together; keep the lights turned on; and base your creative on relevant, reliable data.

If you have any thoughts on this, feel free to email me.

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