Kill your darlings – the art of making data-based decisions

A guest article by Janina Mütze, Founder and Managing Director of Civey.

Janina Mütze, Founder and Managing Director of Civey.
Image: © Civey

Have you ever wondered why Quentin Tarantino doesn’t edit his own films?

Not because he can’t do it. It’s because he believes that the “director’s cut” of a film inevitably produces a poorer result. Every director has a favourite scene that, in his or her opinion, absolutely has to be in the film. The fact that the elaborately shot explosion or car chase no longer fits the storyline at all in the end then fades into the background – the ego makes the decision and ultimately it harms the overall result.

Now the bridge to marketing: Anyone who has ever worked on an elaborate campaign that ultimately barely performs knows the feeling – it hurts to admit that you’ve made a mistake. In this situation, it is all too human to point to “the branding effects” or “awareness”, which with so and so many views is in a “pretty decent range”. And so you keep running your favourite campaign. To be honest, you’re not only burning money, but also your brand image.

So what does Tarantino do to get the best out of his film material?

He gives everything to an editor (then Sally Menke) or an editor (now Fred Raskin) who – and this is important – has never been on set and approaches the matter impartially. Only an unbiased authority is in a position to make the best decisions for the end product – i.e. the finished film.

It’s the same in marketing. If you want to make the best decisions for your product, your brand, your campaign, you need an unbiased authority. And this is where data comes into play.

Data utilisation in marketing is nothing new

Even in 2024, it is still not a given that data will be collected correctly and completely and, above all, used correctly. However, this is the basis for showing us which campaigns really work and which only waste resources.

Our experience at Civey has shown that data-based decisions not only improve ROI, but also provide the flexibility to react quickly to changes in the market. By using real-time data, we can recognise trends at an early stage and act accordingly. This gives us the opportunity to always be one step ahead and to continuously optimise our marketing strategies – and to reset them if necessary.

Good things reverberate

I chose Quentin Tarantino as an example in this text, even though it’s been five years since his last film. And that’s exactly the point: most of us can still relate to him, even though he doesn’t broadcast all the time.

This is also an important analogy to marketing: one aspect that is often overlooked is the depot effect of campaigns. Even when a campaign ends, its effect remains in the memory of the recipient for a while. This means that we don’t have to hold on to a campaign just to prolong its effect. Instead, we should utilise our resources more efficiently by focusing on new, data-driven initiatives.

And here’s how: Do data-based marketing:

  1. Setting Goals and KPIs: What should the campaign contribute to? Is the focus on the brand or performance? The relevant KPIs are derived from this goal specification.
  2. A look into the tools: Determine your target audience and analyze them based on demographic and sociographic characteristics. Identify current zeitgeist topics and overarching themes that are relevant to your target audience.
  3. Forming hypotheses: Combine your initial thoughts and collected data to develop hypotheses for your campaign.
  4. Differentiation: Validate your hypotheses data-based through online surveys or qualitative discussions with the target audience. This way, you can identify the most interesting approaches and test them directly with the target audience to find out which are the most effective.
  5. Content-strategic planning: Develop a content-strategic plan with appropriate messages and creatives that contribute to both short-term and long-term goals.
  6. Brand check: Ensure that your campaign is in line with the brand identity.
  7. Baseline measurement: Use market research tools before the campaign launch to gather data on brand awareness, interest in your products, and purchase intention of potential customers. Only then will you see how these change through your campaign.
  8. Full funnel approach: Ensure consistent communication across all phases of the marketing funnel, with a focus on a brand-led strategy.
  9. Tracking and measuring: Continuously track the development of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your campaign and make ongoing optimizations.
  10. Listen and repeat: Keep an eye on your campaign at all funnel stages and continuously optimize!

And if it no longer works: Kill your darlings!

So let’s harness the power of data and constantly scrutinise and improve our marketing strategies. Because at the end of the day, it’s not the campaigns loved only by the director that bring the greatest success. Excellence arises from creativity and data-based success measurement. As my colleague Lysann Jacobi always says:

“In my day-to-day work with agencies, I have learnt how important it is to listen to data. If you want to be successful in marketing, you have to have the courage to let go of favourite but ineffective campaigns. Data shows us exactly what really works – and that’s what counts. By constantly scrutinising and adapting our strategies, we remain agile and achieve better results in the long term.”

– Lysann Jacobi, Head of Agency Partnerships at Civey