Turning data into an idea: Saurabh Varma

Leo Burnett’s Regional Chief Strategy Officer – APAC writes on how data should be the context that drives an idea, a subject discussed at the Leo Burnett session @Cannes

e4m by Saurabh Varma
Published: Jun 20, 2012 9:05 PM  | 4 min read
Turning data into an idea: Saurabh Varma

Ideas can come from everywhere. And data should be the context that drives the idea. But the reality is almost an irony. We use data to sell our ideas rather than use data to help ideate. Incredibly for most creative people, data signifies the death of a good idea. As the world has got more complex, data has become bigger and our understanding of data, has become lesser.

Today technology has given us an immense understanding of data but our ability to understand and interpret this data has been left behind. Data has started to daunt us. Data has become pressure. It has become hindrance to creativity and imagination. To change this behaviour, we need to change the way we use data.

One way to do so is to look at data not in 2D but in 3D.

This makes data more robust and interesting. We can move this data. Be involved with it. We can see spaces which we have not been seen before – spaces which are still not owned, spaces that are virgin territories that we can be a part of, spaces human beings find desirable. We can take data and find dream spaces. These dream spaces can help us play in uncluttered spaces. They then give us the DNA to create brilliant ideas. We have started doing this across clients and suddenly data does not daunt. It becomes play, an exploration and full of possibilities.

It is important to move away from the 3-dimensional thinking of 4 dimensions.

We think it is possible to combine the art of the philosophy of human kind and the science of data. To do this we created, ‘HumanKind Quotient’.

Purpose and acts define the way Leo Burnett has started to move data into an art. We believe brands need both, a purpose and an act to be a ‘HumanKind’ brand. When you get both, you start to change the way people feel about you and talk about you. They want to be a part of your future.

When you have a purpose but lack acts, we call it a ‘dreamy brand’. When you have acts and no purpose, we call it a ‘noisy brand’. When you have neither, we call it a ‘lazy brand’. Neither of this is where you want your brand to be.

Now imagine if on top of this understanding, you could, in the 4th dimension, have a look at the momentum the brand enjoys. If the brand has a purpose in place and the right momentum, it has an incredible future. On the other hand, if it is a ‘noisy brand’ which means it has the wrong or undefined purpose and momentum, it might take the brand in a completely opposite space.

The last part of where we are moving is to connect data with ‘live age’. We call this the ‘HumanLab’. It is about us having the ability to observe ourselves, humans, who are the data in our everyday lives. It is a real involving, frighteningly simple way to understand humans. It is about understanding behaviour, which inspires creativity and ideas. As long as people keep living with brands, ‘HumanLab’ will give us the real understanding we desire. It will give us a sense in real-time to understand what makes people tick and then create content that is relevant for them.

Data is judge and jury. It helps us comprehensively understand people and understand their behaviour and that is our mission. In our journey, we think, we need to embrace data rather than ignore it. And the only way we will be able to do it is to use technology to make it simple, enjoyable, inspiring and playful.

The author, Saurabh Varma, is the Regional Chief Strategy Officer, Leo Burnett APAC. He is a delegate at Cannes Lions 2012 and has penned his perspective on the Leo Burnett session – Turning an Agency into an Idea

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