How Data-Driven Insights Grow Sales Using Paid Media


Data is the vessel of creativity and relevance. It is not an end unto itself. And when analyzed properly, it drives deep business insights and ROI in media and advertising efforts.

Breaking it down into a media planning and buying context, smart use of data works something like this:

Data In -> Consumer Insights 
-> Breakthrough Messaging + Media 
-> Data Out 
-> Consumer + Business Insights that Drive Value 
-> Better Messaging + Media Choices 
-> Results Plugged Into Measurement Analysis
-> Higher ROI, Profitability and Brand Growth

That’s a lot. So…

Let’s break it down:

In essence, the smart application of data should create a virtuous cycle. 

Step 1 is to track down as much useful data (even from disparate sources) available. Wherever the source, data is most useful when it creates insights that lead to business, messaging or media opportunities. 

When we do our Insights Curriculum at my company, the lessons about what an insight are remarkably simple:

  • An insight is not observation (i.e. what happened)

  • An insight is an idea

    • Explains WHY something happened,

    • Gets us closer to understanding our consumer

    • Uncovers a business opportunity

  • Ideally it should be 1-2 sentences

The data does not need to be perfect, but when it is imperfect, incomplete or not statistically significant it must be treated with less weight (and as more of a theory). And when the source of that insight may be biased, we need to be clear about that too. How many “TV/Magazines/Social Media drives the highest ROI” articles are written by TV/Magazine/Social Media vendors and trade groups? (Actually Print and Radio potentially are the highest ROI channels for many brands, who knew?)

All data is not created equal

Sales data showing volume by retailer is important in creating a media plan, but qualitative research about why a consumer enters a particular category is far more useful in developing the right messaging and media choices for the brand to break through. Understanding a consumer’s WHY is of more value than knowing store level data each week.

With stronger, more resonant messaging and media channels, a media campaign will launch and immediately generate data within the first week (though sales data should always be evaluated after more time as it takes a while to ramp up). As that data becomes stable, and if it was meaningful data to start with (i.e. let’s not base major brand decisions on click through rates), a smart media planner can generate new and compelling insights. 

Putting it to work

As an example, on one brand my team works with we tested a set of different audience mindsets and behaviors to see which drove the most engagement with the brand’s message. We expected the brand to connect best with consumers looking to lose weight, but it was our medical (Diabetes, Oncology, etc.) audiences that outperformed every other audience at every meaningful metric in our media plan.

While this was by no means a complete market analysis, we strongly advised our brand team to speak to sales about medical outreach, which was a hunch they had always thought to pursue, and was now backed by data. 

This came from a simple insight:

Our unique nutritional profile is most relevant to medically-focused consumers who represent a growing portion of the U.S. population, and potentially a much larger revenue opportunity for the brand to sell to. 

As we refined the media and creative choices for year two of the same campaign - focusing more resources against medical conditions - performance (and sales) rose significantly.

For all brands, campaign results and sales/KPI data should then be input into a rigorous measurement analysis on an ongoing basis. This will help make higher ROI choices AND have the side benefit of justifying marketing’s impact to the CEO and Board.

The Lesson

Data on its own cannot drive a media plan, a brand or a career to extraordinary results. But it is the vessel of insights and relevance of the most effective media plans for growth. Create the virtuous cycle.