It’s not news that marketers have access to a wealth of data today. More than ever, in fact. And with every new platform throwing off daily analytics reports that can be parsed a hundred ways, the data overload is growing fast.

Of course there’s a ton of valuable information for marketers in those reports.  Which version of your digital ad gets the most clicks? Where on the landing page should you put a button to drive the most downloads of a whitepaper? Knowing the answers to these questions can help you fine-tune your tactics in a number of positive ways. But should every marketing decision be data driven?

Before you just say “yes” and go back to doing emails, stop and consider this. Authenticity is one of the most valued attributes for today’s businesses. Open honesty and being loyal to your values are qualities that are more attractive than ever in the current climate. This is particularly true for small businesses with a strong brand personality which reflects that of the owner or management.

When your brand reflects your personality, your customers tend to do the same. A company founded on the concept of health and nutrition, for example, will tend to attract customers who feel strongly about those things as well.

But here’s where the path divides. A big-brand company may put out a mainstream snack product aimed at a health-conscious target, with imagery and branding that reflects the ideal (envision young happy people in plaid shirts kayaking) – but the product itself might still contain some non-organic or processed ingredients. There are certainly plenty of products which fit that profile, and they have a definite place in the marketing universe. Another company, much more focused on values and possibly run by its owner, may also aim for a health-conscious target with similar imagery and branding, but with a product made from a short list of purely organic ingredients and available only in specialty markets, probably at a higher price. The audience for the two different products may overlap, but only somewhat.

For the big-brand company, it makes sense to be data-driven. Their more mainstream target audience determines the marketing of the product, and testing different product positioning, branding styles and personas will help them hit that target squarely in the center.

For the smaller company, the prime consideration is not what sells the best but what is most true to their values. For them, the marketer’s instincts will be the best guide; marketing decisions will be made based on what fits in with those values and their audience will self-select accordingly. They will want to look at their data, of course – but not every decision they make will be guided by it.

Most companies probably operate on principles closer to those of the big-brand company – after all, it’s hard to stay true to certain values when sales are slow. But even in a world where most marketing plans are driven by reams of data, for some brands instinct is still the best business model.