May 05, 2022
Marketers are over-reliant on the science of marketing at the expense of the art – yet both are requirements for effective marketing.
An overreliance on technology in marketing invites an arms race. This is because every marketing team has access to the same technology. Any given business can use a set of tools – from pay-per-click platforms to marketing automation.
Sure, there’s a marginal gain to be earned for early adoption or the optimal use of technology. However, that edge is finite among near-peer enterprises and startups facing incumbents. It’s only a matter of time before the competition comes up to parity.
Creative is where companies of any size have a sustainable opportunity to be different. Advertising offers an easy example to illustrate this point: When people see an ad that moves them, they are identifying with the creativity of the pitch, not the platform on which it’s presented. Marketing can only move people with creative – it’s not a technology play.
The overcorrection in marketing
I define marketing as the art and science of calling people to action by influencing what they feel and believe. “Feel and believe” are in that order for a reason; it’s a reminder that the heart always leads the head. This is true even in business-to-business (B2B) organizations. Buyers tend to make decisions first and then justify those decisions with facts later.
Historically, marketing campaigns were mostly art. Today, it’s the other way around. Indeed, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction: marketing has overcorrected. We focus so much on the math and science of marketing, that we’ve lost much of the art and magic. Successful marketing requires both.
Campaigns that outperform have strong creative
The early days of my marketing career were spent buried in spreadsheets. I favored the math since anyone could make pretty pictures, or so I thought. Yet, over time, I began to see occasions where my team would run two identical campaigns with drastically different results. One campaign would produce smashing results, while the other one failed miserably.
When we’d run the regression analysis, the variables were largely the same: similar budgets, targeting, reach, and offers. The one thing that was always different was the creative. The campaigns that outperformed had strong creative elements that resonated – and the others did not.
When creative is perceived as a checkbox
Looking at this dilemma from a demand generation team’s perspective, we can see how this issue becomes compounded. This team lives in empirical analysis. They spend their days analyzing keyword performance, assessing campaign results, and testing various advertising vehicles.
To be clear, what these teams do is important. But when you have your head only in the numbers all day, it’s easy to start thinking about creative as a box to be checked, rather than a crucial element in a campaign. Consequently, marketing produces results that are difficult to understand.
When this happens, creative is increasingly viewed as a cost center. Over time the creative – the art and magic of marketing – gets whittled out in cost-cutting. In the end, all that’s left is technology. It’s not enough to stand out in a competitive market.
So, what’s the remedy? Below are three ways to reinvigorate the creative juices that are essential to marketing:
1. Getting back our creative roots
The first step is cultural: marketing needs to get reacquainted with its creative roots. Creative copy and design are not costs – these are sources of profit. This is especially important for B2B, which is often accused rightfully of being unimaginative (sometimes it seems that B2B stands for “bland to boring.”). Creativity requires the courage to be different. That’s not just an invitation to express yourself; it’s also the only sustainable way to drive differentiation.
2. Get demand generation and creative talking
Leaders need to facilitate conversations between demand generation and creative teams. Creative needs a seat at the campaign planning table instead of being brought in at the end ‘to make things pretty.’ This is true for both in-house and outsourced creative resources – they need to be an extension of your team.
There’s a very easy way to kick start these conversations too: require comprehensive creative briefs that are focused on an outcome. Creatives are the best problem solvers in the world. They are trained to consider possibilities others hadn’t considered. Good briefs, and candid dialogue, tap into these abilities while keeping the creative energy centered on the purpose of a campaign.
3. Hold creatives responsible for metrics
The business case for creativity is a license for the art of marketing, but it’s not a call for the resignation of measurement. Creative teams can and should understand measurement and metrics. For example, creative leaders should be knowledgeable about their best and worst-performing campaigns. More importantly, they should have a plan for using those lessons learned to improve creative in the future.
Many creatives find their involvement in measurement empowering. They’ll want their own set of metrics because these demonstrate their work produces business results. Further, metrics will inform the creative process – and the whole organization stands to benefit.
Sustainable marketing advantage
Most businesses will always face a competitor with a bigger team, larger budget, and better technology. This is where creativity is most valuable because creative can tell a better story. Creative in marketing is the path to being more clever, provocative, innovative, and different. Indeed, it’s the only sustainable marketing advantage.
Russ Somers is the Chief Marketing Officer for Lytho which builds software that helps creative and marketing teams drive better content outcomes. The company’s flagship products include creative workflow and digital asset management (DAM).
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