The marketing industry has overfunded technology and underfunded creativity
The marketing industry has invested heavily in technology, data, and “performance marketing” over the past two decades. But does all this focus on definable ROI prevent the creative leaps that can really set a brand apart? For The Drum’s Creativity in Focus Deep Dive, Nix Boulton and Dan Srokosz of AgencyUK investigate.
With over a decade of experience in the creative and marketing industry, we both entered the industry at an interesting time: the era of digital technology. We have witnessed the launch and explosion of social media, the rapid adoption of mobile technology (including the introduction of ‘apps’) and the massive shift from highly creative traditional advertising to functional digital campaigns. strongly focused on KPIs.
Have marketers underinvested in creativity?
Investment in technology has exploded, but has investment in creativity been forgotten?
Lost in data?
Never before have we had so many tools to make our creative work more engaging and effective. Through social listening and keyword analysis, we can find out what people are saying and thinking. Thanks to a plethora of communication channels, we can serve them our work wherever they are. Sometimes, however, the abundance of digital data and functionality at your fingertips can overpower what should be the sole focus of a creative campaign: the idea.
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Creative people have been chasing ideas for centuries. Finding a simple item can be the difference between a good creative item and an amazing item. Ideas energize a message and allow it to land with more impact.
Good ideas take time, time that companies are less and less willing to pay for. Instead, half-baked ideas are rolled up in the latest trends, visual treatments, animations and applications facilitated by the latest technology, which has often resulted in a sea of similarities (look at personal banking, stock market apps, online real estate agencies and vacation booking apps).
Creativity is not binary
Technology is binary. Creativity, thought and ideas simply are not.
Creativity responds to complex human behavior and empathy, something that cannot be embraced by technology. Marketers often get lost in the binary nature of data and don’t understand the true potential of performance insights.
Data only tells us what people are doing. He does not tell us why. Using audience averages can provide a generic overview, but it’s the anomalies (people who fall outside of those averages) that can be the key to expanding your reach with new audiences. They are more valuable to your brand than the person who is already buying from you.
We need to revise our performance expectations. Yes, we have proven ways to get results, but we are seeing a lack of risk taking from brands that was fueling brand growth. It’s the classic story of “why try something new when you know something works?” This leads to a contemplative and stagnant approach.
Rethinking the way we approach creation to optimize it for performance isn’t about being less creative or restricting big ideas; it’s about putting data front and center and using it to inform our decisions and learnings.
Re-prioritizing the way we approach creativity, with data-driven insights upfront informing those crucial insights, helps us effectively reach audiences and resonate emotionally with their needs. Data should in no way mean “do like everyone else”; it should give you the foundation to understand what resonates, how to differentiate yourself in your market, and when to take a risk. An idea is a sideways leap and the evidence doesn’t always support a bolder creative approach. Too many creative ideas were left on paper because they couldn’t be backed up with data.
Back to brand
We forgot about the importance of brand building and instead focused our performance metrics on short-term goals. Take Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign. Historically, Nike’s product offering was largely aimed at serious runners. As a wave of fitness emerged, Nike’s marketing team responded to the growing market. “Just Do It” is a slogan with which we can all identify: the desire to push our limits. The line encapsulates everything people wanted to feel when exercising, expanding their market to almost all of us.
Something that technology alone cannot solve for the power of emotional motors. We need to connect with consumers on an emotional level, and not just in brief, unforgettable interactions. Had Nike chosen to play it safe, stay in its market, and continue to invest in proven, performance-driven marketing, it wouldn’t have become the brand it is today.
Creativity and technology have one thing in common: problem solving. We think they can do a lot when used together – but in a world of technology, brands need creativity to differentiate themselves.
To keep up to date with all our coverage, head over to the Creativity in Focus hub.