It’s tempting to assume that technology is the key when it comes to reaching your audience and engaging them. However, creativity and innovation trump purely technological choices. From omnichannel presence to new channel launches, these are vital ingredients to transform your marketing while ensuring that it is both objective and trackable.
Creative content must be held accountable for performance because it is the single largest lever you possess in the marketing process. Remember, sales success comes down to one thing: an emotional connection with your audience. Facebook and Google highlight the fact that 80% of a company’s marketing success hinges on creative messaging. Only 20% of that success stems from technology.
However, content alone is not enough to achieve creative marketing success. It must be combined with an innovation strategy and the right technological tools. Otherwise, it’s impossible to achieve ROI. An equal mix of creativity and innovation process, supported by technology ensures reach, engagement and the ability to succeed.
Creativity vs. innovation vs. technology
To discuss this intelligently, we must break the situation down into component elements.
- Innovation: Really, innovation is nothing more than taking an existing idea or product and making it better by applying creative ideas.
- Creativity: Creativity is an indirect path to innovation by harnessing unique ideas to achieve key improvements in an idea or product.
- Technology: Technology is the ability to apply scientific knowledge in order to achieve a practical purpose, such as audience reach in marketing.
Often, marketing collateral fails to perform because so-called “safe” choices were made and there were too many hands stirring the pot. The focus is usually on technology, and creativity and innovation fall by the wayside. Marketing should not be a design-by-committee process. The secret to achieving real, measurable, repeatable results is to allocate the right amount of time, the right budget, and the creative talent necessary to achieve your goals.
Forrester put things clearly into perspective: “Shift the $19 billion, earmarked for technology and move over to creativity.” Tech is black and white, on or off. It’s binary. True innovation does not stem from a zero-sum game. Innovation is elusive, and perhaps even a little frightening, but creative content’s ability to resolve insights into a clear, provocative direction aligned with brand goals and strategy while fostering innovation is unmatched.
Data-driven marketing delivers vital performance in measurable, trackable ways. Your marketing efforts must be based on accurate data insights used to inform innovative builds, initiatives and campaigns. Unfortunately, marketers often get lost in the binary-nature of data and fail to realize the true potential to inform performance. Data actually contains multiple dimensions that hold the key to success.
However, there are two problems with this situation. First, it can be challenging to pair the right insights with the right creative content from the beginning. Instead, brands often lean heavily on using louder and louder calls-to-action in an attempt to simply drown out the competition.
Second, many decision-makers fail to understand the difference between creative content and innovation, or where innovation actually begins within the marketing process. Creativity is related to imagination, but innovation is tied to implementation. Both are required to create results that can be measured, tracked, and quantified.
In your strategy development, you’ll first define your brand goals, then you’ll use accurate data insights to fuel creative ideation. That ideation spurs the birth of unique concepts, which are winnowed down until you arrive at the winning concept you will follow moving forward. You then develop your brand story variations to test, and finally, you’ll move into production and then performance tracking.
“Innovation is NOT an event. It’s a process.”
– Guy Kawasaki
The creative ideation step is where innovation really begins. Sadly, too many organizations simply rush toward their goals without taking the time required to envision the steps necessary to achieving innovation and performance, develop ideas that fuel marketing direction, and, ultimately, achieve success.
Of course, many people struggle to move from objective data insights to razor-honed creative content. This short video highlights the entire process:
Success hinges on design
Achieving success doesn’t happen by accident. It requires design and planning. Design-strategy is just corporate-speak for “planning phase.” Of course, it’s essential that brands begin from the right starting point. To do that, brands should begin by developing user stories and mapping out user flows across multiple touchpoints. The challenge here is if you leap from ideation to implementation without a solid design phase, you lose the ability to create compelling, success-driving content. Creative innovation requires time, creative development, and the right budget.
Jay Pattisal, principal analyst for Forrester, points out, “Rather than bolting creative on at the end of the process, as an established look or defined list of deliverables, initiate the project with creative problem-solving to help define the problem and craft a solution at the start.”
Pattisal hints at something most corporations are guilty of doing. That is, leaving creative for the end. Ultimately, it becomes little more than an afterthought. Failure to invest in creative properly, at the right time in the design process, is exactly what delivers lackluster results.
Think of the design process as a waterfall. It allows all your builds to cascade into performance. Creatives provide you with the means to take ideas and transform them into wireframes, fleshing them out, with each pass informing the next and answering vital questions about whether you remain on strategy while taking advantage of new trends that align with business goals and incorporating those into creative assets.
It’s not sufficient to create the right design strategy. You also need to ensure that everyone involved is part of the conversation. Stakeholder involvement ensures that any creative content is built in alignment with your goals and KPIs in mind while incorporating feedback from the C-suite and accelerating the process and avoiding unnecessary bottlenecks or issues with quality.
Innovation and user value
Innovation makes your brand more memorable, but it’s important that you focus on delivering value to your end-user. Remember – it’s about them, not you. Content should be user-centric, not brand-centric. Otherwise, development flow will suffer and your end result will fail to achieve critical goals.
Managing innovation and trade-offs
Nothing exists in a vacuum. Everything is connected. Problems, challenges and trade-offs will rear their heads during the development phase and it’s essential that these are handled early before you spend money on creative production. Those builds cost time and money. Innovate, ideate, and then plan, while testing and dealing with hurdles early on in the process.
Constraints give creativity and innovation power
Accurate data helps confine the canvas when it comes to creative content. It sets boundaries. It defines the what, when, why, how and who. It also helps inform the flow and configuration of technology around the creative choice, transforming mere content into innovative marketing collateral. Clear data insights help provide content creators with an accurate map of their sandbox.
Early optimization is crucial
Do not wait until everything is said and done to worry about optimization. It should not be left until after everything is built. Instead, work with creatives from the beginning to ensure that data insights are shared and make certain that the potential problems and hurdles early on. Test ideas through surveys, pitches, direct feedback and more. Production should be the end result of all your feedback, as it is simply too costly in terms of time and money to redo it all if things go wrong later. Do it all right the first time by working with creative story designers capable of helping you connect with your audience to reach your brand goals.
“Marketers often get lost in the binary-nature of data and fail to realize the true potential to inform performance. Data actually contains multiple dimensions that hold the key to success.”
Creative cannot be an afterthought. Technology cannot be your main consideration when it comes to marketing. Ideation leads to innovation, which should then lead to the development of an overarching strategy that guides you forward from idea testing to content creation to user engagement. It is imperative that decision-makers shift their focus from technology and put it on the humanity of their message while embracing innovation and creativity to deliver larger returns. Data insights can fuel innovation and hold the key to developing the right creative content if you take the time to decipher it accurately.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.