This week, I’m traveling to Cincinnati to speak at Signal P&G. The theme of the event is “winning brand building at the speed of digital”. I’m looking forward to visiting the birth place of brand management to reflect on all of the seismic changes happening in marketing.
One of the biggest shifts is data-driven marketing. Increasingly, today’s marketers have to be data-savvy. This means performance tracking, analytics, and using data to create better marketing that the right consumers actually want to see. This can also mean programmatic marketing, where more and more aspects of campaigns are automated by data.
Data-driven marketing can create friction in the creative process. Creative and testing have often been uneasy bedfellows. It’s one thing to use rapid testing to optimize a media buy. It’s another to optimize the creative itself. Some ad platforms continuously change elements of ad units (font color, image, product, call to action) to determine what advertising creative performs best for what audience.
A lot of creatives will recoil at that type of formulaic approach. Analyzing creative can be like the famous E.B. White quote: “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog. Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.”
The future is figuring how to leverage the best of art and science in marketing.
(Marketoonist Monday: I’m giving away a signed print of this week’s cartoon. Just share an insightful comment to this week’s post. I’ll pick one comment at 5:00 PST on Monday. Thanks!)
17 CommentsJoin the Discussion
Phil Adams says
CEOs set the corporate agenda. CMOs interpret that agenda for their purposes.
And CEOs are as prone as the rest of us to trends when it comes to agenda setting.
All of a sudden all of our clients are talking about “risk management”. And that’s because all of their CEOs are setting a risk management agenda. (Have all the CEOs been on the same training course?)
More than once we have been asked to create a “risk register” for a creative project.
More than once we’ve used the risk register to identify “not taking risks” as the biggest risk to project success.
When the CEO’s risk management agenda meets the CMO’s desire for data-driven marketing it is a risky business indeed.
Pandian Muneeswara C says
Hi Tom, I believe the data driven campaign can tell you Whom to target, What to target and How to target, but ‘What’ and ‘How’ to a large extent be based on only prior events which has occured…but to completely create new methods of ‘What’ or ‘How’…creativity is required…definitely data-driven process can improve this creativity process
Fantastic post! Too much measurement discussion early in the creative process closes thinking about possibilities … For example, what exactly would be the A/B testing on Taco Bell’s famous April’s fools day prank about sponsoring the Liberty Bell?
Ori Pomerantz says
It is easy to use analytics to play with variables like font size or color. It is probably also useless. I doubt that having a slightly different color would result in a significantly different impact.
Analytics can help in testing different approaches. But they have to be genuinely different.
Mariana Q. says
If we were combining science with expert creative, I’d be thrilled. However, in the era of “content marketing”, the flow of content needed – videos, images, blogs, tweets, vines, FB posts, downloadable PDF papers, slideshare, etc, etc- is too high, pushing the creative process to the marketers. “It’s too much activity to pay an agency, lets just do it ourselves!”. The seasoned marketers in the room panic at the thought of all this stuff being it out there representing our brand, and then someone appeases us by saying “but we will test it all, so don’t worry, we will know what to take down”. Sure. After it was out there. Sigh.
Rod J says
Risk taking, risk avoidance and risk management is not a new theme. Risk has been a driving theme in business since the evolution of modern business principals.
What is different is the access to BIG Data. And BIG Data is relatively new on the scene. It’s in vogue and will therefore drive the conversation – including the marketing conversation.
BIG Data is getting BIG attention – expect more of it, whether you like it or not.
Bill Carlson says
It’s all a tricky balance…
Brand and creative people making decisions without any other input is a mistake — they/we are too close to the situation. Yes, sure, history and experience are worthy insights but things change quickly and we should second-guess our so-called “instincts.” (Note there was a whole LinkedIn discussion about instinct and the fact that caution should be taken about relying solely on that…)
At the other extreme, can’t test everything all the time — takes too long, subject to all the usual objections to research, etc.
And can’t afford to allow creative explorations to drift all over the place… Not opposed to my creative colleagues pushing their envelopes, but it’s a time and cost issue.
Somewhere in the middle is what we need to strive for but it’s probably case-by-case depending on the potential impact of “egg on face.” I wouldn’t test for minor color variations or font choices but looking for consumer feedback about general directions is just plain common sense. (And that doesn’t mean you don’t override the results, but at least you go into that knowingly…)
In my experience, the whole issue rewinds back to smart creative briefs which specify goals and considerations. The challenge for our creative allies is to work their magic with that in mind.
Tracy Carlson says
An excellent post on an important issue. The last sentence is key: we need both/and (art and science), not either/or. The gulf seems to be getting bigger: management wants to minimize risk (hence testing), and creatives want freedom from micro-managing (hence resistance). What we really need are marketers/managers who think expansively and creatively enough to champion big ideas that will move the dial–though some of these may not test that well, at first. And we need creatives who aim for genuine, intriguing brand truth, not just artsy novelty that will create buzz or go on their reel. What we don’t need is an adversarial environment where people on either “side” hide behind tired defenses.
Generating ACTIONABLE data is the name of the game. The kind elicited from the right audience and that is reported and analyzed in a way that fosters effective decision-making.
Customers are willing to share their insights; optimizing the creative is key to provide them with an engaging user experience that encourages interaction with the brand. Testing is crucial to optimize the quality of data. Marketers who know how to balance both aspects are in a unique position to empower companies with breakthrough understanding of customer-insight driven data.
When a 1% movement in market share can mean millions of dollars in sales, the lure of measurement is easy to understand. After all, if ad agencies could do the same to measure how much money they can attract or extract from clients, they might come around to a MathMan point of view.
Ugh, this topic seems to keep coming up. I just got back from a conference with training people who were whining about the same thing – measurement vs. creative.
Why do I say whining? Because quite frankly, like Bill said, we need both approaches. The best marketers are going to be the ones driving where and when measurement happens and allowing their creative folks a certain degree of freedom to produce, too. The marketers that get ahead of this issue are going to be the ones to succeed.
At the training conference, one of the things that was stressed was picking the right candidates to measure the effect. Should you choose every ad to A/B test? No. But maybe a major one that kicks off a new campaign should be. A smart marketer will be able to tell their CEOs and CMOs why it should only be this campaign that’s tested in X way to show return, and this other campaign should not be tested in X way, but Y might make sense.
Its all about balance and intelligence here. Instead of whining about where things are, get in front and tell your people where they should be.
Kindle Partica says
As a market researcher who’s been involved in ‘testing’ creative all along development path, I propose a new way of looking at how ‘evaluation’ can actually give creatives more freedom. First, ‘evaluation’ can be qualitative or quantitative in nature and can follow standard techniques or we can bring new creative ways of getting reactions to the creative itself.
My job is not to tell you that your creative baby is ugly (where tensions between creative and measurement often arise), but to help guide who to talk to, what to talk about, relevant imagery, techniques that work and what might be more challenging. I do NOT tell creatives how to do their job, I hope to give more clarity to increase their success rate their with marketing clients.
In fact, I find my job often gives creatives MORE freedom than the briefs from marketing often box them into… So please keep a collborative mindset with your researcher, you may get some of the best creative you’ve done
Vikas Bhatia says
I am yet to meet a creative who wears a tie (the guy who jumped off the building is wearing one)! Did you A/B test that? 🙂 More than likely, it is the analyst who perhaps asked what is the objective of this ad and was told, “to emotionally connect with our customers”.
Vikram Verghese says
As we adapt to a rapidly changing world and one with an increasingly number of consumers with significantly lower attention spans being bombarded with messaging……we seem to forget the one thing that will never change……the essentials that are common across outstanding brand communication since its inception. So please go ahead and test everything to death…..but remember if you need to…you have suppressed your greatest strength….your instinct
the issue is that we test so many things before we actually (if ever) test the ads that very few make it out into the world.
we test stimulus mainly (animatics, test shots, scripts, roughs)
but we also test strategy in isolation (focus groups, quali-quant)
and we test stimulus to see whether it’s worth spending money on ‘finished stimulus’
we test finished work on parts of the campaign (bits of the digital usually)
but we rarely test a whole comms mix.
and rarer still in situ
in these situations, numbers and graphs that the suits place all their chips on regularly ruin the creative process. Certainly it removes the soul and instinct thats intrinsic to a design, a human creating something that is meant to speak to another human. Its more than possible to make a well performing, but terribly designed advert that will change those graphs, but it wont affect the money spent on actual products. Thats the hard part. I banner adverts, all the business time is spent on looking at CTR and graphs of performance, but rarely linking those to sales and never to repeat sales. If you punch someone in the face enough times, they will fall over, but what they really need is a hug.
(This wil be the recoiling creative that was mentioned in this post 🙂 )
Excellent insights, everyone! This week’s winner was Tracy Carlson. Thanks!