Welcome to the Era of Efficient Creative

colored pencils as bar graph

By Mike Howes, Creative Partner, krow.x

Not long ago, a major fashion brand dug into its customer data and unearthed what it thought was a golden nugget: a particular point of the journey where people lingered and seemed to enjoy exploring.

The brand poured more budget into this aspect of its campaign, betting its shirt on its limited analysis — but it ended up being a case of throwing good money after bad. It turned out that a section of its target market was actually ridiculing the item in question, rather than being driven to buy it.

By misinterpreting customer interest in this way, the brand missed out on an opportunity to truly understand why the audience was engaging with the specific stage of the journey. If it had the full picture, it might have been able to deliver more entertaining and actionable comms, turning the situation into a sales advantage.

This episode encapsulates the problem with a ‘data is king’ approach to marketing. It’s obvious why CMOs and the C-suite are so keen to focus on data, of course: its inherent value as ‘the new oil’ of business has been drummed into boardrooms for the past decade.

Admittedly, it often provides a clear line of sight between customer communications and ROI. So, I’m not suggesting for one moment that brands should discard data and return to a similarly one-dimensional belief in the ‘big idea’ that characterised the creative strategy of yesteryear.

But I do believe we should take a step back and find a new balance between the two essential elements of successful customer experience (CX).

The case for CREATIVE CX

In the quest to provide efficient, frictionless customer journeys the emotional side of marketing is often overlooked. A growing focus on digital channels has led to a near-obsession with channel and CX. It’s ‘all about data’, in other words.

It’s vital to remember, though, that customers aren’t robots travelling inexorably along the path to purchase. They’re humans who need to form an emotional bond with a brand before committing to invest in it.

A simple customer journey with warmth and fun stripped out provides a sterile experience. That’s why brands must imbue campaigns with moments along the way that engage, surprise and delight people. This makes marketing meaningful, stretches budgets without diluting the message or sidetracking the consumer and drives sales.

It’s also the reason that marketing metrics must reflect the real world, how people act and react; not just a narrow view of performance in different channels.

If that’s the desired outcome, then, what are the inputs brand should re-evaluate? Here are some key areas CMOs should focus on when considering a creative CX strategy:

Start With Customer and Business Goals – the CX process always begins with an understanding of what both the customer and brand want to achieve. The creative response is then based around these targets to optimise the campaign and achieve growth. Thanks to the wealth of data points that can be captured and measured, it’s possible to set growth-oriented, meaningful metrics that align to journey stages and avoid a reliance on vanity-only measurement. Starting the creative process in the right place means brands are more likely to finish in the right place, too.

Don’t Be Afraid to Combine Science and Art – CX and creative are still mystifyingly treated as two different disciplines: the science and the art. Insight has long been a foundation for good creative but with a CX approach fuelling that insight a 360-degree picture of who the brand is talking to, plus why, when and where to do so, becomes clear.

The Customer Has Your Most Important Insight – importantly, this holistic view of the customer is derived directly from what they tell brands they care about; rather than a brand applying its internal ‘logic’ to say what it thinks it should. Joining these two raw materials provides a connected message that moves the audience – and the brand – in the right direction. It’s a more rational approach and brands are beginning to recognise it works.

Create a Culture of Channel Collaboration – setting up teams to collaborate is a key feature of a Creative CX strategy; fostering better connections between teams but also the brand and external agencies. Creative adds warmth to cold analytic insight, while the science side of the coin leads away from laboured, unnecessary creative confection. Combining the two – across all channel teams – delivers a holistic approach to comms that it helpful for the brand and its audience, held together with a clear creative platform.

The Future of Creative Effectiveness

Bringing together the two most valuable parts of our discipline – genuine insight and understanding of the audience and original and empathetic creative thought – should be the driving force for our industry and form the future core of brand communications.

Creative that looks and sounds nice but suffers from wasteful process and underwhelming results can be a thing of the past in an era of sophisticated marketing that pleases the savvier consumer and underpins brand growth. Similarly, it’s no longer enough to just ‘do the maths’, relying on cold metrics to truly understand campaign performance.

Decisions based on insight and understanding of consumers the brand wants to connect with – consistently asking, “Will this execution work for them?” – reduces subjectivity and ultimately builds efficiency into the creative process. Better connections, better CX – better results.