Will ‘Zero Defects’ Be the Unlikely Saviour of Creativity?

How AI is delivering interrelated efficiency and effectiveness advantages for CMOs

By Gareth Davies, CEO, Leagas Delaney

CMOs are under increasing pressure to deliver transformation’– a ubiquitous headline if ever there was one. But no more so than over the last few years with modern marketers being asked to respond to a range of unprecedented macro-economic challenges. The spectacular rise of AI poses additional questions for CMOs to deal with. And whilst the topic may be daunting for some, those with their glasses half-full will also recognise that there is opportunity aplenty for those willing to lean in to change. But where to start and what to prioritise?

A reductive view of the modern CMO’s ‘To Do’ list will identify two particular areas of focus. The first is effectiveness – developing a strategy that increases revenue and decreases the cost of customer acquisition. The second is efficiency, finding ways of making marketing that costs less both in the time spent and the resource utilised.

Whilst it is understood that efficiency and effectiveness must go hand in hand, in some respects, these two tasks are unlikely bedfellows. Developing an effective marketing strategy requires analysis, inspiration but also, no little magic. It remains a determinedly human and creative process which, in order to succeed must be the given room to explore, the space to make mistakes and to be afforded “an acceptable level of chaos” – as Malcolm Gladwell once opined.

Efficiency on the other hand, is – or should be – a science, concerned with the drive for maximum productivity and minimum wasted effort. Or, to borrow a term from U.S. author and entrepreneur, Philip B. Crosby, it is the pursuit of ‘zero defects’ – a phrase he originally coined in the 1960s when considering how to eliminate all defects in products or processes.

Whilst one is (perhaps) a sexier topic than the other, what binds efficiency and effectiveness together is that they both have the potential to deliver transformation for a business. And, to achieve, true success, a CMO must therefore pay attention to both. But rather than being two distinct, but related, elements of the required marketing mix, is a more reciprocal relationship possible? Can the progress made in one area multiply the impact in the other?

A popular starting place for any discussion around transformation is, of course, technology. And, with the continued clamour around Generative AI, it is easy to be drawn to the top of the marketing funnel as a starting point. We’ll come to that shortly.

However, AI-powered technology can arguably drive greater transformation elsewhere. It is in the mid-funnel, where, for many brands, the vast majority of content is deployed. Here the task for brands is to develop communication that builds on an existing relationship with the consumer, helping to drive the audience through to the lower funnel and ultimately, conversion. It’s a key role and one where significant gains in efficiency can be achieved.

The content in the mid funnel is often significant in volume, multi-format, multi-channel and frequently multi-language – all areas where rule-based AI-powered automation can be applied, with zero defects. We have offered global automation solutions to clients for well over a decade and have seen first-hand, the transformational benefits that it can offer. The most sophisticated automation platforms can now operate around 10 x faster than conventional, manual processes and offer commensurate savings in the region of 60%. And in an era where marketing budgets often come under pressure, the opportunity to reimagine processes and to unearth such dramatic efficiencies, will be appealing to many.

What then to do with these efficiency gains? Many progressive marketers will, understandably, choose to reinvest them in top funnel activity in the knowledge that time spent brand building via highly creative campaigns will ultimately help to strengthen long-term campaign effectiveness. The irony – of course – is that ‘the acceptable level of chaos’ required to deliver outstanding brand work, may well end up being funded by the structure and rules established in the mid funnel. Science and magic working in concert, certainly. ‘Zero defects’ as the saviour of creativity, perhaps.

Tags: AI