At a time like this, you’d be better off if you had a map and a compass to help you find your way back from the middle of nowhere.
The same holds true for digital marketing. You could build a website, plan a marketing strategy, or launch an online campaign based on your best guesses and gut feelings. There’s always a chance you’ll strike gold once or twice and get the results you want, but can you rely on that kind of luck for consistent results? Is that really the smartest bet—especially when marketing budgets and careers hang in the balance?
In our playground, analysis and creativity make the crux of innovational thinking, but each direction has its own group of ardent supporters who believe that their approach toward marketing strategy is the most sound and the one that must be followed. There are those who lean on the hard truths found in the data and insight presented from analytics, and there are those who feel that it’s creative energy and inspiration that should drive marketing efforts.
Each side of this argument has merit. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that either side offers all the pieces that might ultimately form the correct, complete marketing solution for a brand to follow. Let’s take a look at the two sides to see why …
ANALYTICS: FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLETThe need to understand just exactly how their marketing efforts are performing has driven many brands to consider analytics as a valued asset in their arsenal. As Alex Yoder, CEO of the web analytics company WebTrends, attests, “Companies are demanding quantifiable results from their marketing and other business investments, and want to be able to consistently use the insight they gain from their web analytics and other measurement tools to improve the performance of their website, online campaigns and other marketing investments.”
Analytics can instantly provide this kind of information. While a sales report could take six months before a sense of what is working can be identified and quantified, web analytics can deliver this same data in real time. It can identify the aspects of a website or a marketing strategy that are connecting with the target audience. Whatever aspect is hitting the ball out of the park can be further emphasized to drive even more marketing success.
It’s that kind of focus on cold hard statistical data and logic that gives analytics an advantage over personal opinion: Analytics doesn’t worry about hurting feelings. An initial creative idea might eventually show flaws with the information provided by analytics. This potentially campaign-saving insight won’t be held back for fear of injuring professional relationships. And conversely, bad decisions won’t be automatically approved simply because they are championed by particularly vocal or charismatic personnel.
Analytical direction is objective, and even if painful, facts are facts. Part of how analytics can guide successful creative comes when marketers use hard data to steer the creativity in a direction that lets it thrive. After all, even the most wildly inspirational creative piece can miss its mark if it’s shown to the wrong audience on the wrong channel.
Analytics allows digital marketers to test strategies and marketing elements to see through the fog of hunches, biased opinions, and secondhand information. There will be times when a clever and inventive piece of creative will satisfy the target audience, but only analytics can pinpoint the exact frequency for putting the message in front of the most audience members. The key is to remember that testing in this way must be performed for each marketing effort and target audience, and it must never stop. Just as the current best solutions will change, so will the moods of the target consumers.
Gather the data, test, and apply. Then, repeat to make sure your creative is constantly in tune with your audience.
CREATIVE: MORE POWERFUL THAN A LOCOMOTIVECreativity is the heart of good marketing. Analytics might be able to mold marketing strategies based on research and facts, but when it comes down to it, data is emotionally stale. While this emotionless quality can provide benefits for objective decision-making, relying on stoic statistics and figures to fuel inspiration is counterintuitive. Analytics is emotionally indifferent. It’s passionless. And, in an industry that depends on touching the human spirit, analytics can kill the stirring effects of profound artistic expression.
An innovative piece of creativity can spark a marketing initiative. Advertising cannot reach beyond the mediocre without this spark, this catalyst, which enables content to attract and connect with its intended audience.
William Bernbach, legendary co-founder of Doyle Dane Bernbach, once said, “If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic,” and you know what? Analytics can’t overcome this challenge. It depends on creativity to tug at the audience’s heartstrings, to offer a reason for a second glance, to urge a witness to tell a friend. It’s imagination-fueled creative, not cold and conventional data, that gets advertising noticed. Whether developing a catchy sales pitch, an eye-grabbing graphic, or something as simple as the color of the text, the art is what draws the eye.
Boundless imagination enriches our lives. it entertains us and can solicit arched-backed peels of laughter or wide-eyed gazes of awe. It can form an interesting take, a witty thought, or a unique consideration that transcends the world of offer-pitch-sell to bring the audience closer to the fantastic—and to the brand.
Creative must not only connect with emotional touch points, but shake them to their very core. The entertainment business spends billions of dollars every month working on storytelling that literally makes us laugh and makes us cry. In the advertising/marketing realm, the brands that create content to evoke those emotions are the ones that soar to the top.
This creativity cannot be quantified by analytics. Consumers connect with brands based on their emotions, not mathematical equations. That’s something that will never change no matter how many numbers are crunched.
SO WHO WINS? THE VERDICT IS IN ...The competing philosophies of analytics-driven and creative-driven marketing make compelling cases, but the truth is, neither perspective is adequate. Both philosophies miss the mark. An over reliance on either one will cause a skewed final product that will inevitably fall short.
Analytics should not be used as the be-all, end-all determiner of creative production, nor should it be disregarded as nothing more than an obstacle for a creative mind to overcome. Instead, the end product should be grounded in both tenets, creating a balanced approach that pairs big creative ideas with analytical insights to find the best place for broadcasting those ideas.
It’s a combination of reason and wonder.
It is, to borrow a phrase, logic plus magic.
Seems like an easy concept, right? Well, unfortunately, it’s not such an easy state to achieve without hard work and experience. personally speaking, the application of both analytics and creative is near and dear to each of us. In fact, it typifies our professional relationship. We each bring our own very distinct takes on marketing. One side is rooted in measurement, ROI, and tracking—the analytics side of the equation. The other brings a focus on consumer experience, satisfying consumer needs, and connecting with consumers via emotional touch points—the creative piece of the puzzle.
What poses the biggest challenge is the give-and-take between both sides, the struggle to keep those opposing forces in sync and working toward what is ultimately their shared goal: marketing success.
Developing the skills to manage this contentious mixture of logical data and magical creative thought is not something we developed overnight; instead, we molded it for over a decade into a method of understanding. We use this method to utilize both analytical evidence and creative output to provide final products that bring success to our campaigns. It’s this philosophy of marketing that drives our agency and one that we feel strongly enough about to advocate here.
A philosophy of analytics or creative alone cannot bring home sustainable marketing success. Only when the two work together can everything come together and enable a brand to find its audience, determine the right message, and discover the best way and the best place to pronounce it. Truth can be found in the data, and wonder can be found in the creative, but somewhere in the middle, where the logic and magic meet, lives something amazing—something that can transform faint intuition into marketing gold.