A Marketer's Yin/Yang: Balancing Creativity And Pragmatism

A study by the Harvard Business Review found that businesses realize higher sales when they use these creativity techniques: originality, elaboration and artistic value. A combination of the three gives better results as the audience is more intrigued and, hence, the message and the brand stays on their mind for longer.

But while creativity is critically important in advertising, it’s not the only lever brands have. Everyone wants the “NBDB” (Never Been Done Before) creative in advertising, to “surprise and delight” their audiences. Every marketer salivates over the idea of the beautiful, branded home page takeover. However, how many takeovers will a brand pay for before they realize that NBDB ad isn’t delivering any meaningful results? Dazzling creative does not always drive bottom-line impact.

Ultimately, marketers need to be creative pragmatists. The desire to be super-creative and innovative in their messaging must be balanced with the goal of driving consumer action. And creativity must always be adjusted to suit the medium of the ad. In certain media that kind of uber-creative approach works well. In TV and outdoor media, for example, brands have a large, high-definition canvas to tell their story, and they can be gorgeous and indulgent with their ad creatives there. They can aim for an emotional response versus conversion.



But what if the canvas and media are smaller, portable and delivered into home? No, I don’t mean mobile handsets, but rather the “original mobile media,” that is, tangible media delivered into home aka physical mail powered by digital. Brands can capitalize on desire, curiosity and the digital timeout of the hyperpersonal mail experience. Imagine having a consumer’s undiverted attention, giving them a physical reminder of your storefront, whether it’s online or in the real world. Imagine using that canvas to drive a focused CTA and instant gratification for the consumer.

As RetailDIVE reported recently, “The most sophisticated retailers are continuously working to build a seamless, omnichannel operation and experience that uses catalogs, websites and physical stores seamlessly and interchangeably to help customers shop and make purchases.” You read that right, paper catalogs.

It’s not an “easier said than done” situation. Digital marketers are smart enough to know the rules: Have an enticing call to action, front and center. Personalize it, and be clever about it. Don’t use a generic coupon code like “summer10” — generate a unique code that’s just for them. We personalize experiences online all the time. We can do it with offline media like physical mail, too.

Personalized offers just feel meaningful. Why not leverage those data-fueled platforms to give customers tailored offers based on who they are and the relationship they have with the brand? That’s a high-value bonus that can be delivered to customers in moments when they can take the time to enjoy them. Of course, as with digital ads, with great power comes great responsibility: use data wisely, and stay on the right side of that fine line between alluring and creepy. Respect is critical. 

We have a bad habit of abusing consumer attention in digital media. We bombard users with ads and interrupt their online experiences. If we don’t earn the right to that attention by delivering something valuable, they’ll navigate away from us, or change the channel. The beauty of this new channel that merges digital and physical mail is that marketers have a special opportunity to connect with consumers in quiet moments at home.

Neuromarketing research from the U.S. Postal Service in partnership with the Center for Neural Decision Making at Temple University’s Fox School of Business revealed that physical ads “triggered activity in a part of the brain that corresponds with value and desirability and are remembered better than digital ads. The marketer has a real opportunity to advance different elements of their brand by making the consumer feel valued and special with the quality of the media, the medium and its messaging. 

Digitally reactive mail as the USPS calls the marriage of digital and physical mail gives marketers a new tool to interact with customers in an intimate, personalized way. As with other new ad formats, there’s a temptation to let the creative drive everything, focusing on surprise and delight. But while those elements matter, measurable results matter more. Be a creative pragmatist, and maintain the balance of form and function.

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