At SXSW last year, I was in an artificial intelligence session with our Chief Creative Officer, Moa Netto. After the crowd witnessed an AI machine that could create, mimic, and decide, Moa raised his hand.
“Where is the soul in AI?” Moa asked. “Can it mimic soul? Because creativity is about connection to the soul.”
A painfully long silence followed. It’s easy to forget about creativity, and sometimes soul, when marketers are lost in the endless matrix of data analytics. But creativity is and will always be the beating heart of marketing.
Avoiding a Formulaic Mindset
Marketing professionals relying solely on algorithms and automation can sometimes overlook one of the most important rules of marketing: to provide an engaging customer experience.
A Bain & Co. survey found 80% of CEOs think their companies provide superior customer experiences — but that only 8% of their customers agreed! A clear engagement gap is at play, and marketers should make closing this gap our business. That’s where creativity comes in.
The greatest lesson here isn’t to avoid analytics; it’s to use it effectively. Creativity can be helped, guided, and validated by data and analytics. And the reverse is also true, with data led with our soul and, seeing what the data tells us, pivoting as we go. This should be a perpetual, dynamic yin and yang for the modern marketer.
We need innovative methods to look for clues and patterns. And creativity complemented with data can uncover a whole world of consumer understanding. Companies like Amazon and Google are successful largely because of their personalized messages, something they couldn’t achieve without appropriate data and analytics.
It’s what makes the following priorities essential for every marketer, whether they’re already leveraging a colossal amount of data or they’re traditionally creating the spark in the soul through emotional creativity:
1. Connected engagement and experiences. Brands need to embrace how the world has changed, understand that people want to engage on their own terms, and then re-imagine how their brands show up. I don’t mean jumping on the latest fad, but rather taking a strategic look at how their brands should appear on their targets’ radars.
Marketers should ask themselves if video, voice, content, or other methods are most attractive to their target audiences. The brand experiences must be much more genuine, immersive, and individualized and must drive business impact proved out through data.
Experiences must be seamlessly portable across multiple screens, driving new levels of engagement, audience learning, and understanding. Here, creativity and data work hand in hand.
2. Partnering strategy. With the advent of the startup economy and the internet bringing local brands to global markets (and vice versa), brands need to rethink their core partnering strategies and to go beyond logo display and badging to create new mash-ups and propositions.
Brands must drive to innovate with partners. This could be product design, creating a service layer, content immersion, etc. Basically, the goal is to develop an ecosystem of value where both parties are creating together from data and from shared experience planning.
3. Soul searching. Back to the point my colleague was trying to make at SXSW: There should be a focus on placing the consumer at the center of the brand’s activity and having an obsessive . commitment to learning what truly drives engagement and business outcomes.
There is no formula, no textbook, no whitepaper, no silver bullet. Instead, this requires a shared culture from the brand, which is lived by the agency and partners, to embark on a journey of discovery to understand what resonates.
That’s how to give creativity soul!