One of the most memorable scenes from the iconic ‘50s sitcom “I Love Lucy”features Lucy and her friend Ethel working in a candy factory, wrapping individual chocolates before they’re boxed. Their boss tells them if they don’t keep up, they’re fired.
As the conveyor belt ramps up, all is fine. But soon, the belt speeds up, and in order to avoid a bottleneck, Lucy and Ethel start comically shoving chocolates in their mouths, shirts, hats -- anywhere to avoid allowing a single unwrapped candy down the line.
What does this have to do with digital marketing? The “losing game” that Lucy and Ethel were fighting is the same challenge marketers struggle with today when it comes to the creative aspects of personalization.
Why is scaling creative important?
Two truths face modern marketers. First, in the era of Instagram, content must be personalized and visual to maximize impact. Second, as marketers look to scale campaigns across digital channels, creative needs to scale at the same pace.
This isn’t just about the efficiency of any single channel. it’s about improving marketing ROI.
The business case is that more creative = more campaigns = more touchpoints = more revenue. Seems simple, but while marketers may have countless campaign ideas, they need the content to be able to execute at scale.
However, it’s not just about pushing out more campaigns with generic content; it’s about scaling quality personalized creative and consistently maintaining brand standards. This is the challenge.
What’s causing the creative bottleneck?
Brands have limited resources. It’s impossible for designers to manually create personalized creative for every customer — and this is an industry-wide problem. Garner says that content will be the biggest bottleneck and cause of failure for marketing personalization by 2020.
By “personalized creative,” we don’t just mean pictures of women in header images to women customers. This is about combining creative (e.g., product and brand images) with data (e.g., customer loyalty status, real-time prices and inventory) to generate composite images and data visualizations on demand, based on rules for targeting, content, styling, and data availability.
So, pressed between limited resources and demands for more personalized creative, marketers are forced into a false choice: market to fewer consumers to deliver better experiences, or compromise on experience to reach more consumers.
This problem isn’t a lack of data. In fact, more data means a bigger downstream impact on production. And just as Lucy stuffing chocolates in her hat isn’t a viable long-term solution, hiring more designers isn’t a scalable long-term marketing solution.
Overcoming the creative bottleneck
For Lucy, automation was the enemy.
However, just as many digital marketing and data processes have been automated through software to save time on repeatable tasks, automation is also the key to overcoming the creative bottleneck.
Specifically, it’s the generation of personalized visual creative that needs to be automated. Doing so will empower marketing and creative teams to achieve success in multiple ways.
First, they can leverage all of their massive investment in data and use that to power unique and compelling visual experiences at scale.
Second, it will free up time, so marketers can focus on higher-level creative and strategic campaign planning and implementation.
Thirdly, it will enable marketers to make existing campaigns more effective by improving personalization and overall visual presentation.
The solution for the chocolate factory would be to automate the candy wrapping and remove humans from the picture. This analogy only goes so far, as developing digital campaigns is much more complex.
Automation here isn’t about replacing humans, but enabling personalized creative at a scale impossible for humans to manage, while freeing up marketers to focus on creative strategies that drive incremental value and customer loyalty.