Safe Data or Risky Creative; Is Your Marketing Strategy Too Safe?

Creative freedom

A common discussion among marketers tends to be the intricate juggle between creative freedom, calculated risks and data-driven research. Whether it’s B2B or B2C, the same conversation seems to surface. The popular mindset tends to veer toward the data end of the spectrum versus the provocative risk-taker. In fact, as a chief marketing officer (CMO), one must deliver these statistical results as proof their tactics are working.  

The conversation no longer must center around the question, “which way do you approach your marketing strategy?” There is a strong emphasis seen in the “AND” conversation, according to VentureBeat. “Data enables creative freedom and enhances storytelling–the two are neither separate nor opposing entities,” (Zynczak, 2015).

The fear of failure

One of the biggest obstacles a CMO faces as a business leader is the fear of failure. The untold outcome of a project's concept can, at times, overpower “provocativity” and the desire to stand out. As stated by Marketing Week, “The core argument for creative freedom in marketing has always been that it is impossible to predict the effect of a truly game-changing idea.”  Everyone has their own notion of both safe and risky ideas.  As a marketer, having a strong sense of empathy and emotional quotient (EQ) stimulates rich human connection.

While one may be ready to push the boundaries on a proposal, not everyone may be on board with the creative approach. Fearful or not, a launch-ready campaign will go out into the wild, unarmed, with no idea what traffic will come its way.  Spontaneity is what keeps companies on their toes and innovative ideas and diversity in content flowing in the industry.    

When discussing risk failure, Skyword puts things into perspective. As a marketer, if the desired engagement is not reached, the only thing lost is the audience’s attention. Those whose attention is lost can include key individuals, but if no one cares to engage with the campaign or materials created, is that the end all be all? No. What Holland doesn’t consider is small businesses with small budgets. So, yes, if attention is not paid to one’s work, fatal damage is not a side effect, but there is the object of losing money on a seemingly failing campaign. The two biggest components of a company’s overall success equation that are, in effect, tampered with are: time and money. Time equates to money and extensive amounts of time spent on developing each individual campaign is money spent. From this perspective, getting low levels of engagement seems to parallel major loss. However, each time original content is produced and shared can be looked at as an opportunity to collect data in order to better the output and methods next time.  Creativity coupled with data can only provide valuable insight.

Pushing boundaries and budgets

There’s a balance between considering budget and pushing boundaries. Many deal with trying to spread a small budget to create a quintessential multimedia masterpiece. Frequently, campaign decisions are based on the working budget at hand. Depending on a company's in-house capabilities, frankly, a low budget may prohibit what can be done. A large company may have the freedom for additional trial and error. A small company, on the other hand, typically won’t have the capability to do so. Having minimal leverage for any pre-testing causes design risk that comes into play with the choices made.

Needless to say, creativity is not hindered by budget or lack of equipment. One planning a campaign with a sufficient amount of resources at hand can make just as much of an impact as another without a cabinet full of equipment. Keep in mind, a creative brief can be executed in endless ways. A key theme and message that speaks to the brand and catches the target audience in a new and sometimes upside down way is all that is needed. It’s the skeleton that counts, not the bells and whistles.  The message behind a marketing piece fuels the final product to which the public is exposed.  Often, successful campaigns and brands can be interpreted in just one word. For example, what word characterizes the iconic brand Nike? The answer is personal to one’s own experience with the brand, but relates back to the brand’s core values. At Torque, we believe a marketer’s job when creating a campaign is to speak to the values of the company and portray them to the public.

Magnitude is not a factor in quality of work or talent when it comes to agencies. A small agency can achieve just as much as a large agency that may be perceived to have more resources. Each will convey a powerful message in their own way, by balancing their creativity and statistical odds to best suit the current project at hand.  Creatives all see things through a different lens and communicate with a different voice. A major connecting point between creatives is the sense of empathy for the target audience and putting oneself in the shoes of the potential consumer.

Data measures performance and results

Healthy risk-taking is depicted by Holland when sharing a quote from Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” “If there is one door in the castle you have been told not to go through, you must. Otherwise, you’ll just be rearranging furniture in rooms you’ve already been in.”

Many brands have adopted a more conservative way of thinking and spending due to the recent economic conditions, stressed Martin Moll, Honda head of European marketing.  In turn, playing it safe is the route often taken, rather than playing up creativity with fewer funds to back up the possibilities.

The value in data

Creativity doesn’t have a unit of measure.  Opposingly, data complements rational thinking and can be valued as quantitative versus qualitative content to digest. “Good judgement will be based on data one way or anotherit may not be numbers on a spreadsheet, but it will be data and insight gleaned from previous experience and results,” according to Judith Denby, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts UK chief marketing officer.

Does data overpower creativity?

Finding an approach that balances the appropriate amount of creativity with well-founded data is pivotal to getting the right message in front of the right person. Messaging is what marketing singularly boils down to. “The trick is to ensure your data is the fuel that ignites the creative spark, not the flood that extinguishes it,” (Barnett, 2013).  A compelling message is both effective and has a commanding call to action, while still appealing to the senses.  Data sets the groundwork for the appropriate target message; the rest is up for creative freedom.  As a marketer, immersing oneself in Whole Brain Thinking connects all four quadrants of the brain.  Encompassing this practice keeps work multifaceted and rich.  If all four quadrants have been fired throughout the process, meaningful work is in the process of production. The idea is to continue to challenge all ideas and thoughts in order to push forth innovation.