Marketing Losing Its Mojo? Not So Fast

In a recent article published by Mediaweek, author Denise Lee Yohn postulated that the drive toward social media and analytics by CMOs was causing marketing to lose its creativity. Lee Lohn wrote:

All this focus on social media and analytics seems to be sucking the creativity out of marketing. Time was, brands developed big ideas and delivered and communicated them in unique and creative ways. Now it seems marketers are only interested in tactics and metrics…Certainly media and communications have changed, so a big TV spot or newspaper campaign probably isn’t the right approach for transformational marketing.  But lately it seems the pursuit of breakthrough marketing creativity has taken a backseat to work on more predictable and achievable efforts.

While there is no question to Lee Lohn’s notion that creativity plays a vital role in the effectiveness of marketing, the concerning part about Lee Lohn’s article is that it positions creativity as the finality of the marketing process. To me, this represents one of the most glaring problems with many marketers and CMOs, that marketing is about developing creativity and cool collateral (what we refer to as unbounded creativity). Although there is something exhilarating about marketing or advertising that positions an idea in a way that you’ve never thought about it before or expresses it using a completely unique, innovative or creative method, let us not forget that there is a difference between fine art and marketing. Fine art exists for the sake of creativity. Marketing exists for the sake of achieving some organizational objective. I’d pay top dollar to see a CMO defend his/her budget (or job for that matter) playing the “but we did some really creative work” card (see the Quizno’s case study).

In an unrelated article, provided a handful of case studies where organizations were finding very creative methods of using social media. Although all of these methods are very creative, the article provides no indication as to how these creative uses have performed regarding marketing key performance indicators (e.g. sales of coffee or funds raised to fight breast cancer) other than the number of fans, followers or retweets. In neglecting some of these other marketing KPIs, the story neglects the real question. How does creativity affect performance?

Is it not too much for ask for to develop creative and inspiring marketing while focusing on analytics and new and upcoming marketing tactics? At Serfwerks, we take the position that marketing analytics, market research, and innovative marketing tools (when used properly) can not only help an organization achieve its marketing and organizational objectives, but it can also help the marketer or CMO be more creative in his/her marketing efforts.

For example, doing enough market research to understand enough about one’s target audience to clearly define discrete segments within the customer base and understand the motivations and/or mindsets of each segment empowers the organization to be more creative in using those motivations to be more creative while using the correct analytics to gauge its performance. We recently did a market research project for a petroleum distribution company based in Escondido, Calif. One of the key findings when analyzing the research data was the significant differences in value perceptions between their customer segments. The heavy user segment saw high value in our client’s service. The low- to medium-user groups, however, saw very little value in that same service. Using value perception as an analytic, the company could now focus its efforts in finding more creative methods to communicate value perception, including using innovative marketing tools, such as social media.

When used properly, marketing creativity does not need to suffer from a CMO’s focus on analytics and innovative tools (i.e. social media). Rather, the marketing analytics and tools will empower the CMO to be both more creative and more successful at achieving both marketing and organizational objectives.