Yes, Creative Still Matters

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by Yieldbot
Thursday, January 15 th, 2015 -- 1:56 am

[Republished from]

Data, data, data. It seemed like data and its potential to drive consumer action were all marketers talked about in 2014.

In the past month alone, the phrase “data-driven” was mentioned 19,006 times on Twitter, for example. The possibilities to cross data for consumer benefit seemed exciting, to marketers at least.

Yet equally fierce was the debate at numerous trade events over whether creative still matters. Between automated ad buying and data analytics, is our industry in danger of becoming a robotic, heartless echo chamber?

It doesn’t have to be. In fact, armed with data on consumer age, intent, geolocation, and time of day, marketers have the potential to go back to the roots of what good marketing should be—a way to be more useful to customers.

I’m not talking here about the kind of creativity we associate with television spots or videos. There will always be a big part of this business focused on conveying a brand’s identity or style to consumers, whether that be showing itself to be funny, touching, or edgy.

What I am talking about is the kind of creativity brands must employ to make the most of our data revolution, reaching consumers in a more targeted fashion with a high likelihood of offering them something they actually want and can use. This is the new frontier of creativity in digital. We must fight the urge to simply focus on the data because it’s how you use it–creatively–that really drives people to have an emotional connection with a brand’s messages.

This is the new frontier of creativity. Instead of just handing out a discount to potential customers on a mailing list, companies now have the tools to target those in a specific demographic group, with a strong intention to buy in the near future.

But it’s not enough just to know they are there. This is the time for the creative team to come up with an offer, presented precisely based on “intent,” that consumers simply cannot refuse.

One aspect of this is what some marketers call brand utility. Simply put, that means brands should offer their customers something useful, rather than just do a straight sell. It’s not exactly a new idea. Tire maker Michelin has long sponsored travel guides with rated restaurants and hotels, just to have its name linked to something helpful and special, noted marketing specialist Ingmar de Lange in his presentation on brand utility.

But, as ever, technology gives brand utility a whole new scope.

Domino’s Pizza, for example, offers consumers who order pizza an opt-in, online pizza tracker to check the status of their orders. And a lot of this brand utility is happening on mobile. Volvo’s app helps users locate and lock their cars or even start the heater before they enter the automobile.

Digital publishers can use first-party data to creatively inform and blend customer utility with advertising. By understanding who-and why-people are coming to their sites, they can align advertisers with users’ actual interests and behaviors, to provide them with exactly the type of offer or information they need, sometimes before they even know they need it. The intersection of machine-based decisions and interpersonal relationships is exactly how advertisers can be more creative when selling.

Airlines might use first-party data from customers’ check-ins at the airport to realize when they might have a few hours to kill, fostering partnerships with airport stores and restaurants to offer them deals. Crossing data on location with data about flight time can make that possible. A brand could also offer free Wi-Fi in the airport in exchange for viewing an ad. All of this is only the tip of the iceberg.

And while it’s true many consumers say they are uneasy with data tracking, it’s also true that if you offer them something relevant and helpful at the right time, their likelihood of responding positively and even making a purchase is much greater.

So, no, creativity is not dead! But determining how your brand could be helpful to your customers in these targeted situations will be the future of creativity in business.

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