There is a danger, when it comes to marketing, that this becomes known as the age of ‘faster, better, cheaper’. The narrative around this mantra most often has efficiency as its main theme: the tale of the ‘tech-enabled, data-fuelled’ machine that, thanks to AI, will send out ever more relevant communications or content. Every MarTech company on the planet tells a version of it and it’s a story that has enchanted a generation of CFOs.
It may have become the dominant narrative – and there are some fascinating tools out there – but it is not the full story.
It’s not the full story – and therefore under sells what we do significantly – because efficiency is only part of what’s required. ‘Better’ has to be more than just the sum of ‘faster’ and ‘cheaper’. It’s not the full story because it doesn’t describe the positive impact that tech advances and the explosion of data, big or otherwise, have made on our ability to influence the actions, feelings or decisions of those we need to, to make whatever marketing endeavour we’re involved in a success. The full story is in how these advances are enabling creativity to have a ‘faster, deeper, cheaper’ impact on every way that a person experiences a brand.
Deeper insights fuel more effective creativity – the stuff that will really strike a chord, reframe things and get talked about. We’ve now got the sort of data at our fingertips that used to take thousands of pounds and weeks and weeks to assemble. With the right know-how and tools we can now extract deep insights for a fraction of that cost and time. For example, the key to unlocking +17% growth for Anusol, the piles treatment, came through analysis that looked at the content and tone of freely available online customer reviews. Reviews of Anusol tackled the subject matter with real humour not found with competitors – which we then used in a new communications approach which has smashed all KPIs and grown both the category and share for the brand.
Advances in neuroscience mean we know more about what sort of creativity has a deeper impact than ever before. Thanks to the research and analysis done by Byron Sharp, Orlando Wood, Les Binet and Peter Field we know how to create the distinctiveness (use of fluent devices, music etc) that gets into the long-term memory to have a longer lasting commercial effect. We know that using these techniques will improve the performance of small dynamic formats and work just as well in digital-first campaigns. Our ‘Nobody Is Normal’ campaign for Childline is using a variety of these techniques, in combination with a deep creative thought, to ensure that a small spend in predominantly shorter video formats on social platforms like TikTok is creating this deeper effect to significantly outperform previous campaigns.
Finally, digital technologies are transforming the production of creative assets to enable us to execute communications far more deeply and far more quickly. The ability to mobilise video production units quickly to capture story-telling content, the ability to create and manipulate images within seconds of having captured them and to use dynamic ways of editing different versions of content and connecting that with dynamic distribution platforms mean we can create much more relevant campaigns for each element of a customer journey.
For businesses of a particular size or those working in a specific category like travel, retail or automotive, this can be a gamechanger. Our Free-Range Travel campaign for Chiltern Railways used to have ten or so moving parts – it now has hundreds, and it’s this depth of execution, in combination with the deeper insights we’re using and our certainty around the right creative techniques to use, that creates a deeper impact, sees campaigns perform better, which in turn drives sales and increases brand preference measures.
Every year you see articles, thought leaders and others question whether, in the age of efficiency, ‘creativity is dead’. Well, no, it emphatically is not, though its absence from a phrase like ‘faster, better, cheaper’ is damaging and creative challenges do change as the industry does. There’s no doubt in my mind that those marketers who harness the ability of creativity to have a deeper effect than ever before, more quickly and at less cost will be those that make big, not just marginal gains, and travel the furthest in the year ahead.
Jamie Elliott is the CEO of The Gate.