June 22, 2017

Do Data-Driven Metrics Kill Marketing Creativity?


As a writer, creativity is everything.
Words matter. Tone matters. Sentence structure and paragraphs matter.
So it was troubling to have a conversation with a new client’s marketing person about a Website refresh.
Aside from making the Website beautiful, I want to overhaul the content.
To me, the content is flat and uninspiring and there are too many words.
From the outside looking in, the Website isn’t engaging or accessible.
It’s a prime candidate for a digital makeover.

But here’s the thing: despite its ugliness, the Website works.

Search engines love it. It generates leads, and bounce rates on key pages are low.
As far as the marketer sees it, the Website is just fine. To him, why fix something that ain’t broke.
Meanwhile, the wordsmith (aka me) thinks otherwise.
The Website needs some love to turn it from an ugly duckling into a swan.
It not only requires a new coat of paint but new words.
That said, it is difficult to argue with cold hard facts (aka data).
When the marketer talks about using different approaches, calls-to-action, and words to optimize conversions, it is hard to launch a spirited counter-attack.
As a creative person, the different data approaches to the Website pose an interesting question: does data overrule creativity?
If the data clearly shows whether something works, what’s the role of creativity?
As a writer, for example, I want to make the words and sentences compelling, inspiring and actionable.
But what if the data says that plain words drive conversions?
If you’re the salesperson who wants leads, boring is beautiful. Who cares about creativity if it doesn’t move the needle.
One one hand, I could surrender the facts. But I’m not going down without a fight!

I believe there’s a role for creativity as a key part of the marketing mix.

As much as Websites drive leads, subscriptions, page views, etc., they should also be user-friendly, welcoming and intuitive.
A Website should make a positive impression and position a brand as a viable option for prospects.
As humans, we make many decisions based on emotions, which creates opportunities for creativity.
As much as the marketer and I sit on opposite sides of the table, we will work together to create a better Website.
I will respect the data and analytics because numbers don’t lie.
And I think the marketer will respect the need for a new design and more engaging words.
In other words, it’s a balancing act.
As a creative person, I don’t believe data is everything for digital marketing.
There is plenty of room for creativity.
Data and creativity need to not only co-exist but establish a partnership to drive success.
What do you think? How do you balance data and creativity in a metric-driven world?
More: In Fast Company, Sudhir Venkatesh looks at how companies can use data to foster, rather than squash, creativity.

I work with fast-growing companies looking to grow even faster with marketing that actually works. My strategic and tactical services, which harness the power of storytelling, are driven by frameworks and processes to create strategic messaging, brand positioning, marketing strategies, and content. If you want marketing that makes an impact, let’s talk.
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