Adam T. Sutton

Campaign Measurability and Creativity

September 17th, 2009

Marketing has undoubtedly benefited from the control and measurability of online channels. Teams can use search ads, email and websites to test and tweak their way to astounding returns on investment. But has this come at a cost in creative license?

Marketing requires creativity. All those commercials, direct mail pieces, and landing pages have to be written and designed. However, tests often dictate their ultimate layouts and content. Is this trend brining us toward formulaic, uncreative marketing?

These questions arose during a recent conversation I had with Brian Maynard, Director, Brand Marketing, Jenn-Air & KitchenAid. They were an aside to a conversation we were having on a KitchenAid promotion strategy (full article coming soon).

“As we get better at measuring marketing,” Maynard says, “I fear a bit that in the future, unless you show a positive ROI on every single tiny effort, that you won’t be bold. You won’t step out and do something that’s exciting and innovative because you cannot prove that it works.”

Maynard also noted that he worries that marketing could become like factory work, where switches are thrown and 3,000 more units are sold. That kind of environment would not be conducive to risk taking and creative thought.

“The best marketing ideas have come from people who take a chance,” he says.

Where do you stand? Have you lost some creative license since the Internet’s arrival? Or does measurement simply guide your decisions, rather than make them for you? Let us know in the comments…

Adam T. Sutton

About Adam T. Sutton

Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter, MarketingSherpa
Adam generates content for MarketingSherpa's Email and Inbound Marketing newsletters. His years of experience in interviewing marketers and conveying their insights has spanned topics such as search marketing, social media marketing, ecommerce, email and more. Adam previously powered the content behind MarketingSherpa's Search and Consumer-marketing newsletters and carries that experience into his new role. Today, in addition to writing articles, he contributes content to the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa blogs, as well as MECLABS webinars, workshops and summits.

Prior to joining MarketingSherpa, Adam was the Managing Editor at the Mequoda group. There he created content and promotions for the company's daily email newsletter and managed its schedule.

Categories: Research And Measurement Tags:

  1. September 18th, 2009 at 01:41 | #1

    First of all: let me say that it is great to reflect on this toppic (so good post!).

    But in today’s world I would strongly insist that productivity and optimization would have a far higher priority.
    In an extreme example: if that means that e-shops X, Y and Z have to have a similar interface, so be it. Visual creativity (design) is nice but please don’t let that be a reason not to optimize.
    You can be creative in everything, also in optimization.

  2. September 18th, 2009 at 13:39 | #2

    Marketing via the web has brought us a set of metrics that borders on the infinite. While this is a boon to effective marketing, it can also be a bane: paralysis from analysis.

    In my world, marketing is half creative, half analytic. The creative part is where we throw stuff up on the wall, the analytic part is where we measure what sticks.

    Creativity must come before measurement just as surely as measurement must come after creativity.

    Without creativity, nothing else matters: you’ll never break through the filters and barriers your target audience has put in place.

    Without measurement, you waste tons and time, energy and money without knowing what’s delivering your ROI, and without visibility as to how to improve your campaigns.

    One hand washes the other, but I put creativity first. After all, without creative… there’s nothing to measure.

  3. September 21st, 2009 at 12:47 | #3

    Measurement and creativity are not mutually exclusive. It is not a zero-sum game. In fact, systems can aid creativity by providing some guide rails that allow creative people to focus. A skater can be very creative, but when they violate the rules of physics, they will fall. In marketing, systematic rules and measurements can help protect against “falling and enable the creative people to focus on being more creative. Isn’t that what the limits of Twitter do? You have to be creative to get what you want to say within 140 characters. The problems we have as marketers is that we have not done a good job of measuring, and as a result, when there is an economic downturn, it is easy for the CEO or CFO to cut the marketing budget because they look at marketing as a cost and not an investment upon which there will be a bigger return. Too many marketers that really do not know what will work hide behind creativity as the excuse not to measure.

  4. susan wing
    September 21st, 2009 at 13:45 | #4

    couldn’t agree more. I’m a veteran of the wars and saw it coming when the marketing director ads led with “must demonstrate ROI’ about 4 years ago….and it’s just gotten worse. It usualy comes from the CFO/CEO and they’ve all got Harvard MBAitis in the US….obsessed with results. Not long term branding, awareness, relationship building. that’s my piece. we need to change to view from the top cause that’s where that ROI obsessiveness is coming from.

  5. September 22nd, 2009 at 19:08 | #5

    There’s no reason measurement and tracking should result in less creativity. Tracking and results should be a guide. Having said this, I like Claude Hopkins’ (or was it Ogilvy?) concept that the best ad is the one that generates the most sales!

  6. September 25th, 2009 at 05:40 | #6

    Luis is right. I have a section in my book (The Truth About B2B Marketing ROI) entitled “Creativity Saves Money.” A good creative concept is a lot tougher to come by than a metric, and while I am a huge proponent of measurement, creativity comes first.

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