Creative Brings Art Back into the Customer Journey

For a handful of recent years, the struggle to integrate art and science has existed within the walls of agencies and brands. Enamored by the clarity of performance data, brands were challenging Creative teams to adopt a more scientific mindset that looked not only at the expression of a brand, but at how Creative directly impacted a lower-funnel objective – a sale, donation, sign up, etc. The value of design, copywriting, and content was being measured on spreadsheets.

“Show us the ROI!” echoed in those walls.

Through these times, we’ve worked hard to learn, experiment, and put into practice the collaboration between art and science – of data-informed Creative. Undoubtedly, data has enabled Creatives to better understand the psychology of user behavior, and how Creative can be best optimized to influence user journeys and brand engagement. It’s developed newfound rigor and scalability in the Creative practice that guides creative choices and allows for testing and improving impact. A growing mutual respect exists at both ends of the spectrum, as creatives, data scientists, media planners and strategists collaborate to design media experiences that take a much more thoughtful, data-driven and empathetic approach. And there’s been real client buy-in that both the artist and the scientist must have a seat at the table, together.

The Focus Shifting Back to Art

We’ve come a long way in our explorations, and yet, more recently, we’ve seen an intriguing trend – a realization that Creative is, in fact, very much an art. And even more than that, an appreciation from left-brain thinkers that real impact can be achieved when Creatives add right-brained problem solving to the equation.

What’s happened to cause this shift?

It’s been a while since our concepts of the linear consumer journey were disrupted. But what brands are arguably still figuring out, is just how critical the upper funnel (awareness, etc.) experiences are to not only a person’s perception of a brand, but to their eventual willingness to turn brand loyal, and buy or donate. In simple terms – you can’t just work to convert people all the time. Marketers are now finding increased value in brand building and storytelling, and there are necessary upper-funnel initiatives that brands must embark on that set a tone – visually and verbally – for the consumer. The right Creative starts the momentum that eventually leads to conversions and brand-loyal customers.

Industries Changing Their Views

Brand building is an art, informed by science. And it takes a more subjective and less of an “instant-gratification” mindset to lean on art to create meaningful impact. Take nonprofit organizations, for example, whose conventional thinking has been dramatically altered because of the expectations of Millennials. Millennials are more cause-driven than perhaps any generation to come before them, but the nuance lies in their desire to have a relationship with a brand. They want to feel, and know your brand story, and how it relates to their values for positively impacting the world.

While nonprofit marketers and fundraisers tend to have stricter accountability to budgets, there is an awakening happening within their organizations that brand storytelling, upper-funnel initiatives and more emphasis on traditional Creative is only going to become more critical for driving the mission and raising funds. How does content, beyond just education or information directly tied to the cause, impact a supporter’s understanding of it? What type of creative format allows an organization to flex their storytelling skills in a way that engages someone to interact, share and respond? What creates a lasting connection beyond the ask? These are the questions being answered by Creatives today.

Widening the Top of the Funnel

With increasing innovation in the science behind Creative – like advancements in machine learning and automation – we can now better fine tune and optimize Creative for conversions.  Dynamic Creative Optimization (DCO) can retarget and assemble countless configurations of display ads without the countless hours of manual labor. And at the end of the day, more automation in lower-funnel is a good thing. But what matters more than ever, is that brands employ upper-funnel Creative to enable those investments towards the bottom to perform well.

There is a need for art, and a need for science. But even more important than the two co-existing, is to understand where each plays its most critical role in the customer journey and in forging the bond between brands and consumers.

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