Keep creativity alive in a world of distraction
“Yes, I’m a marketing manager, but really I’m a project manager… I just don’t have the resource to be creative.”
I heard this comment from an audience member at a recent round table event hosted by The Drum, where I was invited to sit on the panel.
The title of the event was “When Marketers are not Marketers”, and joining me at the table were senior marketers from M&S, SABMiller and the IAB.
We all agreed that strong creativity leads to positive results in marketing, but we had to acknowledge that the time marketers have to be creative is severely restricted by the additional admin, procurement and reporting responsibilities that are increasingly piled on them.
The challenge for marketers, as Tina Kataria, SABMiller’s global category manager for agency sourcing, so succinctly put it, is to “keep creativity alive in a world of distraction.”
Improving the value of marketing
And these distractions are multiplying, driven by more digital channels, increasing accountability and ever-rising budgetary pressure. These budgetary pressures can lead to demands for cost cutting, which can be disastrous if not tied to increases in efficiency and improvements in the value of marketing activity.
There can be other fall-out too. As the IAB’s Steve Chester said, “cost-cutting can mean agency margins being squeezed, often leading to bad creative and driving down value.”
Adding to these issues, traditional notions of customer engagement and loyalty have been blown out of the water.
“Customers are indifferent,” said fellow panellist Richard Jones, head of design and production at M&S. “That is the job marketing has to deal with.”
Overcoming this indifference and building brand engagement means devoting more time to creative strategy and customer engagement, not less. And this means reclaiming time and resource for creative thinking by reducing the admin burden.
So that’s the conundrum we discussed at length: how to increase creativity in the face of demands for greater efficiency and value, and the avalanche of admin and process. It’s a problem I encounter all the time, and fortunately it does have a solution.
Technology is key
Many of the time-consuming tasks that are taking marketers away from addressing the urgent needs of creatively encouraging customer engagement – managing campaigns, suppliers, assets, briefing, approvals – can be handed over to technology.
The panel had a very interesting discussion on the difference between those in marketing who understand the value of technology and those who don’t.
Technology impacts everyone in business, because it’s where the savings lie. The right marketing automation achieves the double hit of freeing up your time to focus on creativity – most likely why you got into the job in the first place – and delivering those cost savings demanded by the board.
A joined-up approach to marketing operations that embraces technology can deliver hard savings through better and more transparent briefings and approvals, reducing reworks and delivery time.
It can provide improved adherence to CPAs, enabling you to do more in the time available, as well as providing the obvious major time and efficiency improvements by banishing spreadsheets and manual ways of working.
You’ll see a reduction in emails for each job, and savings from reduced reliance on freelance resource.
Efficient automated workflows give you the extra time you need to properly plan and develop strategy, while the visibility technology can provide of your entire operation enables you to measure campaign effectiveness to facilitate better planning and budget allocation.
We concluded that there are, in effect, two streams to marketing: ideas-driven marketing and data-driven marketing.
The first relies on good people with inspirational ideas, good instincts and, crucially, the time required to develop creative strategies and put them into effect.
The second provides the operation efficiency, value and reporting required, but it is time-consuming unless supported by the right technology – technology that frees up time for the ideas-driven marketing that can overcome consumer indifference.
Perhaps when all companies take this approach, we’ll be able to come back to the Drum for an event entitled “When Marketers ARE Marketers”. I look forward to the day.
Until next time…
You can read The Drum’s write up of the event.
About Simon Ward
Simon Ward ITG – Simon is the founder and CEO of pioneering technology-led marketing company, Inspired Thinking Group (ITG). ITG delivers best-in-class marketing software, procurement and studio services to dozens of blue-chip clients, including Audi, M&S, KFC, PUMA and Heineken.
Simon Ward SP Group – Prior to ITG, Simon founded SP Digital in 1998, and in 1999 bought SP Print to form SP Group, creating innovative marketing and point of sale displays for some of the world’s best-known retailers, including M&S, Sainsbury’s, Holland & Barrett and Calvin Klein.