Creative campaigns the goer for long-term business success

Jodie Sangster

Jodie Sangster has been the CEO of the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) since 2011 and is also chairperson for the International Federation of Direct Marketing Associations (IFDMA). She has worked across the US, Europe and Asia-Pacific for 14 years with a focus on data-driven marketing and privacy, and began her career as a lawyer in London specialising in data protection. Her resume includes senior positions at Acxiom Asia-Pacific and the Direct Marketing Association in New York.

As a champion of marketing excellence, ADMA has always sought to further best practice in marketing effectiveness. One area we’re particularly interested in at the moment is creativity and the critical role it plays in marketing and advertising campaigns.

Sadly, the role of creativity been downplayed over the past few years with the current focus on data, but hopefully this will change as people take on-board the findings of our latest research.

We conducted a study with well-known UK researcher, Peter Field, to see if campaign creativity influences business success. Peter has conducted several ground-breaking studies in the UK and concluded there is a strong link between creativity and business effectiveness, and we wanted to see if the results would be mirrored here.

In the UK, Peter has used the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) Effectiveness Databank and the Gunn Report Database of creatively-awarded campaigns to prove his thesis. Here in Australia, we conducted an analysis of 234 ADMA Award entries, bringing together the creativity and effectiveness submissions to get a handle on the patterns for success.

The results were intriguing. Some we agreed with immediately and others will be seen as controversial, challenging the industry’s current beliefs in audience targeting, loyalty and the benefits of short-term response advertising campaigns.

I’ve always believed -- and it has been proven in our study -- that long-term, highly creative work is more effective than non-creative work. Overall, creative campaigns resonate better with consumers and build that essential customer/brand connection. They are perceived to be more relevant and entertaining: people talk about them, share them, they go viral. This emotional connection is what helps to make people faithful to brands. Therefore, great creative is worth investing in.

Creativity: patience is a virtue

It takes time - often one or two years - for people to see the benefits of creativity. But if you measure success over the short term (less than six months), you won’t see the benefits. So many marketers use short-term results alone to guide strategy. This is a mistake. Creativity is a long-term play. As a CMO, you have to be patient and be able to measure both long and short time frames around your campaign.

So what about the short term? Short-term response can be powerfully driven by rational product messages, which are familiar and plain (less likely to be awarded), but these are much less memorable than emotional associations so tend to lose out over longer time periods. Overall, creativity will provide a stronger impact on the bottom line and will create less consumer sensitivity to areas like pricing.

To target or not to target?

Current industry thinking is that the more targeted the campaign, the better. But the research found broad outreach is actually more effective than narrow targeting with campaigns with broader targeting being more effective.

This sounds like the old ‘spray and pray’ approach of times gone by, but it’s not. We know the scattergun approach to marketing doesn’t work and is expensive. CMOs need to take the middle road here: Don’t return to scattergun, but don’t be too tight or rigid in your targeting either. Don’t make too many assumptions about your audience because you might be missing out on other people who would be interested in your products and services.

Another controversial discovery is that customer acquisition campaigns are much more effective at driving business growth than loyalty campaigns. This is especially true of financial services and packaged goods, but applies universally. However, if you think about it logically, it makes sense. Acquisition campaigns will drive a spike in business growth, whereas loyalty is about business sustainability and increasing share of wallet over the long term.

The correct lens to view loyalty and acquisition investment is as an ‘and’ proposition. It is pointless to continually fill the funnel without the tactics in place to keep customers engaged over time. Ensure you have the appropriate loyalty and retention measures in place.

Developing excellent creative campaigns is difficult, which is why so many brands still pursue the non-creative/’reason why’ approach to their marketing and advertising. But get it right and you’re on the road to long-term brand success.

I hope this study will provoke debate and conversation. Each year we will conduct a study into the links between creativity and effectiveness as part of the ADMA Awards program. It will be an important step in furthering best-practice creativity and marketing effectiveness within the marketing and advertising industries.

You can get a free copy of the report, The link between creativity and effective marketing, on ADMA’s website.

Tags: data-driven marketing, customer loyalty

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