I married into a family of creatives and marketers. Every time we visit, new projects are underway and completed ones are on display, and at every available moment, the marketers ideate which markets and business models would allow these projects to be successful, or they listened to my father-in-law’s marketing stories from before and during the .com era.
Naturally in this environment, my husband had a marketing mentality ingrained into him since before diapers, and so it’s no surprise which line of work he went into. The longer his career has gone on, the more frequently he bemoans the loss of his father’s era of marketing—one that he feels allowed for more creativity, ingenuity, and personality as compared to our technological world of today.
Why Marketers (and Executives) Feel the Days of Innovative Campaigns are Gone
The longer I’ve been in marketing, I’ve found that many marketers share a similar sentiment to my husband’s. We often look back at the successes of the past–Got Milk, Red Bull: Stratos, Every Kiss Begins with Kay–and wonder if creativity in marketing has hit its peak and passed. Some big brands have had successful campaigns in the past few decades–including the campaigns listed above, but the last decade and this one has or will see the end of most of these successful campaigns.
While there have been strong short campaigns or even one-offs, like some Superbowl ads, very few seem to have the resonating, brand-changing success of the “wow” campaigns of the past. And those that do seem to be fewer and farther between.
In many ways, technology has made marketing more effective at targeting a specific audience, which means the impact is felt by a smaller number of people. But many still feel the magic of past marketing efforts is slipping away, if not gone; that it’s harder to make the impact we all dream of. Many blame the impersonality of computers for this. Others blame general workplace culture.
In many ways, both camps are right.
One of the main contributors to the perceptions of these two groups, and the overall perception of innovation scarcity, is the lack of creativity in the workplace. Marketers, in general, feel creatively strained and confined. Andrea Hak with The Next Web explained “Today 70 percent of creatives and marketers believe personalizing content and designs across the customer journey is important, but just 28 percent think their organization is excelling at this.”
Additionally, Lauren Landry with North Eastern University found that 82 percent of executives agree that companies benefit from creativity but 61 percent don’t see their companies as creative.
It seems that both the top and bottom of company hierarchy believe their organizations aren’t creative. But why? Humans are innately creative creatures that discover, invent, and problem solve as a byproduct of simply being. So creative activities and solutions should be naturally occurring in the workplace. In addition to this, history has proven that creativity has taken companies to heights very few could have predicted, and many prominent voices on creativity in the workplace advocate that creativity is a primary differentiator for businesses in a highly competitive world.
With all this being said, the fact that marketers, creatives, and executives believe their organizations aren’t creative indicates a lack in a company’s environment and employees’ drive to excel.
There is a plethora of articles and knowledge on how to establish a creative environment, so we will focus today on why a creative environment is needed now and for long-term success.
The romanticized days of purely traditional marketing have given way to the age of technology. Today, 90% if not more of our work is done on our computers (and our three to four monitors). We spend much of our time inputting and interpreting spreadsheets, code, researching, and pulling together assets all while trying to get our job-keeping tasks done. Sometimes it seems like it’s all we can do to analyze data, create a strategy, and throw together the implementation, let alone be creative throughout the process.
But times are changing. Technology is getting smarter.
Artificial Intelligence technology is already taking over the jobs of analyzing data and presenting strategies–or at least making the process much easier. It’s even taking over the roles of content and design creation. Eventually, it’s anticipated that AI will take over all these roles completely. Now, your first thought is probably about all the jobs that will be lost. And you’re right. But that just means companies will need more employees elsewhere because the strategy will change.
In an interview, Paul Robson, President of Adobe EMEA, expressed that technology will never replace the human mind. He further explained:
The fusing of technology and the human process is helping us create better products. But nothing will take away that human ability to understand the emotive connection; the link between a brand and the feeling you get when you smell something that reminds you of your childhood, hear a song you listened to as a teenager, feel the condensation on the side of a coke bottle or see a glass of wine or cold beer at the end of a long day.
Andrea Hak, who interviewed Robson, spoke further on the issue:
Studies show that, as tech helps us optimize customer satisfaction, the ability to create an emotional connection with consumers will actually be a company’s main competitive differentiator. This means the more time we have to spend on tasks that require human empathy, the faster we’ll bring our companies forward.
In talking about the growing need to connect emotionally with customers, both Robson and Hak are talking about customer experience (CX) as a company’s main differentiating factor, especially as AI continues to improve.
While tech will open up time for employees to focus more on the customer and the emotional connections that company to customer interactions should produce, it doesn’t mean that employees will be any less busy.
Make no mistake: CX strategies require a large amount of empathy, creativity, time, and risk to accomplish well—all factors that today’s tech in the workplace frequently don’t allow adequate time for. As employees and executives have more free time and turn whole-heartedly to creating personable and individualized connections with their customer base, they will see more success than through nearly any other strategy. Maybe more than Red Bull: Stratos, Apple, and other “wow” campaigns, if you play your cards right.
CX and creativity are highly correlated. A CX strategy begins with creativity, then performance data shows which of the creative elements were successful in building customer relationships and satisfaction. Finally, creative thinkers and problem-solvers work together to find ways to enhance the CX strategy and make it an innovative one that wins an audience’s hearts and minds.
Even now companies are seeing the benefit of customer experience throughout their business. A global study by Adobe found that creativity in the workplace can lead to:
- Increased employee productivity (78%)
- Satisfied customers (80%) and provide a better customer experience (78%)
- Fostering of innovation (83%) and financial success (73%)
A study done by Qualtrics XM Institute shows the correlation between CX and revenue. The study revealed that revenue can increase by an average of 78% across industries in a three year period when customer experience is the focus!
The numbers above indicate that companies will benefit in many ways from CX strategies and it shows that audiences are hungry for more personable interactions with brands.
Audiences are Hungry for Relationships with Brands
But why? What has led them to desire more personality and connection from and with brands?
We’ve already seen trends that people are looking for more genuine human interaction in a social media world. A survey done by SocialMediaToday found that 86% of people say authenticity is an important factor when they’re deciding which brands to like and support. In other words, people are looking for brand messaging and presentation that feels real rather than polished and packaged. They want to know you’re human.
This trend makes itself obvious on social media. Rarely do we see posts that aren’t self-recorded videos or animated YouTube videos that display highly relatable, human characters or actions. Even the high popularity of dog, cat, and other animal videos show the general public’s desire for authenticity as they tend to focus on these animals’ very simple and often caring acts. The common thread between all these types of popular videos is they show in one facet or another the bare face of human (or animal) nature.
In recent years, another void in public life has become prime for brands to fill: structural insecurity.
People have felt and demonstrated an increasing lack of faith in both religion and state. Doug Stephens called these two structures two of three key pillars in society. He posited:
But declining trust in institutions like the state and the church doesn’t quell our fundamental human desire for affiliation, purpose, and meaning. The need to belong to a community that aligns to our values and beliefs lies so deep in our DNA that no amount of social or political disaffection can drum it out of us. We must believe in something. […] The decline in religion and eroded faith in the state has created a societal vacuum for courageous brands to fill.
This need for authenticity and community will continue to increase as technology develops further. Only creativity within the workplace will allow brands to reach the level of customer experience that customers are and will continue to look for.
How to Prepare of AI Changes Now
In order for companies to have a creative environment that produces innovative CX strategies, encourages a focus on human empathy, and inspires employees to excel in preparation for a more sophisticated AI world, they’ll need to determine new roles that will allow creativity to flourish at all steps of strategy creation. As such, many of these new roles will be needed in marketing.
In the new AI world, marketing teams, especially for enterprises, corporations, and franchises, will need three distinct types of positions filled: those that Solve CX Problems, Implement CX Solutions, and Engage Customers. These three roles work together in unique ways that will be highly beneficial now and in the future for creativity and CX strategy creation.
Creativity is often looked down on by businesses because solutions are powered by imagination, not logic. Some CX strategies will have an uncomfortable amount of unpredictability for executives. But data will always point the way eventually. That is why the first of these new roles must try to include as much logic in the creative process as possible.
Even though AI will be doing a lot of the work with data, it will overlook some elements including emotion. While AI will show customer behavior trends, campaign performance, sentiment analysis, and other important metrics, only human data analysts can truly determine customers’ emotional reactions and connectivity to their company.
Tools like social listening and monitoring platforms (which are some AI tools that are at the forefront of AI changes in business today) come with these analyses. While this is useful for highlighting very useful data about customers, data analysts can best answer why it occurred. Knowing why will be the most impactful information for consistently creating successful and innovative customer experience strategies.
Those that solve CX problems have an important role in CX strategy creation. They take the data AI tools provide along with the “why” they’ve determined and form them into a strategy brief for the next two roles to use. One of the most essential elements that they must convey is the audience’s historical reaction to CX strategies and the best ways to engender the emotions the company would like customers to show by the time the current campaign ends.
Once strategy implementers (brand, content, design teams, etc) get the strategy brief, they brainstorm the best ways to utilize the strategy and implement it. Through team collaboration sessions, teams will create slogans, tag lines, image themes, and various campaign paths.
As AI develops, it will be better equipped to create content and images for teams, but, again, it will likely miss the mark in the emotional connection sector. A strategy implementer’s task is to focus on human empathy with the purpose of creating authentic content that builds the foundation of a brand’s community.
A content creation workflow with grey cards and workflow column boxes hovers over a pink gradient background (with full pink on the left side and nearly white on the right). Hovering over the workflow box are three social posts: one from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The first one depicts a woman with a mask shopping for cloths. The Instagram post shows California at sunset and the Facebook post shows some budget-friendly meals. All this is gathered from user-generated or employee-generated content.
Teams that implement strategies should use AI and team collaboration functionalities to create, gather, change, tweak, and approve customer-facing content in order to create campaigns that best accomplish the strategy’s goals. Once the strategy is implemented, they move onto the next strategy brief.
So far, the previous two roles have been fairly traditional. But in order to have successful customer experience strategies today and in the future AI world, brands need to focus more on customer engagement.
Traditionally, those that engage with customers have been part of content or customer service teams. But the growing need for customer experience necessitates that a new role entirely focused on engaging with customers across the Internet is needed. Where this role differs from customer service teams is that employees actively interact with customers on social media, discussion boards, and other online conversations in real-time rather than waiting for customers to approach the company with their questions and concerns. They use social listening platforms to identify all conversations that mention their business or topics related to it and respond to each and every one. We call this Real-Time Marketing.
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Employees in this role will be on the front lines of brand, reputation, customer relationship, and crisis management. Since most people that discuss brands online don’t follow that brand’s social profiles and so likely don’t tag or @mention them when those discussions occur, it’s important to have people fully dedicated to finding and jumping into these conversations as they’re happening. Social listening is already an AI tool that shows conversations happening in real-time online, so those that engage with customers would need that tool or something similar to do their job well.
Customer engagers need to know what strategies are in place and what’s being implemented so their efforts line up with the rest of the marketing department’s. They take the foundations of the strategy and community groundwork already done and build atop them to create a flourishing environment that both the company and its audience can enjoy.
Strategies come Full Circle
Once campaigns are complete, data analysts come back into the picture. They analyze the performance of Implementers’ work and audience engagement with customer engagers and lay out what’s going well and what isn’t. They then take the data and use it to inform the next strategy they create.
Why is a Creative Environment Important for these Roles
A creative environment will be essential for these customer experience empowering roles. All three will need flexibility and the ability to try new things. When dealing directly with influencing customer emotions, nothing is completely set in stone, no matter how much data you have. Emotions and opinions can change incredibly fast. And while some of that can be anticipated with AI tools and customer behavior analysis, it can change faster and more subtly that those methods can pick up on.
A creative environment will allow teams to follow their gut where data is incomplete. One thing data will quickly show is whether their guts are right or not, but more often than not, creative and connective strategies will win out–making most monetary investments into CX strategies worthwhile. The collaborative and team-melding structure of these three roles is designed to allow teams to exercise more creative thought and work together to produce company-enhancing strategies like, if not better than, the strategies of the past.
In many ways, AI is returning us to the pre-modern technology age of marketing where customer relationships with brands were paramount over spreadsheets and marketers had more opportunity to actively go-to-ground to find creative solutions. As AI takes care of much of the groundwork in the future, marketers will be better able to actively seek ways to develop relationships between a brand and its customers.
While today’s technology doesn’t allow for marketers to have an adequate amount of time and energy to fully incorporate customer experience strategies, that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t start those strategies today. Build a creativity-empowering structure and watch as team performance improves and overarching company problems dissolve.
Nuvi is a Social Customer Experience that offers a suite of solutions designed to provide a fantastic customer journey that will keep them coming back. Request a demo to learn more about how we can help you build a creativity-empowering structure.