November 09, 2014 / UNCOMMON
November 09, 2014
Creativity vs Pragmatism, Imagine If They Could Meet In The Middle
Every great brand begins as an idea––something born out of love, genius, or even frustration, but always deeply rooted in passion. However, as the idea evolves into an actual product or service, and sales increase, creativity tends to take a back seat, while pragmatism prevails… this is where the great marketing divide begins.
For those who have a seat at the marketing decision-making table, it’s likely you find it somewhat split between two mindsets: those who base decisions off of their gut and creative reservoir, and pragmatists who rely on hard data like ROI and impressions. While both mindsets are equally important, creatives often find themselves held hostage by data and, subsequently, their risk-taking is discouraged. This imbalance eventually leads to a lack of marketing innovation. A company who was once considered an industry thought-leader becomes seen as a follower, regardless of their product caliber.
So how do you break away from the crowd while leveraging fiscally responsible data? A simple solution is to examine the market research. Quantitative data clearly serves a purpose by defining who your target customer is, but it often falls short by offering only the basics. For instance, the target customer is 42-year-old Suzy who is a stay-at-home mom with two children living in the suburbs with an average household income of $70,000. Obviously a strong portion of marketing resources should be focused on her. However, like most, Suzy is savvy when it comes to marketing ploys, and she expects an attempt to reach her through the obvious channels like Parents Magazine and mommy blogs. So when she sees you reaching out to her via these anticipated mediums, she will already have her guard up.
Research is a collaboration between the two mindsets, and can yield great results. Go beyond the traditional survey questions and take a deeper dive into getting to know each and every Suzy out there. Why? Because she thinks of herself as an individual with unique preferences, hobbies, and most importantly circle of influencers. Challenge yourself to conduct market research that delivers more qualitative data, particularly around those influencers. And by influencers, I don’t mean bloggers and media. I’m talking about Suzy’s inner circle of trust––which could be her yoga instructor, children’s teachers, barista, running club, volunteer organization, favorite author, etc. Once you discover the prevailing parallels for every Suzy in your research, you’ll find that you have far more fodder for creativity.
A Bonding Experience
With all of the newfound data, you can now look for new ways to meaningfully bond with your target customer, as well as expose new audiences to your brand with no additional risk. A basic example is a recent campaign my organization conducted for Petco. Their market research found that over half of pet parents were excited to go hiking with their dog this summer. With that knowledge, we sought out a non-traditional marketing partnership. Rather than team up with a veterinarian, we partnered with National Geographic’s “Adventurer of the Year”, Andrew Skurka, for a multi-channel marketing activation championing outdoor pet safety. Not only were we reaching Petco’s customers through a different voice while staying true to their brand identity, we were also tapping into Skurka’s strong outdoor enthusiasts following––many of them who are pet parents––without the need to execute a separate campaign.
A beautiful example of experiential marketing that goes beyond the expected channels to reach a target market is New Belgium Brewing Company’s, “Tour de Fat”. This multi-city tour is a delicious carnival of sorts complete with a beer garden, chainsaw juggling, dance-off, live music and a bike parade––all to raise funds for each community’s Bike Coalition. Entry is free and all profit from beer sales goes to helping that city become more bike-friendly. The event has broad appeal, since beer enthusiasts run the gamut. However, this particular experience cleverly creates extreme brand loyalty with a cultural subset who are truly passionate about city biking. While I don’t know if the Tour de Fat concept was based off of research findings, this is the type of genius marketing program that interrupts, but still feels authentic, and as a result it resonates.
A United Front
At the end of the day, marketing creatives and pragmatists can live in harmony by finding common ground. A campaign based off of hard data doesn’t have to be predictable and boring. Use your marketing resources to understand your customer better, which will keep the numbers guys happy. Then use that information to reach people in places they are not expecting, through experiences that truly matter.