By Published On: May 21, 2023

A brand trying to catch the attention of its target audience in a jam-packed marketplace must differentiate itself through innovative marketing. Not in terms of channels and tactics. Everyone has access to those. But in terms of messaging and design (aka creative). In today’s world, it’s the only true differentiator. To make it work, a brand will need more than a flashy photo, a clever headline, or list of product features. It needs Intelligent Creative—an approach to developing messaging and design born from intelligent creativity.

In an article about the future of creative, media, and marketing agencies, Forrester discusses the concept of intelligent creativity and defines it as:

“A process of creative problem-solving in which teams of creators and strategists conceive, design, produce, and activate business solutions with the assistance of AI, intelligent automation, and data.”

In other words, it’s about collaboration between people and machines—not just people using machines to gather data, but the two working together to make marketing assets that connect a brand to an audience. It’s about marketers, strategists, and agencies building a stronger brand with assistance from machines and software. It’s not about gathering more data, as it’s been for past decade. It’s about gathering useful data and using it in the most effective way.

Digital marketing myths

In the still-maturing industry of digital marketing, a shift is underway. Brands are pushing back hard on their agencies to get better results (we know…we’re one of them). Because the message coming from some digital-only marketers is that data collected from one campaign can predict results for another.

They collect every statistic possible and place them on a fancy dashboard to convince their clients that data has all the answers. That it can provide the insights needed to target an audience effectively at scale when paired with whatever creative they can produce quickly. And that it can repeatedly create measurable success. But here’s the thing—over the past 15 years, average response rates for most digital marketing tactics have remained relatively unchanged. And we’ve all come accept that as the norm.

In contrast, the latest marketing trend, at least among content producers and brand specialists, is storytelling. Storytelling aims to make an emotional connection with an audience to elicit an action and form a relationship. From a human behavioral perspective, this isn’t a bad idea. But it can be a big ask in a world driven by scale. Making a human connection, especially in B2B marketing, also requires a long-term vision and the ability to nurture an audience throughout the entire buying cycle.

The impressions game

Traditional marketing data can give you tons of data points about a target audience: their interest areas, the devices they use, their geographical areas, their demographic characteristics, their purchase behaviors. Digital and media agencies love this stuff and use it to try and get you thinking about scale, because they’re playing the impressions game. Even with a low conversion rate, all they have to do is bump up the impressions to get you the results you’re looking for. At a cost, of course.

What they don’t tell you is that they or some other agency is probably setting up your competitors with the same data, the same plan, and the same number of impressions. In this world where everyone has access to the same data and the same distribution channels, you have two choices for differentiating your brand: 1) spend more money than everyone else to get more impressions, or 2) do a better job than everyone else at capturing people’s attention and inspiring action

We are at a tipping point with data and digital marketing. As data has gotten better and more accessible and AI continues to recognize important patterns in human behavior, additional opportunities are presented to marketers for fine-tuning digital marketing strategies. For CMOs, it is becoming increasingly important to recognize the kinds of answers you are being given by whomever is managing your digital marketing.

Where the magic happens

Back to Forrester’s prediction for the future. They recommend that marketing teams tap into the powerful combination of machine learning for scale and comparison, artificial intelligence for pattern recognition, and human insight for audience resonance and problem solving. We couldn’t agree more.

Darwin’s definition of intelligence centers around how efficient a species becomes at doing the things they need to survive. A common definition of creativity is the act of applying novel solutions to elicit human responses. When combined, you have a concept that lies between purely data-driven marketing and storytelling marketing: Intelligent Creative.

“If intelligent creativity is the basis for empathy at scale, as Forrester suggests, then intelligent creative is the means of conveying that empathy to the audience.”

Finding the “why”

Intelligent creative starts with finding the “why” behind the buying decisions your audience makes. That’s where advanced artificial intelligence and automation comes in. Together they can recognize patterns that start to better define your audience.

Data platforms like Resonate® use AI to place populations into groups based on their psychological drivers and personal values. This is precisely the kind of data needed to inform next-level marketing strategy. Also needed are people who can view the data through the lens of experience, intuition, human creativity, and behavior to find insights to make it actionable. With this info, your team of strategists, creators, and marketers, can use it to form deep audience connections.

We are at a tipping point—the opportunities for fine-tuning digital marketing strategies are here. Data is abundant and accessible, and AI is an incredible tool for recognizing patterns in human behavior. It’s time for CMOs and marketers to start questioning the efficacy of the status quo and expect more from their digital marketing agencies.

Here’s how it looks IRL:

Introduction to our intelligent creative process

About the Author: cat-tonic

Born of curiosity and enthusiasm, we’re a scrappy group of smart, passionate marketers who work hard and play hard. We show up every day and fight for our clients who are making the world a better place. We listen with curiosity, explore deeply, ask hard questions, and sometimes put forth ideas that might make you squirm. Because we believe the status quo is good for growing mold but not much else. The way we see it, change is the way forward and the magic happens when curiosity, math, science, instinct, and talent intersect.
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