The most perfect union: Unlocking the next wave of growth by unifying creativity and analytics

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Brian Gregg, Jason Heller, Jesko Perrey, and Jenny Tsai for Harvard Business Review and the HBR Blog Network. To read the complete article, check out the wealth of free resources, obtain subscription information, and receive HBR email alerts, please click here.

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Companies that harness creativity and data in tandem have growth rates twice as high as companies that don’t. Here’s how they do it.

“Ideas and numbers” have always had an uneasy alliance in marketing. To creative directors, designers, and copywriters, creativity is an instinctual process of building emotional bonds with consumers. Bring in too much quantitative analysis and the magic dies.

“[As marketers] we have to understand and connect with customers,” the CMO of a hospitality company recently told McKinsey. “I’m afraid the data people will win, and it will all become a commodity if brand and creativity don’t matter anymore. I’m afraid the creative process will lose its soul.”

Despite such understandable concerns, the notion that creativity and data are adversaries is simply outdated. Combining the power of human ingenuity and the insights gleaned from data analytics is a good start. But the best marketers are going a step further and integrating this power combo into all functions across the marketing value chain—from brand strategy and consumer insights, to customer experience, product, and pricing to content and creative development, media—even measurement. Far from robbing a brand of its soul, this fusion of skills and mind-sets is an essential part of the modernization of marketing to drive growth.

s of the organization, such as IT and operations, these agile teams (or “squads”) enable people with different skills sets and backgrounds to sit side-by-side and collaborate with each other on a daily basis. This model brings several marketing functions into a single high-performing team that provides the IT and operations resources needed to bring new ideas to market. In addition, there are typically resources from legal and finance on call to support quick decision making.

This daily and tangible integration bears fruit in three important ways. First, data experts are part of the front-line marketing team. Second, integrated agile teams are able to do more faster. The absence of bottlenecks such as inter-departmental approvals enables frequent and rapid testing of new ideas, content, messages, and value propositions. As a result, the process of creating new campaigns or marketing initiatives often shrinks from months to weeks or even days. Over the last 12 months, integrators in our study were twice as successful as isolators at significantly increasing their speed to market for campaigns or marketing experiments and four times more successful than the idlers.

Finally, there is a quicker and more seamless implementation of technology solutions, thanks to a closer collaboration between marketing and IT (Exhibit 3). Half of the integrators in our study say that marketing and IT work together on a shared vision, versus 22 percent of isolators and 4 percent of idlers. Integrators also use A/B testing 68 percent more often than their peers and are 83 percent more likely to have adopted dynamic creative optimization, a technology that enables modular and dynamic personalized ads and content based on data about the individual consumer. At the other end of the spectrum, 52 percent of companies with the lowest rates of growth admit that their CMO and CTO rarely interact. This lack of coordination takes a toll on the entire marketing organization’s ability to deliver omnichannel customer experiences and to track and measure performance in proliferating channels.

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Here is a direct link to the complete article.

Brian Gregg is a senior partner in McKinsey’s San Francisco office; Jason Heller is a partner in the New York office, where Jenny Tsai is a consultant; and Jesko Perrey is a senior partner in the Düsseldorf office.The authors wish to thank Ze’ev Haffner and Katie Gordon Motwani for their contributions to this article and to the study.


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