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

Here is a brief excerpt from an article written by Brian GreggJason Heller, Jesko Perrey, and Jenny Tsai for the McKinsey Quarterly, published by McKinsey & Company. To read the complete article, check out other resources, learn more about the firm, obtain subscription information, and register to receive 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Despite such understandable concerns, the notion that creativity and data are adversaries is simply outdated.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.

As part of an ongoing series of studies in conjunction with the Cannes Lions Festival and the Association of National Advertisers, McKinsey recently surveyed more than 200 CMOs and senior marketing executives (including interviews with 25+ of the CMOs) and tracked the performance of their companies. We found that marketers who are what we call “integrators”—those who have united data and creativity—grow their revenues at twice the average rate of S&P 500 companies: at least 10 percent annually versus 5 percent (Exhibit 1). This is a welcome development for CMOs, who no longer see themselves primarily as stewards of the company’s brand, but as drivers of company growth. One CMO told McKinsey that he has shifted the entire C-suite’s view of marketing spend from a P&L expense to an investment the company is making in its future.

[See Exhibit ]

The study also revealed that while marketers rarely consider their creative output “world class” or “iconic,” those integrators with the 10+ percent growth see their efforts as “engaging,” “unique,” and a core contributor to the creation of brand equity. Some go so far as to call their creative output a key part of what sets them apart from competitors.

Here [is the first of three] distinct ways in which these integrators are modernizing marketing:

1. They treat creativity and data as equal partners.

In companies that are integrators, creative functions are becoming more data driven, and data-driven functions are growing more creative. Two areas where we see this happening most clearly are customer experience and consumer insights.

First, customer experience: Historically, this is a function overseen by people who think creatively and strategically about how to meet and exceed customer expectations. But today, data analytics can uncover customer intentions, triggers, and interests that reveal subtle pain points and unmet needs. We found that the integrators in our study continuously and rigorously mine for such insights as part of the day-to-day process of improving customer experience instead of using analytics in a separate, adjacent process (Exhibit 2). On average, they use four or more types of insights and analytic techniques, both traditional (focus groups, primary research, third-party research) and data driven (customer-journey analytics, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence), whereas their non-integrator peers use three or fewer. A majority (70 percent) of integrators employ advanced analytics for consumer insights, compared with only 40 percent of companies with average growth. And 65 percent of integrators use customer-journey analytics, versus 50 percent of average growers. We call this latter category of companies “isolators” because, while they are using both data-driven and creative processes, they are doing so in isolation without integrating them across their marketing functions. The final category in our survey is “idlers”: companies that are growing percent a year or less and have made insignificant progress in utilizing data-driven marketing practices.

At the same time, all this information about customers, traditionally the domain of data scientists and other left-brained talent, is now being utilized in collaboration with people in creative roles, such as content producers and experience designers. Moving advanced consumer insights out of the background and onto the dynamic front lines of customer engagement gives analysts a new voice within the creative process. They participate in the process of making their work come to life—a new campaign created, an email test sent to a new customer segment, a new on-site or in-store experience deployed. This fosters a sense of empowerment among analysts and helps uncover ideas that would otherwise never see the light of day.

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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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