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Creative or Analytical? Marketers Must Now Be Both

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No aspect of business remains unaltered by analytics.

Analytics has transformed organizations' ability to understand, predict, and shape how customers experience their brand. But the real business value lies in continually improving that interaction. And that requires more than analytics.

Marketing must engineer a shift in mindset, talent, structure, and leadership. Marketers must evolve or fail.

If you still rely on a few mathematically inclined team members to "do" analytics, it's not enough. As a marketer, you can no longer be either creative or analytical. You must be both if your marketing is to be successful.

The marketing landscape today requires you to fully apply analytics, and to do that, both executives and their marketers have to modernize almost everything they know and do.


That realization is causing pain and disruption for many in marketing. I know; I've felt it firsthand. The good news is that a successful shift to this mindset is possible.

For example, the marketing organization I lead has a new mindset. It also sports new talent, a new structure, and a new leadership style, but change wasn't easy. We needed to enhance the visual and creative side of marketing by embracing a data-driven and analytical approach. That required a radical retrofit of the way we operated and our skill sets. We had to rethink how we were organized and how leaders could guide this new kind of analytical marketing organization.

Data and analytics at the core

The modern analytical marketing organization I lead depicts marketers who have a passion for data and analytics as the basis for decision-making. There is an inherent value and accountability to the data we consume or produce. We know that when you incorporate analytical methods to that data, it will tell you a story—about your customers, your prospects, your company, and, of course, your marketing.

This redesigned view of marketing also introduces a new baseline in training, identifying, and hiring the right individuals. It's a dramatic contrast to what an ideal candidate may have looked like just five years ago.

Knowledge of data-management principles and analytical strategies, an understanding of the importance of data quality and data governance, and a solid grasp of the value of data in marketing disciplines are now all essential.

Today's marketer needs to go well beyond reporting and metrics

The successful contributor is proficient in a full range of analytics, which may include optimization, text, sentiment, scoring, modeling, visualization, forecasting, and attribution. That doesn't necessarily mean all marketers must have a PhD in statistics, but they must understand and use such methods.

Experience with the technology, tools, and design approaches that feed on data and analytics is a tremendous asset. Campaign design, multichannel integration, content performance, personalization, and digital marketing should be driven by analytical decision-making. Ideally, marketers will be able to demonstrate direct accountability to results and very quickly adjust to the demands of the customer and the market.

Analytical skills do not replace creativity in marketing

They actually amplify it.

The "creative types" should feel empowered. Now, they can see their impact more clearly, test more easily, and be more nimble. Within my own team, the marketers who flourish show a distinct blend of creativity and reasoning. They are inquisitive, inventive, and enthused by a company culture that is advanced and agile.

Data, technology, advanced analytics, methodology, and a strong analytical culture will drive innovation. Having the data and analysis at your disposal encourages people to be inquisitive, to challenge the status quo, and to not to be afraid of trying. Permission to fail is a key aspect to inspiring innovative ideas. Individuals need to be rewarded for taking risks and bringing innovations forward.

At the simplest level, innovation is about problem solving, testing, and adjusting efforts. Innovation resonates for marketers in the approach to new channels and communication methods. Innovative marketers will use analytics to take more calculated risks and, most importantly, have the confidence to be agile in responding to the market. If they are empowered with the right tools, permission, and creativity, they will be strong leaders and better marketers.

* * *

Remember that your biggest asset in evolving your marketing organization is your people. Understand their strengths and talents as you lead the shift to an analytical marketing culture. Your people (paired with data and analytics) will create a memorable customer experience.

In our digital always-on world, we're continually collecting copious amounts of real-time data about our customers. Marketing is in the best position to own and use that data to understand and serve our customers in ways that the bygone era could only dream about.


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Adele Sweetwood is vice-president of Americas marketing and support at SAS. She is responsible for directing interactive marketing plans and investments with a focus on increasing and protecting revenue.

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