"You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."
Those are the poet Maya Angelou's words, and I agree. More and more, though, it looks as if creativity in the marketing landscape has run dry.
Marketing has transformed in the digital age. There are more channels than ever—and , more ways to reach your audience. But there are also more things to measure, more metrics to meet, more pressure to show ROI.
Those changes aren't all bad, but they've led too many marketers toward bland, high-volume content and away from value and their first love: creativity.
When Boring Content Takes Over
My company conducted a survey of 1,000+ marketing, PR and design professionals. Some 40% of those professionals are in B2B marketing. And though we learned a great deal from our research, one finding was particularly telling: One-third say their own company's content is boring.
How do we expect the audience to get excited about our content if we, as creators, think it's boring?
Today's audiences are savvy. The Internet gives them infinite choices, and they're not afraid to close the tab and find something more engaging.
Boring content pushes the audience away from our work and our business. It gives the impression that we don't care about attracting customers and championing our product or service.
Low-value content sends a message that our company is low value, too.
I have empathy for marketers because I walk in their shoes. And after 25 years in marketing, I believe the pendulum has now swung too far from the creative work where I got my start to a stale process shackled to an overreliance on data and the constant strain of metrics.
Marketers should take back their creativity. I think they miss their opportunities to be creative. I think they want to have fun, take risks, and delight their audience. I know (em>I do.
Nearly all (98%) of the marketers we surveyed said their marketing teams value design, and 85% said their teams value creativity. They deserve a return to design to make engaging, creative, powerful pieces that become a destination for their audience, no matter what channel they use to reach it.
That return to creativity isn't just for the marketers, though. Valuable content can help accelerate time to purchase, whereas mediocre content does little to deepen your relationship with the buyer.
The average number of touchpoints in a deal cycle has increased from 17 to 27, almost all done virtually, Forrester's 2021 B2B Buying Study found. High-quality, relevant content not only gets a buyer's attention but also holds the power to foster an emotional connection while giving them the information they're seeking.
Giving Design Its Due
Interactive content's focus on design is a powerful antidote to the monotonous world of boring content.
Interactive content's defining feature is a reliance on active engagement from its audience, making it a dynamic experience. It often uses motion and animation, and it offers multiple touchpoints for the audience to engage and explore.
There's no limit to the forms interactive content can take, but these are common types:
- Landing pages
- Product demos
- Case studies
Not every case study or infographic is interactive content, however. It has to require active participation from the viewer—clicking and hovering—that reveals layers of creative work that excite and captivate. Although a PDF may offer the same information, it simply can't offer the same experience.
Transforming Your Marketing, No Matter the Industry
I can hear some B2B marketers' exasperation at the thought of trying to shoehorn their industry into a quiz or game. But have a little faith! Interactive content is for everyone in your organization, from Compliance to Communications, Market Research to Manufacturing, and everything in between.
Here's an example: The cybersecurity risk platform Tenable used Halloween as an opportunity to remind businesses of the dangers of vulnerabilities in their technology. The game asks users to click on the "ghouls"—mobile devices, Cloud assets, and IoT—before they attack the office in the background. It's almost impossible to stop them all, which is a good analogy for the onslaught of cyberthreats facing today's organizations.
But Tenable did more with interactive content than that: It also used the game to power a report on insights into operational technology attacks, starting with a quiz for chief security officers to let them know how their business stacks up against others.
Interactive content can also create empathy and understanding through engagement. For instance, an infographic for IT services provider Cognizant leads the audience through a day in the life of an employee who starts short-term disability after a motorcycle accident. As he files insurance claim paperwork and completes physical therapy, viewers click through his day to understand how IT service streamlines his steps to recovery—and what challenges he'd face without it.
Barriers to Creating With Thoughtful Design
We know that marketers think interactive content works, and we know they'd like to make more than they are right now: Nearly all (90%) of our respondents agreed that content designed to create an experience performs better, and 81% said they wished their company published more multimedia, interactive, and immersive content. Yet, they say only one-third of the content they're creating is interactive.
The proliferation of no-code and low-code solutions for dynamic content creation means marketers and designers don't have an excuse not to be creating it. The tools they need are available to them in a greater capacity than ever before, so why aren't marketers running toward interactive content?
According to our survey, the companies where those marketers work underestimate the value of design. Of those who said interactive content was a low or medium priority at their companies, 52% cited a lack of budget, 36% blamed a lack of in-house skills, and 23% noted a lack of support from company leadership.
A Return to Creativity
Marketers who said their organizations were close to achieving their interactive content goals shared some qualities that were in contrast with those marketing teams that saw themselves as far from those goals. At such "close to ideal" organizations...
- The marketing team strongly values creativity.
- The company rewards risk-taking.
- The marketing team has the skills required for success.
- Marketers feel pride of ownership toward their work.
It's hard to feel a pride of ownership toward content you think is boring. But it's nearly impossible to be truly creative without the freedom to take risks, an appreciation for creativity, and the skills to bring your vision to life.
* * *
It's time to reject lackluster content that stifles your vision and bores the audience. An embrace of design will bring you back to the creativity you may have left behind. And the more you use, the more you'll have.
More Resources on Creativity and Interactive Content
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