More than ever, brand marketers need creativity to break through in the sea of content, but we need it to work in a way that is relevant and useful.

Until now, to manage complexity we have kept the creative world and the data world apart. We have assigned different stages of the purchase funnel to each world; creativity is the upper funnel and data belongs more to the lower funnel stage. We have created different tribes to manage these worlds; creativity is the business of brand marketers, and data is the business of performance marketers. We have armed them with different weapons and measure them in a variety of ways; brand marketers use creativity in mass media and performance marketers use data for direct marketing. 

We called this model “pray and wait,” which is inefficient and obscure. We had a limited view of who was going through the purchase funnel. Hence, we focused only on the top, “creativity for branding” and the bottom, “data for commerce.” We neglected the middle, “consideration,” which was hard to measure.

Mobile has changed everything. Mobile is connecting the funnel and connecting creativity and data. Today, creativity and data have blended into one funnel that’s measurable and immediate in a six-inch screen or a voice command. 

We can purchase any goods, anytime and anywhere, through our mobile devices. We can go in minutes from awareness (“branding”) to purchase (“commerce”) within the same social frame. This means that for brand marketers the funnel expands from brand metrics to shopping basket metrics. For performance marketers, their customer base has increased from the last mile click to millions of potential customers. Branding is commerce; commerce is branding. 

Ideas that stretch through the journey

We also need to view creativity differently in a mobile-only world. We need ideas that stretch through the journey, play in the decisive moments, and travel organically. 

In a mobile-only world, people can go from awareness to consideration in a touch or voice order. This means that ideas need to be elastic to travel at the speed of the customer. They need to leverage behavioral data to be able to engage with customers based on where they are on their journey. The more perfectly aligned is the story, the more likely the customers remember and engage with the brand. 

Ideas that play in the decisive moments

People are more loyal to their needs in the moment than they are to any particular brand. According to Google research, 65 percent of smartphone users agree that when searching on their devices, they look for the most relevant information regardless of the company providing the information. This means that we need ideas that are contextually relevant as people are making decisions on the spot. We need to integrate life events, location, and/or behavior data into creativity to be there when it matters.  

Ideas that travel organically

Today, you cannot demand attention; you need to earn it. People don’t want to be interrupted by ads. They don’t want to get sold on stuff that they don’t want when they don’t want it. For the most part, they distrust the message coming from advertisers. They are more trusting of communication coming from customers. They have the motivation, the technology (adblockers) and the option (ad-free subscriptions) to avoid interruption. This means that we need to marry data and creativity with a purpose to make it worth sharing. 

Creativity without data is largely ineffective. Data without creativity is irrelevant. Businesses that can seamlessly integrate data and creative with purpose will edge the ones which only excel at one. In a connected world, integration wins.

Alberto Brea is group planning director, New York.

Kelly Sikkema