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How to Bridge the Gap Between Creative Ambitions and the Bottom Line

looking through a glass wall into a conference room where coworkers casually discuss business

Whether you’re the CMO of a Fortune 500 company or a small business owner, the following statement will likely ring true: Creative ambitions for marketing don’t always align with the realities of business.

Overcoming the gap between innovation and the bottom line is increasingly important given the astounding number of marketing images seen by your customers — in a given day, the average consumer is bombarded with somewhere in the ballpark of 10,000 brand images and messages.

The reality is messages get lost all the time in a sea of social media posts, banner ads, and broadcast emails. Your brand must bring its A game to get noticed. All. The. Time.

Unfortunately, the challenges you face day in and day out are widespread. In a 2018 trends report from Econsultancy and Adobe, the five leading external challenges according to senior creative and design professionals within companies worldwide were:

  • Keeping up with emerging technologies (42%)
  • Increasing pressure from clients — internal and external (41%)
  • Need to support new creative formats, e.g., data visualizations, augmented reality (38%)
  • Availability of creative talent (36%)
  • Difficulty in sourcing the right creative assets (26%)

To be frank, it might be time to start (or continue) that discussion around outsourcing your creative needs. Here are a few reasons why and how it would make a lot of sense if you did.

The well-known secret to working smarter, not harder

You’ve got to figure out how to stand out from the crowd. The good news is the same technological innovations that have flooded society with marketing messaging have also revolutionized human capital.

Once upon a time, you had to put all your marketing eggs in one basket — whether that was a jack-of-all-trades who possessed broad skills but lacked technical depth or an in-house creative team (read: expensive). In today’s working world, where the “gig” economy is increasingly popular and more and more creatives prefer the flexibility of consulting and agencies, gaining access to top talent has become much easier.

Rather than seeking out additional personnel with broad (not deep) knowledge, and taking on the costs of additional full-time overhead, some companies seek partnerships with organizations that help find the right staffing solutions for their marketing needs.

Think about it: you might not need a graphic designer 52 weeks a year. The right marketing partner, however, can connect you with the right designer on an as-needed project basis and manage that professional so your only responsibility is ensuring the branding is right and executed efficiently.

Bottom line: In some specific use cases relying on consultant talent can deliver better ROI for your marketing dollars. (We have quite a few examples to share if you’re interested.)

Finding the right audience

Even the most compelling message is ineffective if it doesn’t reach the right audience. According to Adobe’s 2018 Digital Trends survey, audience and data management is currently a top priority for one-third of companies, right behind content management.

“Effective digital experiences are not possible without a strong foundation in data and analytics, to ensure that the content is being harnessed as effectively as possible, at the right time and through the right touchpoint,” the survey report states.

The problem is, with so much data out there, where do you start? Not only do you need to find the right audience data, it also needs to be integrated into the most effective martech for your brand.

Bottom line: The right marketing partner will have experts available who can turn your innovative idea into business reality.

Meeting modern design challenges

It’s not a shock to learn that consumers prefer beautifully designed content. Speaking of Adobe research, I remember reading in a past report (“The State of Content”) that a key reason consumers switch devices or give up on content altogether is due to unattractive content.

According to the research: “With only 15 minutes to consume content, 66% [of consumers] would prefer to view something beautifully designed vs. simple and plain.”

Whether it’s the billboards we see on our daily commute or the smartphone that never leaves our side, we’re used to beauty in design. Anything less looks unprofessional to an increasingly sophisticated customer base. This is a problem for business owners.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I have the time or budget to hire and employ a full-time graphic designer?
  • Am I willing to devote resources to managing contractors?
  • I know good design can increase your sales, reduce customer service calls, and even cut costs, but is the ROI enough to manage the process myself?

The answer is probably a collective “no.” In today’s world, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to design, whether it’s digital, print or packaging. Your message needs to resonate as well on a smartphone and tablet as it does on a laptop; your packaging must stand up to governmental regulation as well as the demands of the supply chain.

You’re not likely to find a single graphic designer who possesses all of these skills and fully understands the design parameters of your industry and the production capabilities.

Bottom line: Working with a marketing partner gives you access to creative talent and professionals who understand what works in reality.

Analyzing your success

With so many marketing touchpoints, it’s challenging to determine where the decision to buy occurs in the customer journey. In 2019, brand marketers are not only prioritizing data and audience management — they’re focused on analytics.

In fact, 89% of them use data to make strategic decisions (Source: Freeman). And, Ascend2 reports “using data analytics for better decision making” is the top priority (51%) for marketers.

You might have several piecemeal statistics — an open rate here, past purchase behavior there, social shares over there — but how do they all fit together? And are those really the KPIs that will help you determine which next step is the best next step and whether your marketing dollars are truly delivering?

Bottom line: A marketing partner can help you analyze this data using ad hoc and prepackaged business intelligence dashboards.

At the end of the day — whether you want to admit it or not — you need a personnel solution that delivers for both your business and your creative vision. Because it’s all about hiring the right people (whether that’s an internal resource or a partner leveraging a network of resources).

It’s a tough topic, but it’s one worth talking about.


Andrew Johnson, Director, Content and Creative Services, has operational oversight of RRD’s Atlanta studio, and all major creative services accounts in the Atlanta market. If you’re looking to tell meaningful stories with new resources, learn more about our creative services.