The BBC’s customer chief on the power of marketing at the ‘extreme edges’

A big believer in the mix of art and science in marketing, BBC chief customer officer Kerris Bright is convinced that investing deeply in data and creativity is the secret to success.

Kerris Bright

Balancing the art and science of marketing at the “extreme edges” is the key to success, according to BBC chief customer officer Kerris Bright.

The businesses she admires most have the ability to mix magic and logic to break new ground and, crucially, implement creativity for the service of growth.

“It’s not art for art’s sake in business, it’s the application of it to drive growth,” she said, speaking on a panel at the latest Oystercatchers Club event yesterday (23 January).

“You need to do both of those things at the extremes. When you see companies that are investing in deep analytics, but also investing in big ideas, that’s where the real disruption can come from.”

A scientist by training, Bright describes herself as having evolved into an “an art and science marketer” after realising what she likes most about science is talking about the work and telling stories. This insight informs her belief in the importance of left and right brain thinking, which she applies to her work as a senior marketer who sits somewhere in the middle between creativity and data.

“I’m a deep fan of data and analytics, but you can’t miss the art because we’re human beings that act on emotion and imagination,” she explained.

Thinking back to her decade at Unilever, Bright said her team at the time worked on the premise of “attention, branding and communication”. However, she pointed out that often marketers forget the importance of attention, because if the message fails to cut through nothing else really matters.

I wouldn’t underestimate how great it feels when your company feels proud of what you’re doing and the creative ideas.

Kerris Bright, BBC

“We get very focused on the logic, functionality and rationality and forget that we’re trying to capture attention in a cluttered world of complex channels and marketplaces,” Bright stated.

“If you don’t cut through in the first place, nothing really matters. So what does? Something that’s novel and original, creative, different and distinctive that’s going to surprise. Either it’s deeply interesting and useful, or deeply entertaining or deeply informative, but it’s got that power to capture your human imagination.”

This can also mean capturing the imagination of your colleagues within the wider business. Bright recalled an occasion, while working at Dulux, when the marketing team created a campaign that not only resonated with consumers, but generated real support internally.

“The first time you’re a little bit bolder and braver and it kind of works, oh my god it feels fantastic,” she recalled.

“I wouldn’t underestimate how great it feels when your company feels proud of what you’re doing and the creative ideas. It felt so much better than anything I’d felt before, and it was working and doing really well, and you think ‘I want to be feeling like this more’.”

Relationship building

When it comes to agency relationships, Bright explained her focus is on feeling engaged in a collective endeavour, which is why she is not a fan of the agency pitch process as it can feel like there is too much luck involved in getting to the right place.

She also points out that agencies sometimes fail to appreciate the pressures brand side marketers are under within their own organisations. However, if they can turn these pressures to their advantage this can be a great strategy for future success.

“One thing I try to do, because I’ve seen the impact of getting it right and wrong, is think about how you exert the right positive pressure,” Bright explained.

“Creativity does not come out of the wrong type of pressure and stress. There’s a pressure that’s got an optimism and a positivity, a trust and a belief in it, so I absolutely believe in pressure, but I think you have to show confidence and trust. You have to create a sense of positivity and feel like you are in a collective endeavour.”

Thinking about the essential ingredients for successful creativity, Bright argued that it is about being really clear on the problem you are trying to solve and not just doing “creativity for creativity’s sake”. It is important, she says, to be bold, but also focused and reframe the conversation about creativity away from cost to return on investment.

“I’ve been in meetings talking about media ideas and someone will say that’s ‘very expensive’ and I’ve said, ‘what’s expensive?’. I’m talking about, is it a good return?” Bright asks.

“Some things will have a high cost associated with them. It might cost a lot of money, but it might have a much greater return, so we talk about a low return on investment, not expense.”



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