Are brands measuring the impact of creativity?
An exclusive study by Marketing Week finds that while almost two-thirds of marketers are measuring the impact of creativity, they are still reliant on more “old-fashioned” research methods.
Measuring creativity is a complex process because it is so subjective. While trying to work out the ROI of different media channels has become increasingly possible due to advances in methods such as econometrics, working out if a creative idea will have an impact (and the impact a marketer intends) remains difficult.
Yet marketers are trying to add some science to the art. According to an exclusive survey of more than 400 brand marketers conducted by Marketing Week, almost two-thirds (61.8%) are measuring the effectiveness of their creative.
READ MORE: Why brands need to refocus on the effectiveness of creativity
This compares to 76.5% who are measuring the effectiveness of media. However, more than one in 10 (11.7%) still don’t measure either.
When it comes to measuring creative, post-launch measurement is the most common, conducted by 90.3% of those who measure some form of creative effectiveness. Two-fifths (40.6%) claim to pre-test creativity in order to diagnose creative and see how to improve it, while 35.2% pre-test to decide whether to run creative or not.
The number of marketers doing more than one type of testing are lower still. Just 20% use all three types of testing, 1% do both types of pre-testing, 10% measure pre-launch to make a diagnosis and post-launch and 13.9% measure pre-launch to diagnose and post-launch.
Almost half, 43.5%, just measure creative post-launch, 4.8% just measure pre-launch to diagnose and 3.5% just pre-launch to make a creative decision.
While it might seem that marketers aren’t using all the tools at their disposal to ensure a creative idea is a success, Eve Sleep’s CMO Cheryl Calverley warns that marketers can become too reliant on data when experience and gut instinct should play a role.
“There is a level of having experience, of living in the industry. To be able to know what’s good you have to absolutely love creative and spend your days reading, watching, seeing stuff people do, having opinions on it, talking about it down the pub,” she explains. “Then when you see something that is good, it just does something to you.
“There is then a whole load of very logical planning and strategy. You have to ask if it has legs, if it will be stretchy, if it will work in lots of channels, if it is differentiated. But most important is does it give you a feeling? If it makes you feel something as a marketer it will work. If it doesn’t, no amount of rationalising will make it work.”
How to measure creativity
The methods used to measure creativity are also evolving. Marketing Week’s research finds that while marketers are still reliant on more traditional research methodologies, those that adopt new techniques are seeing the benefits.
Live testing, focus groups and online quantitative surveys remain the most popular methodologies, used by 66.7%, 62.2% and 50% of respondents respectively. Just 8.3% are using neuroscience and 3.8% biometrics.
Yet when asked which methodology is ‘most useful’, neuroscience tops the table, just ahead of focus groups in second and live testing in third. The data suggests that while newer methodologies such as neuroscience are used less often, where they are used they deliver better results.
Brands including O2, Disney and Birds Eye have all recently started using neuroscience. For Birds Eye marketing director Steve Challouma, while it doesn’t directly measure creativity he uses the data as a proxy for emotional connection. And the company has found that creative that sparks an emotional connection is more likely to lead to action.
He believes these newer methodologies have the ability to change how marketers think about and measure creativity because it enables them to measure subconscious responses – small changes in brain activity or pupil dilation – rather than explicit responses.
We understand what that shiver down your spine actually is and there are methodologies and techniques that test that.
Cheryl Calverley, Eve Sleep
“I’m seeing those [more rational methodologies] starting to die a death a little bit because of the limitations, the new thinking around system one and system two and the ways consumers make decisions around brands. That bank of thinking has transformed the way we as marketers think about how consumers respond to creative,” he says.
Eve Sleep’s Calverley agrees: “Methodologies have moved on dramatically now. You don’t have to do things as blunt as pre-testing and we do understand system one and system two [thinking]. We understand what that shiver down your spine actually is and there are methodologies and techniques that test that.”
Driving effectiveness through creativity
In terms of the impact of creativity, marketers are looking for a range of outcomes. Most popular is brand linkage, cited by 51.9% of respondents to Marketing Week’s survey, followed by sales intent on 49%, likeability on 45.6% and attention/salience on 44%.
Of those, sales intent was selected as ‘most important’ by 29.3%, ahead of brand linkage on 15.4%, attention/salience on 11.7% and likeability on 10.1%.
There are numerous examples of brands where a focus on creativity and a great creative idea has paid off. Calverley cites the examples of John Lewis, Cadbury’s ‘Gorilla’ ad and Comparethemarket’s meerkats campaign. What ties them all together, she says, is they get the human brain to make a creative leap that helps a brand move down the purchase funnel.
READ MORE: Why Cadbury’s ‘Gorilla’ ad nearly didn’t get made
“The human brain is great at making new connections, it is literally designed to do that and it is where we get our kicks. So the human brain is always seeking to make creative leaps. When a brand does something like meerkats, that makes the brain feel good – having that experience of that creative leap,” she says.
She says another example is the work she did at The AA: “The big shift in The AA was to get from a slightly rational, ‘we are a very good breakdown service’, to a much more emotional, ‘be with us and everything will be fine’ space.
“That is a space that lingers so when someone comes to renew their breakdown in six or nine or 12 months, you have the effect. That fundamentally is the long and the short of it, and the effectiveness curve.”
All good commercial creative output should be conceived on the back of data. It’s the job of a good creative lead to then found a balance between 1) responding to that data and 2) just feeling one’s way around the brief, to be honest. Marketers and clients alike should trust (and I firmly believe they do) that experienced creatives aren’t just throwing darts in the dark. I think it’s worth also considering the deeper implications of not trusting end users’ ability to respond to more obscure (albeit still deeply considered) concepts. Without that trust, given time, surely we risk reducing everything to data driven banality.