Marketing is becoming more data-driven and technology-driven. How can agencies – and their clients – best ensure the right balance between creative thinking and scientific marketing?

Our job today as marketers is to create profitable customer experiences that inspire action from consumers. These experiences need to be enabled by technology and they need to be targeted and measurable. I would argue that data-driven and science marketing are creative thinking. They are as one.

There is a myth that data curbs the creative process and cannibalises our intuition and suffocates innovation. Data gets a bad rap. When used properly, by the right people and with the proper filter, data goes well beyond back-end measurement and prediction. Clients and agencies need to see data as the fertile basin from which insight springs forth and takes root, the cradle of innovation.

When inspired by people, technology enables the kind of experiences that bridge current state (how the customer behaves today) and desired state (how we want them to behave towards or engage with a brand). Technology supports and nurtures behaviour-changing experiences. So if we are going to create real-time, brand building, problem solving and useful customer experiences and measure them as they happen, those experiences have to be technology-enabled in a vibrant way. 

So agencies and clients must not see data and technology as science but as the magic that drives creativity. They are as one.

Do you find that your staff are spending more time working in-house with your clients? 

Not really. What we do observe is evidence of more collaboration and co–creation with clients to create solutions at pace through prototyping and testing at speed. Whether that is at our office or at theirs is academic, the exciting trend is co-creation itself. It tends to happen better off-site, when we create a neutral environment that encourages free-thinking and greater creativity. 

Agencies that are willing to allow clients to be part of the solution are the ones that will win today. For both agency and the brand, the outcome is better work that works.

For major projects that require significant investment, have you taken any novel approaches to financing and the ownership of the product (e.g. custom-built technology that can be resold or repurposed)?

A great subject and we have indeed been trying this with small steps in the right direction. At RAPP we have built our own mobile platform within RAPPLabs (our rapid prototyping division) and we have been able to repurpose the platform for a number of clients with great success. The benefit is as much for the client, as we are able to get to market quickly with a proven successful platform reducing client risk. 

We expect this area of product development to grow significantly over the next year as we output more products like this. Client such as P&G, Bacardi and the IPA have all benefited, so it is an exciting time, in fact, for the whole industry here.

Have you been getting more deeply involved in the offline and multichannel sphere?

Very much so and I suspect most agencies will be. You can’t avoid it if you really work hard to understand the customer purchase path today in a non-linear world. Again this is where data and technology play their part to provide the insights and to allow for real time customer engagement.

Offline can and will play a key role for many brands still at any part of the customer’s path to purchase, we just need to work harder to understand its real role. Again, the power of data to marketers.

What are other hottest trends you are observing among your clients? 

We are seeing three key trends:

  • Helping clients connect the dots created by the media ecosystem a customer now behaves in is key to helping clients. Agencies can play a big role here to facilitate and guide.
  • ‘Data and what should I do with it all?’ This is probably the most common trend we are seeing. The answer lies in looking at the data that we can use now, in real time, to drive relevance and, moreover, a great experience enabled by technology and not just getting too caught up in the historical data. It’s about the one not the zetta byte.
  • Clients are having more say on technology budgets – I heard a statistic recently that by 2015 the CMO could have as big an IT budget as the IT director. Says it all.