Yesterday we visited the Moco boutique museum in Amsterdam with the entire Martin and Lewis gang. It is always inspiring – in this case from an art perspective – to look at creativity in a completely different way. Works by Banksy, Warhol but also Hirst, Lichtenstein, Basquiat and Arsham make us think and give us different insights. They inspire us in other ways of communication that we could also apply in our own work.
That is why these kind of visits are so incredibly valuable. Powerful to see how, if you go all the way back to the essence, you can create the iconic Mickey Mouse from Walt Disney with 12 different dots (Hirst). But you can also make solid (political) statements with only one image and without text (Banksy).
If I compare this with the conversations we regularly have with brands about the huge pile of information they want to put into a campaign, then these kinds of examples can also help in the discussion to communicate with much less to achieve bigger impact.
Because these artists too have become international brands, with their own style and way of communicating. What is so good about it is that they challenge topics, make statements, look critically at themselves, but above all have the guts to do something that others don’t do and therefore dare to be vulnerable.
I sometimes miss this in the way brands talk, having the guts to do something else. Not for the sake of being different but more because it fits with who you are and what you stand for. And sometimes doing something that has not yet been done includes the acceptance that you do not know what it will deliver. However, doing what you always did is usually not enough (anymore).
That’s why an agency should also challenge our brand.
Be surprised and go for succes together!
I have enjoyed working for Coca-Cola for many years. A beautiful brand that over the years managed to surprise time and again when it came to experience and activations: the introduction of Coca-Cola Zero, festival activations and the growth of brands such as Aquarius and Chaudfontaine. But times have also changed for a brand like Coca-Cola and they are having a hard time keeping up. Coca-Cola’s happiness has been overshadowed for some time by the brand’s vast contribution to the plastic soup. The bigger they are, the harder they fall, so it is no surprise that one of the biggest brands in the world is in the proverbial catbird seat. The question is how a brand like Coca-Cola deals with this.
I have been seeing messages from Coca-Cola for a few months now, with the message: “please help us recycle”. A nice way to say that you yourself flood the world with plastic and then ask someone else to clean up your mess. Of course consumers should throw their own trash in the bin, but for the brand responsible for the production of 12,000 tons of plastic bottles per year – according to Greenpeace – it is remarkable to point a finger like this to say the least. And we are only talking about the Netherlands. On an annual basis, we are talking about an estimated 110 billion plastic bottles(!).
That is some serious plastic soup. Have a look on the brand’s site “Help us recycle” because a large brand like Coca-Cola has undoubtedly also woken up and is of course eagerly looking for alternative packaging where others ask to clean up your mess is just an temporary solution. There are already countless possibilities for biodegradable bottles based on bamboo, PHA (polyhydroxyalkanoate) or even paper. Although they will cost a bit more, they will ensure that you, as the largest soft drink producer, show the world how to take your responsibility. And if those alternatives are not yet good enough, then of course you have already established a fund of some kind that invests in a possible solution.
However, the message on the helpusrecycle.nl website is disappointing and actually a bit laughable:
“We aim to have all our packaging in 2025 so that we can recycle it.”
Seriously, is that your plan, your ambition as a big brand? So you are not going to tackle the source, namely your own plastic production, but you say that you strive for all your packaging to be recyclable within the next 6 years? An unbelievable and also unfeasible story with the following weak motivation: “We are a large company and this also involves a great responsibility. We work together with all parties in the chain to collect and process as much packaging as possible to recycle into new packaging. The consumer is an important link in completing this circle, and that is why we involve the consumer in this campaign. ”
On the same site you can also find the following statement: “The collection of waste is the responsibility of various parties, such as the packaging industry via the Waste Fund, supermarkets, national government and municipalities.” I miss one important party here: Coca-Cola!
It is understandable that this biodegradable bottle will take a while. But it seems that this is not being looked at at all yet and that the introduction of deposits on smaller bottles is frustrated by the party that produces the very same bottles.
Even if we continue to read, there is little news to report. Coca-Cola is especially proud that 95% of large packages and 70% of small packages are recycled. So 6,000 tons of plastic on an annual basis is not yet recycled, shame on you, consumer! Or to put it in ‘Greta’s words’: How dare you!
100% recycling is not a viable solution
If Coca-Cola really wants to contribute to a reduction in that plastic soup, why are there no (concrete plans for) biodegradable bottles yet? Can someone explain this to me? Or maybe so, because putting such a bottle on the market naturally costs a lot of money and Coca-Cola must of course also make a profit. I understand and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the company has made more than just a nice profit in the recent years. In 2018, a a whopping 9.7 billion . And for those who think that this was an incident: it was a growth of 10% compared to 2017 and the years before they also did pretty well where it comes to profit.
Come on, Coca-Cola, you can do much better than this. If you want to tell me I need to recycle, isn’t it about time you told the world when I no longer need to recycle because you have cleaned up your own mess? Only then does “always Coca-Cola” get a new meaning that stands for something that fits this day and age.
An honest cup of coffee can also be just a tasty cup of coffee. We were able to taste this ourselves with the beans from the coffee connoisseurs of Coffee Shots. No burnt-out black tar, but light-burned aromatic beans that make the nose wings vibrate and tickle our coffee bone.
Coffeeshots gives coffee farmers an honest price for their coffee and only sells coffee beans that are purchased directly (direct trade) from the farmer at a fair price (the start of the value chain). Even after purchasing every kilo of coffee beans, the brand pays the farmers 2% of its turnover. This way, the coffee farmer also benefits at the end of the value chain and significantly increase his kilo yield. This improves the working conditions, allows better training and is able to innovate again. Coffeeshots does not want the coffee drinker in a coffee bar to pay a (too) high price for (not always) high quality coffee. Coffeeshots is going to show that high quality coffee is also possible at a fair price.
At Martin and Lewis we only serve Coffeeshots coffee now. Full of flavour and tastier than ever before. We also help Coffeeshots with (online) marketing and communication of their brand.
A full tower during our master class ‘data and creativity’. Despite the bad weather the turn up was excellent and at a quarter to six Frank kicked off with a short welcome word and then gave the floor to guest speaker Brian Farley. Brian was the first baseball coach who managed to lead a European country to the World Cup title: in 2011, under his inspiring leadership, the Netherlands became world champion and thereby defeated dominating teams like Cuba and the United States. Of course this would never have been possible without strong teamwork, solid faith in the team’s abilities and room for individual talent. But data also played a major role in achieving this incredible success. The digital transformation is also in full swing in the world of sporst and gives data a more solid basis to build on than gut feeling and personal interpretations.
Frank then made a bridge to marketing and why it is not the question for every organization whether they should start thinking and doing digital first, but rather why they have not yet begun to do so. The changes in the last 15 years have been enormous and give a pretty good idea of what we can expect in the coming years. Martin and Lewis is convinced that the combination of (own centralized) data and creativity will help every organization to change and think and do ‘digital first’. A case was then told how Martin and Lewis helps companies, without getting bogged down in large reports and long advisory processes. Creativity also plays an important role here.
The power of creativity
Many brands have more data available than they think and also have an abundance of content. The question is often what to do with it? Here too, if you want to become good at something, you have to do it. This means mapping what you know, experimenting, measuring and learning. Creativity plays a major role in this because, as a brand, you are not the only one trying to attract and retain customers. Creativity ensures that you distinguish yourself from your competitors and you do this best on the basis of your non-copyable distinctive character.
A well-known and old adage is: “I know that half of my marketing budget is wasted money. I just don’t know which half.” Can big data improve this ratio? Are the beautiful stories published about big data justified? What does this mean if you are looking for an advertising agency for your marketing issue? Do we need creative agencies at all if we have big data? And do these agencies also see opportunities for growth with the help of big data or is it still difficult to mix with creativity?
What is big data?
Big data is still a fairly new concept for many companies and the definitions are still somewhat vague. Wikipedia states the following about big data: “one speaks of big data when working with one or more data sets that are too large to be maintained with regular database management systems.” An article from Forbes Magazine mentions a handful of other definitions.
Ultimately, all definitions mean that, by collecting big data, marketers have more information about their customers and potential customers in their hands than they could ever have imagined.
Experts predict that big data will put advertising agencies and data companies on a collision course. And that companies will no longer place large parts of their advertising budgets with agencies, but with parties such as Google and Facebook, suppliers of data management software such as Acxiom, Targit and Tableau and hordes of startups.
“Experts predict that big data will put advertising agencies and data companies on a collision course.”
But what are the real consequences for the relationship between data companies and advertising agencies? Will advertising agencies become superfluous in the future? Or do they reinvent themselves and make use of the opportunities that big data offers?
Precision, relevance, efficiency
In essence, marketing revolves around one principle: the better you know the customer, the more effective you are. Big data is therefore nothing more or less than knowing your customer better than ever before and a means to improve the precision, relevance and efficiency of every contact by leaps and bounds. But seeing big data as a remedy for all ailments is too much honor.
Effective marketing communication has always worked in two steps.
- Step 1: Decide what you want to say.
- Step 2: Determine how best to convey this.
Good agencies and the most successful advertising campaigns have always worked this way. The strategy director determines what you want to say as accurately as possible. Often without hard data to support advice. Creative concept makers then consider how you can best say this. In addition, they immediately ensure that the message is not only factual and informative, but also touches the heart of the target group.
If you do not, your campaign may be sending the wrong message, or it is not conspicuous and distinctive enough so that nobody pays attention to it. Anyway: ineffective and a waste of money.
Benefits of big data
Big data has enormous advantages for determining the right message. Not only to address large groups of people, but also when you focus on specific people. And because you can target the message with big data so well, it can also result in considerable cost savings for the marketer. Big data can also provide valuable input to tell a message in an inspiring way.
Results achieved in the past offer no guarantee for the future
Data, even real-time data, by definition records the past. Big data cannot predict future behavior (yet) accurately. But marketers, and their advertising agencies, are judged by how well a campaign influences future behavior of people.
Consider: how much confidence do you have in the weather forecasts for next week? Or in election polls? Exactly. These expectations and polls are based on the best data, computer systems and software.
Customers are just like real people
Small changes in wind and temperature make it difficult to draw up accurate weather forecasts. Just like the wind and temperature, people always change their mind and behavior. This happens for reasons that we often do not understand well or can correctly predict. People just don’t sit still long enough to build a model that can predict a reliable outcome and the success of a campaign. What people will do in the future is therefore not easy to capture in algorithms. No matter how sophisticated your big data is.
The magic ingredient
A good creative agency expresses what a company wants to say in a form that attracts attention, touches people and sets them in motion. Research by Harvard Business Review shows that a euro spent on a campaign that is judged as creative has almost twice as much impact on sales than a euro spent on a campaign that scores low on creativity. This effect increases if a campaign is used longer and more widely. That is why creativity is still the magic ingredient for good communication.
“creativity is still the magic ingredient for good advertising campaigns.”
Psychology and statistics
The most important role of advertising agencies is to change consumer behavior. Most agencies, however, mainly employ employees who understand how people behave. There are still few advertising agencies that also know statistics.
Is your own company ready for big data?
Companies must adjust their business operations to integrate big data into their marketing. According to Thomas Davenport, author of the book Big Data at work, this means that companies can answer questions such as:
- What data influences the success of my business?
- Where do I get this data, how do I keep it, how do I make it clear and what are we going to do with it?
- How do I ensure a continuous flow of big data and how do I distribute the information to the people who need to work with it?
- How do I make my company agile enough to respond to new information and changes quickly?
- Do we have the right business resources to get started with big data?
Big data and the advertising agency
Smart agencies embrace big data.
- They know that big data can help enormously in developing creative ideas and increasing people’s engagement with brands. This makes campaigns more effective and gives clients more value for their marketing euros.
- They hire people with specific knowledge of big data so that they can continue to communicate clearly with their clients and understand each other.
- They ensure that their employees understand that big data helps to deliver better, more effective and therefore more valuable campaigns.
Even the largest agencies will not become experts in all the ways in which big data is collected, analyzed and managed. That is why agencies will have to enter into partnerships with companies that are good at it. Some of these companies will already be pushed forward by the customer. In other cases, agencies themselves choose their partners in this area and in yet other cases partnerships will arise through mergers or acquisitions.
These partnerships help agencies to formulate the “what” more clearly. Agencies can then continue to focus on how best to convey the message.
Great growth opportunities for client and agency
Companies invest a lot of time and large amounts in big data. This indicates how important and valuable they think big data is. They therefore expect their advertising agency to share that conviction. If not, they will switch to another. Agencies that succeed in bridging the gap between big data and developing effective campaigns add a lot of value to their customers.
It is therefore high time that agencies learned to use big data. Not to become nerds, but to understand how you use information from big data to develop better creative ideas that move people.
The first 5 steps towards a role for big data in the creative process
In order to gain real insight into potential growth opportunities, it is important that all parties involved are open to this. For agencies, this means gaining knowledge and / or joining the right partners. For brands, this means the willingness to share more than just your target audience and your marketing budget.
- Provide insight into your numbers, and not just numbers about “the entire market” and “the entire industry.” Share these numbers with your desk. Only here surprising insights come out.
- Be open about your budget and share your desk. If you are afraid that they will use it, you will probably still see your budget as a waste of money and not as an investment.
- Consider your marketing activities as an investment rather than a cost item. Encourage your desk in this.
- Be prepared to try other – performance-based – forms of collaboration. This makes the relationship between agency and client stronger. After all, you are in the same boat.
- Do not change course completely, but experiment with a few smaller projects and accept that it takes time.
Where do you see opportunities when you look at big data in the creative process? Let me know. Do you have good tips? Then I would love to hear that too. And if you would like to talk as a result of this article, then of course you are very welcome at the Bloemgracht!