Close by Adobe delivers marketing insights, expertise, and inspiration for and by marketing leaders—all aimed at helping CMOs and senior marketers lead their brands in this new digital world. To help marketers stay informed and save time, features curated content from more than 150 leading sources, in addition to original content from thought leaders at Adobe and across the industry.

Adobe is the global leader in digital marketing and digital media solutions. To learn more about how Adobe helps marketers make, manage, measure, and monetize digital content across every channel and screen, visit:

Visit  Adobe Marketing Cloud
The Digital CMO/ General Management

Where’s The Creative? The Missing Link In Customer Experience


by Loni Stark
Director, Product & Industry Marketing

See More by this author >

Article Highlights:

  • Cre­atives com­plete the tri­fecta of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, and enable you to bet­ter attract, under­stand, and deeply engage your cus­tomers.
  • The cre­ative tends to aim high, take risks, thrive on chal­lenge, and will­ingly inno­vate--traits that can ele­vate an entire mar­ket­ing team.
  • Cre­atives are essen­tial, but they can’t go it alone. Their weak­nesses are off­set by the strengths of mar­ket­ing and IT.

In our dis­cus­sion around mar­ket­ing and its part­ners, we typ­i­cally only men­tion the mar­keters and IT pro­fes­sion­als. But that’s like only men­tion­ing red and yel­low when talk­ing about the pri­mary col­ors. What about all-important blue, with­out which we couldn’t cre­ate end­less shades of green and purple?

The third, oft-neglected pri­mary mem­ber of your mar­ket­ing team is the cre­ative. Cre­atives com­plete the tri­fecta of dig­i­tal marketing and enable you to bet­ter attract, under­stand, and deeply engage your cus­tomers. The CMO and CIO may dom­i­nate com­pany deci­sion mak­ing, but they need the cre­ative to help nav­i­gate the increas­ing com­plex­ity of our mar­kets, tech­nol­ogy, and mul­ti­chan­nel landscape.

Delight­ful, mem­o­rable, and human con­tent are the brush­strokes of the cre­ative. With their inspi­ra­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion, the whole team can focus on deliv­er­ing dig­i­tal expe­ri­ences that res­onate with people.

So why are so many tal­ented cre­atives leav­ing busi­nesses in the dust? AdAge first noted the exo­dus four years ago, and it hasn’t stopped. Matthew Creamer attrib­uted it to tougher eco­nomic times, which have caused clients to skimp on cre­ative costs and forced agen­cies to com­pete for piece­meal work and lean more heav­ily on inex­pen­sive strate­gies like crowd­sourc­ing. In this cli­mate, “cre­ative peo­ple have become more of a com­mod­ity,” which is not how the aver­age cre­ative prefers to view his or her talent.

Frus­trated and under­ap­pre­ci­ated cre­atives have left to free­lance or form their own star­tups. The talent—and skills to match—are still there, they’re just less likely to be lever­aged by com­pa­nies in-house. Exec­u­tives real­ize this and are actu­ally seek­ing to hire more cre­ative minds. But unless their mar­ket­ing depart­ment uses and val­ues cre­atives, they’ll have a hard time hold­ing on to new hires.

Who Is The Creative?
The cre­ative can fill a range of job titles and func­tions, from graphic designer to cre­ative direc­tor. Cre­atives ani­mate, make video and audio con­tent, design Web ­sites and user expe­ri­ence, copy­write, brand, craft nar­ra­tives, and con­ceive and exe­cute campaigns and live events. They bring aes­thetic, tech­no­log­i­cal, and sto­ry­telling skills to the team.

More broadly speak­ing, cre­atives bring a set of atti­tudes and work habits that can be lack­ing in the typ­i­cal profit-driven enter­prise. The cre­ative tends to aim high, take risks, thrive on chal­lenge, and will­ingly inno­vate. These traits can bal­ance and ele­vate an entire mar­ket­ing team, inspir­ing oth­ers to think dif­fer­ently and deliver the kind of work that delights and sur­prises audiences.

The Miss­ing Cre­ative Link
The value of the cre­ative can actu­ally be quan­ti­fied. A recent Asso­ci­a­tion for Data-Driven Mar­ket­ing and Adver­tis­ing (ADMA) study points to a “link between cre­ativ­ity and busi­ness effec­tive­ness.” Ignore the cre­ative, and you ignore profit in the long term: In a nut­shell. . .cre­ative brand cam­paigns take longer to deliver busi­ness success—after six months—compared to short-term response cam­paigns. But ulti­mately, cre­ativ­ity wins out with a much stronger impact on the bot­tom line and. . .less con­sumer sen­si­tiv­ity to crit­i­cal areas like pricing.

The cre­ative helps com­pa­nies see through the data and short-term met­rics to last­ing cus­tomer con­nec­tions. The report also found that cul­ti­vat­ing a diverse, mul­ti­chan­nel reach is more effec­tive than tar­get­ing a sin­gle touch­point. The more chan­nels you hope to pop­u­late with qual­ity con­tent and inter­ac­tions, the more cre­ative power you’ll need. As ADMA CEO Jodie Sang­ster puts it, “Cre­ativ­ity is the link between the data and the customer.”

Two Unique And Essen­tial Abil­i­ties Of The Creative
• Insight:
There is no for­mula for a great idea, and all the data in the world won’t spell out what you need to know about customers’ deep­est moti­va­tions and desires. Cus­tomer insight requires emo­tional intel­li­gence, per­cep­tion, and some out-of-the-box thinking.

Insight is that cru­cial under­stand­ing of what will res­onate with your audi­ence, and what dri­ves them to mean­ing­fully engage your brand. Insight taps into com­plex human fac­tors such as belief, pref­er­ence, habit, trust, and aspi­ra­tion. Cre­atives are often more sen­si­tive to the human side of tech­nolo­gies, plat­forms, and design. They may be able to look at user behav­iors and met­rics and intuit what is hap­pen­ing with peo­ple on an emo­tional level.

What’s more, cre­atives can take a pow­er­ful insight and trans­late it into action. Are cus­tomers strug­gling to iden­tify with your brand? Cre­atives can help you weave a relat­able and res­o­nant story through­out your chan­nels and prod­uct mes­sag­ing that will speak to your cus­tomers’ ideals and aspirations.

• Share­abil­ity: Share­abil­ity is fast becom­ing a bench­mark for dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing suc­cess. Rick Wion, direc­tor of social media at McDonald’s, explains: “Con­tent has always been essen­tial for good brand mar­ket­ing but it is more impor­tant than ever because good con­tent will help form stronger bonds with your con­sumers and in the best cases give them a ready-made and highly sharable way to be brand ambas­sadors. [At McDonald’s we] ask our­selves, “Is this cre­ative some­thing that that I would share with my friends?’”

Mak­ing con­tent that peo­ple are com­pelled to Tweet, post to Face­book, or email to a friend is not easy. It takes a mag­i­cal com­bina­tion of emo­tional intel­li­gence, per­son­al­ity, humor, and lightning-fast respon­sive­ness to your com­mu­ni­ties. Cre­atives have a knack for infus­ing their work with those elu­sive emo­tional qual­i­ties that can’t be quan­ti­fied on a spread­sheet, but can lead to concrete num­bers of likes and shares.

The con­tent we share most is usu­ally the con­tent that elic­its a gen­uine, unex­pected emo­tion and reac­tion. It may be dis­be­lief, laugh­ter, tears, or inspi­ra­tion; but what­ever it is, we’re not going to feel it from a dry and pre­dictable blog post or recy­cled meme.

The Creative’s Challenge
Cre­atives are essen­tial, but they can’t go it alone. Their weak­nesses are off­set by the strengths of mar­ket­ing and IT. The creative’s chal­lenge is to remain recep­tive to the busi­ness know-how of oth­ers, and accept the hard facts pre­sented in the data. Cre­atives must take respon­si­bil­ity for their deci­sions, and accept the bur­den of com­mu­ni­cat­ing and defend­ing their ideas—just as the devel­op­ers and con­ver­sion opti­miz­ers must jus­tify their deci­sions with some hard evi­dence of ROI.  

The most suc­cess­ful cre­atives will “view con­straints at every level as excit­ing chal­lenges that release—not restrict—creative responses.” They will also take fail­ures in stride, and learn from them, remem­ber­ing their ulti­mate goal: to con­nect audi­ences with the right experiences.

It Takes All Three
It takes all three pri­mary col­ors to paint with a full palette. Similarly, the cre­ative, the mar­keter, and the IT pro can com­ple­ment one another and join forces to cre­ate ground­break­ing cus­tomer expe­ri­ences. And, as all dig­i­tal mar­keters know, the roles are not mutu­ally exclu­sive. We can each gain skills from all three areas to bet­ter col­lab­o­rate with our coun­ter­parts, or help unite the var­ied skills of an organization.

About Loni Stark

Loni Stark is director, product & industry marketing at Adobe. In her role, Stark oversees global product positioning, and go-to-market strategy and operations for Adobe’s Web experience management business. Stark is also co-founder of, a Web site with more than a half a million readers a year, where she writes and hosts a video series on her affinity for tech, arts, and Napa.