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Updated: Nov 12, 2021

If we didn’t believe in the power of creativity, we’d probably have a daily existential crisis on our hands. Yet creativity in a vacuum is more art than commerce, which isn’t a sustainable business model for us.

That’s why we never stop targeting, measuring and optimizing our creative work. It’s nice to see humans respond to our efforts. Beyond the vanity of validation, we’re seeing results that could be called unsexy—unless you’re into maximizing budgets and stealing market share from unsuspecting competitors. Or mullets. They’re coming back.

We’ll start with the cold numbers:

Toppers Pizza has seen a 51% increase in return on spend.

Orders influenced by social media are up 89%, and revenue influenced by social media is up 96%. (Since start of the campaign, on a year-over-year comparison.)

Vaccination rates in Lake Regional Health System counties were between 20-30%.

One month into the Now’s The Time Campaign, vaccination rates are between 33%-40%.

And after helping them reposition with a new brand campaign:

Lake Regional not only hit their market share goal 8 months early—they tripled it.

The APA saw the average length of stay for Grown-Ass Adults decrease by 3 days.

It’s not just lean, nimble shops on Cherokee Street that see creativity as a competitive advantage. In fact, the rest of the industry is catching on. The Link Between Creativity and Effectiveness study from the Gunn Report and the IPA Databank found that creatively recognized campaigns delivered 11 times the return on investment of non-creatively recognized campaigns.

But the question then becomes, “How?” How does a brand leverage the tools at all of our disposal to drive affinity and ultimately, preference?

Complement the customer journey

We take the foundation of our idea and explore how we can get the most out of it. As a result we end up with a diverse, dynamic and fully built-out creative suite that can support our overarching goals across multiple platforms. What goes on a billboard might supplement the TV that sets up the landing page.

Bend technology to your goals

Algorithms exist, and we have to work within them. We use our understanding of the platforms we are working on to find out how we can leverage the system to get the most out of our work and our client’s budget. For example, we know that conversion units cost significantly more than reach units on Facebook. We also know that a user is more likely to view your profile or share something they think is funny through DMs than engage directly with a post. So, we advocate for a mix of objectives that lead to conversion and optimize budgets.

Buy creatively

We know it’s pay-to-play, but spending more doesn’t mean you will see better results. We weigh our budgets strategically based on the objectives we’re buying for. We take in account the cost of their respective results versus their return to help outline where to spend our dollars. This allows us to develop more efficient paid strategies and make dollars work harder.

Reframe frequency

Frequency measures the number of times a user sees an ad. Too much frequency can lead to burnout and a bad user experience (for which the social media overlords will punish your purchasing power). But there’s nothing that says your brand can’t stay in front of your audience. All you have to do is create more assets, and of course, target them appropriately. Simply by being prolific we can drive both awareness and consideration. See? Creative and data, sitting in a tree.

Report with empathy

Empathy isn’t relegated to the creative concepting phase of the project. When compiling reports, we have to look beyond the data points to understand why trends are occurring and how we are connecting with people on the other side of the screen. Those aren’t just pageviews on the Lake Regional vaccine landing page. Those are people who have real concerns about the vaccine and are looking for someone they can trust to help them gain clarity. From there, we take what we’re seeing and come together as a team–client included–to talk about what’s connecting. Is there anything else that could be influencing our results that isn’t being accounted for? How else can we make the path to conversion simpler?

Invest in the creative process

This could’ve easily been the first item on this list. It is for us. Darling was built without traditional barriers that have been known to stifle creativity (smell ya later timesheets). Because of this commitment to the process, we are able to collaborate in a setting where each member of the team, regardless of department, has the space to contribute their own creative currency. As a writer or art director, that means more source material for inspiration. As a data strategist, such as myself, that means more opportunity to show success.

Ultimately, we’ll never tell you we have it all figured out. There could be an algorithm shift, an iOS update, a new platform, a pandemic, etc. that makes us go back to the drawing board and rethink our approach. We’re good with that. Ultimately, we know that the reverse mullet allows us to continue to iterate and promote creative work that actually shows a return.


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