Creative Capital -- Not Creativity -- Is What Your Brand Is Missing

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The marketing world has a serious turnover problem. A recent study revealed that the average tenure of a marketer is 2.6 years -- the shortest of any profession in the business world.

The root of the problem is that too many business leaders see marketing departments as magical boxes of creativity. But creativity isn't magic; it should be seen as capital. Creativity can't be created or sustained, and the only fix is to see it as an asset that must be consistently fed, valued and nurtured.

Even with today's rising demand for content marketing, most brands are choosing to produce generic content in sweatshop-style fashion. Until companies learn how to embrace and celebrate their left brains, marketers will continue to seek greener pastures every few years.

Following these three tips can help reverse the trend:

1. Test bold ideas. In countless marketing departments, every creative idea is passed up to a manager who "knows the customers best." But when the idea is passed back down, it's often far less bold and far less creative. In today's real-time technology environment, any and all creative ideas can and should be tested.

Financial software company Taulia took hold of the testing approach and struck creative gold with a series of hilarious marketing videos. Most C-suite leaders would've balked at the idea of humor for B2B, but not Taulia's then-CMO Joe Hyland. With a series of unconventional, small-scale videos, the company tested and proved humor worked, and then gradually ratcheted up the comedic audacity while creating a wildly successful campaign.

This practice led to Taulia's most controversial and successful video, "[email protected] It," which drove a 28% increase in website traffic and a 25% increase in contact-form completions.

2. Provide results-based compensation. Many analysts agree that by 2020, marketing will own 80% of the buying process. Salespeople used to own this percentage, rightly becoming the highest-paid employees within organizations. Today, with the contribution of marketing to the buying process in mind, it's time for marketers to be paid appropriately.

Lessonly VP of Marketing Kyle Lacy, for example, compensates his team based on a results-oriented model in which a portion of their total compensation consists of bonuses based on both net new marketing-sourced revenue and all revenue. Compensation should be variable and reflective of marketing's efforts.

3. View marketers as assets. Marketers are the lifeblood of modern-day businesses. Unfortunately, business leaders continue to view their marketing departments as subjective roles that are chopped at the first sign of a downturn.

Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose explain an alternative idea in their new book "Killing Marketing," in which they share examples of brands (such as Red Bull and Lego) that leverage their content marketing teams to create significant secondary revenue streams by producing events, movies, television shows and books. Regardless of the economic situation, marketing can provide new revenue streams while keeping companies at the forefront of consumers' minds.

The magical view of marketing is the crux of the problem. Marketing isn't magic; it's a process that requires organizations to test all ideas, pay their revenue drivers appropriately, and see marketing as a revenue center, not a cost center. By creating such an atmosphere, Taulia saw zero voluntary turnover in its marketing department from 2009 to 2014, and Red Bull and Lego found countless new revenue sources.

I urge every brand to see creative capital as the kinetic energy required for sustainable business success in the modern era. It's the key to reversing our ongoing marketing woes.

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