Driving Full-Funnel Creative Excellence in Growth Marketing

By Miha Mikek

Matija Medved

This article was originally published on TechCrunch by Miha Mikek, CEO and Founder at Celtra.

With the holiday sales season around the corner, growth marketers are gearing up for their busiest season. E-commerce brands are now leaning heavily on social sales and digital advertising but should also expect an omni-channel shopper as 62% of shoppers plan to purchase both online and in-store this holiday season.

The marketplace is crowded. Digital marketing requires high volumes of on-brand creative assets and it is tough to produce them fast enough without compromising on brand equity or storytelling. While marketing channels have exploded in volume, most creative production workflows are the same as they were 50 years ago. The linear brief-debrief-presentation-production cycle still reigns supreme. But marketing isn’t linear anymore. It is a monster that feeds on creative assets, requiring more and more each quarter.

The reality is, any paid impression is also a brand impression and a chance to differentiate in the market. Paid impressions are often the only chance you get to influence some shoppers. That’s why creative – your brand, your design, and your message – matters. In growth marketing, traffic, subscriptions, direct-to-consumer channels, testing, and ultimately, revenue all rely on creative to succeed. Yet, lower-funnel assets are rarely brilliant in branding or even remotely interesting. Brands don’t have the luxury of spending time on design craft and storytelling at scale. Conversely, most creative automation solutions that can assist with efficiency aren’t currently equipped to scale high-quality creative that prioritizes branding and design excellence. Enterprises are suffering from a creative gap where their content and asset needs are growing fast while team resources and budgets are stagnant or even declining.

Design Excellence Drives Revenue and Brand Preference

As Nobles Crawford, Senior Media Manager at Reckitt put it on the Brand-Side podcast, there needs to be a shift in building valuable experiences for consumers instead of just running ads that tell them to buy products. Design excellence plays into that experience. With the rise of privacy solutions and future challenges in tracking and targeting, investing in creative excellence is your best bet in growth marketing. Let’s explore what is required from creative AI and automation to assist brands in effectively reaching and converting shoppers.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic AI bullet to solve the challenge. You can’t just buy creative technology in the hopes that it alone will bridge the gap. You need to rethink workflows and team collaboration. If you’re serious about elevating your growth marketing creative, you need to invest in tools that are built for scale and brand governance at once.

Typically, brands invest big in building brand equity through awareness campaigns but haven’t been able to make the same investments in performance marketing. Marketing tools have followed this division with solutions that enable extravagant creative for limited scale, upper-funnel activities. On the other hand, lower funnel tools rarely allow for more than a logo and generic product shot on a white background. This is hurting the bottom line as brand consistency has a direct impact on performance metrics. For example, large-scale e-commerce brands saw their ROAS grow by up to 50% when they tested enhanced performance creative against plain product ads. The rich, branded lower funnel assets were made with creative automation software.

In addition to driving a clear lift in revenue, automating digital marketing assets means cost and time savings, too. An international enterprise brand turned to creative automation to launch a campaign in 10 markets, saving 48% on time-to-market and 55% on costs.

Rethinking Full-Funnel Creative Production

If you’re looking to bring automation to your creative workflows, be prepared for change management in your enterprise organization. You’ll likely need to run several initiatives in tandem:

  • Shifting creative production strategy to support a design-first, modular approach
  • Planning the activation and technology implementation with key stakeholders across design, creative, and marketing
  • Implementing an automated testing framework to fuel insights

A modular approach is a digital ad design system that operates based on a template that is subdivided into smaller parts that can be independently created, modified, optimized, or replaced. With growth marketing, a modular creative approach means designing brand templates for each performance marketing use case: re-marketing, promotions, audience-specific pushes, testing, and so on. In the template phase, you’ll also define which elements and layers are dynamic: headlines, CTAs, product images, pricing, for instance. You will then connect those templates to product catalogs to produce the assets needed for lower-funnel campaigns with rich, on-brand experiences.

Automated creative production is different from producing manually. Be ready for more collaboration between media and creative, between marketing and design, and between writers and photo editors and campaign managers. It’s a good idea to create a plan for activation by division. Select a key stakeholder from every team or brand to be an implementation champion that leads the work against the expected work pipeline. Bring creatives and growth marketers to work closely together so that the templates made by designers match the needs of performance marketing. You can even allow growth departments the freedom to make certain changes themselves: they can simply change messaging in content feeds and push the changes live without needing to brief the creative team or re-traffic the assets. Lastly, make sure there is an open line of communication between growth and creative departments so that designers know which assets are topping the charts in terms of performance. This way, they can iterate based on live campaign data and improve future designs, as well.

Once onboarded, teams can also start thinking about creative needs around testing to further fuel results in growth marketing. With a modular approach, you can duplicate and modify existing templates to run A/B testing for lower-funnel creative. Limited production capacity is typically one of the biggest roadblocks to running nuanced testing. This can be solved through the right automation tools, too. Once the versioning is left to machines, you can get granular with messaging, sub-copy, CTAs, models, poses, and product shots in various design layouts.

In the past, growth marketing hasn’t placed much emphasis on visual storytelling. Partly because it hasn’t needed to do so with the advanced optimization and targeting options available. But the privacy tides are about to change that. Once you can’t rely on troves of third-party data to drive growth, you need to go “back to brand” as a marketer. In a Q1 survey conducted by Dynata among 1,000 U.S. shoppers, 85% are more likely to trust a brand with high-quality and well-designed ads. Your audience doesn’t distinguish between big bang brand campaigns and everyday social ads. They will click and convert if your lower funnel is designed to mirror the best your brand can offer.

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