Have the bean counters taken over marketing?

“New Age Marketing”, “Digital Marketing”, “360 degree marketing campaigns”, “measuring ROI on marketing campaigns”

These are all buzzwords doing the rounds within the marketing ecosystem today. A cursory glance at the resumes of marketing professionals across a cross-section of retail (online and offline) companies has apart from the above-mentioned ones, more detailed keywords such as – “SEO”, SEM”, “PPC”, “Campaign Optimisation, “Data Analysis”, “Data Mining”, “Liaised with Agency”, “Co-ordination of a 360 degree campaign”, and “optimised CAC & LTV”.

But there is one key element missing – Creativity.

Have the Bean Counters taken over the marketing function? Surely creativity needs to be an integral part of any marketer’s arsenal?

A bulk of the marketing professionals in companies seem to be doing, in my definition “ancillary marketing jobs” involving verbs such as liaising, co-ordination, measurement, data analysis, optimisation and such, while the core work of ideating and creating viral, innovative, creative, high humor quotient collaterals or content has been outsourced to agencies.

Make no mistake, I am not proposing that companies lose their focus on data and optimisation, but instead indicating that they allocate the majority of their in-house mindshare towards brainstorming, iterating and preparing creative marketing collaterals which would help their brand standout from the clutter and further recall in the customer’s psyche.

Why does this happen?

When companies start out, they typically have low marketing budgets and spends. Hence they focus as much of the in-house marketing team’s mindshare as possible on creating great marketing content which can amplify the effect of their low spends. However, as companies continue to scale, their focus slowly starts to shift since they no longer find it economically viable to focus the majority of their energies on creating great marketing content.

The reasons are manifold – as a company grows, the demands on creativity increase as well. Creative or viral campaigns, which used to make a material difference when the brand was smaller and was barely scratching the awareness phase might no longer make any difference for bigger-sized brands.

Hence there is a need to compensate for this in terms of both the size of the creative ideators team and in each individual’s quality. This is tough. Since these kind of people in the industry come at a price premium and/or prefer to work as freelancers or via their own agencies.

What can be done?

A cultural change needs to be brought within marketing functions. It starts from the top and has to be done gradually. The team members should be incentivised to come up with ideas for creative campaigns which break the mold and traditional stereotypes, yet work within the ambits of practicality. Winning ideators need to be given the license and freedom to follow through with execution.

Catch ‘em young. Go to the source from where agencies hire and groom their talent. There are many quality visual communications, animation and graphics design schools in the country. Hire young graduates with zeal who would come at a cost effective price. Groom them and let their ideas cross-pollinate across the rest of the team.

Bottomline

Creativity is not rocket science unlike what a lot of agencies might want you to believe. It’s inside all of us. It just requires the right mindset and working environment for us to be able to tap into it.

Creativity is a core marketing function; it cannot and should not be outsourced.


Vedanarayanan Vedantham is the head of marketing at Stayzilla, the online portal for booking and reservation of hotels in India.

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