My fifth interview was with Roehl Sanchez, VP and Chief Creative Officer of BIMM Direct & Digital in Toronto. I saw Roehl speak at the Canada Post Marketing Summit that I attended earlier in the year and was fascinated with his approach on how creative and data form a symbiosis, where one makes the other stronger.

Data Drives the Creative Process

In speaking with Roehl, the first topic that came up was companies that were doing great creative. This is not to say they had the best graphic artists, or are doing Super Bowl worthy commercials, but looking at the companies we talked about, are really doing data driven creative.  Take Starbucks, for example. They describe themselves as “an evolutionary brand, not a revolutionary one.” This outlook neatly summarizes what truly makes great creative, and what will make even greater creative looking into 2014.

Data-driven creative must respect the customer and their intelligence, and has an air of malleability to adjust to the customer’s journey, as they are on the journey. Whatever you create must be dependent on data. Looking forward into 2014, the ability to market in real-time is evolving in, well… real-time! Creative used to function in a vacuum where a “set it an forget it” mentality was allowed to prevail – where campaigns were formed well ahead of time and deployed regardless of feedback or changes. Now we must put the thermometer in the water with every campaign and be ready to constantly allow the message to evolve, especially during the campaign.

The Modular Builder and the Creative Process

Looking forward, marketers are communicating with a mobile generation, and you really can’t expectcustomers to spend much time with your message. Roehl offered the example of Loblaws, a Canadian Supermarket chain.  Moving beyond the typical loyalty program, the shopper can receive real-time deals and suggestions on their smartphone based on their purchase history. When creative becomes seamless between devices and more relevant because of data use, it becomes brilliant creative. “Great creative should do something because the mobile phone is a functional device,” Roehl shared.

Marketers in 2014 must realize that “you can’t wait until it is perfect to get it out there.“ If you set aside a portion of budget for innovation and testing, then you can at least keep pace, and perhaps stumble upon something revolutionary. Taking the term “Creative” in a very literal sense, as a noun, marketers must become “modular builders” in the coming years. They must account for variables, and become editorial designers, not unlike a newspaper.

Realizing the medium as more of a platform for the message, the creative can become a vessel for the message, constantly morphing as the ocean waves manipulate it.

“Truly Beautiful Design is Invisible”

Marketers will begin to realize that mobile design isn’t about flash or pomp, but more so about a product that WORKS elegantly, and this challenge will drive marketers to understand that design can no longer be precious. A message morphs between devices, and with responsive design, can be altered even to the same sender transferring between devices. It’s no longer a question of “is it aesthetically pleasing?” but will become “is this functional?” and whether the layout is flexible between devices. We must begin to bend the idea of the “Creative” staff on your team and allow for more of a focus on being attuned to the user experience, and how their creativity will ultimately function. Once function is at the center of campaign development, then beautiful design is allowed to flourish.