Once upon a time, data was marketers’ number one digital experience challenge. In particular, gathering and consolidating it into a single, automated platform to feed personalization algorithms at scale and in real time.

Fast-forward through the whirlwind of the pandemic – which left many businesses relying on digital marketing as their primary way of engaging customers – and you’ll find that creative content now plays an equally critical part. Without creative content, there is no digital experience. As brands increasingly turn to digital transformation, the experience they offer their customers has become paramount. No longer can it simply be a hopeful outcome from digital transformed processes; digital experience initiatives must be implemented and prioritized as a conscious marketing effort to build a stronger, differentiated brand in the digital world.

Here’s why it’s time for brands to harness technology and consider creativity as a fundamental part of great digital experiences.

The creative content crunch

The lack of in-person interactions has made it much harder for brands to connect with their target audiences. In response, many marketers have changed their tactics, pushing even more commerce online and channeling their marketing resources into digital content and advertising. This ‘digital pile-in’ has left brands fiercely competing for online attention and engagement.

As a result, marketing teams are under increasing pressure. Not only do they need to produce more creative content that grabs people’s attention, but also enough content to feed highly personalized digital experiences that combat digital sameness. As competition grows, so does the need for personalization. It has become brands’ weapon of choice in the digital battlefield. Trading a lackluster and generalized approach to content for more bespoke content targeting, tailored to individual needs and online behaviors, has given some brands a competitive edge.

In a recent survey, 85% of marketing and creative respondents reported that they experienced an increase in demand for content over the past year. This trend shows little sign of slowing down in the age of personalization, even as the world begins to recover.

What’s more, 72% of marketers working in video, design, and creative roles report spending too much time on menial tweaks and variations. This leaves very little time to create compelling brand stories and visual identities that cut through digital sameness. Plus, even when creative teams are working at breakneck speed, the traditional creative process still moves too slowly to keep up with the fast pace of online personalized marketing. This inhibits digital marketers’ ability to take advantage of opportunities, causing internal friction and bottlenecks.

It’s no secret that, when teams are under pressure, creativity can be the first thing to go out of the window. Meeting the growing demand for personalized creative content – what we call ‘the content crunch’ – often comes at the expense of originality and quality.

To capture the attention and the imagination of their target audience online, most brands need to rethink how their creative function operates. By embracing technology to automate processes, teams can fuel their operational performance while opening up space and time for creativity to flourish.

So, how can technology empower creativity’s role in offering personalized digital experiences? The answer lies within the entire ‘content engine’.

Driving the content engine

As a brand, being instantly recognizable has never been more difficult – or more important. It’s crucial that your audience can connect the eBook they read last week with the ad they’re being served today, and the social media post they’ll see tomorrow. If this were an identity parade, you’d want your brand to be suspect number one.

This is where consistency comes in. And no, it’s not the opposite of creativity. The two can and should go hand-in-hand. If creative assets aren’t managed sufficiently when handling algorithm-generated, personalized content requests, brand consistency can instantly become affected – rippling down into the quality of the creative output.

Once they’ve perfected a tone of voice and design language that works across all digital touchpoints, marketers should consider implementing software tools to help deliver a consistent digital experience. These might include digital brand templates, which enable the speedy creation of digital content that sticks to your design principles, or a system of record for creative assets with access and usage permissions. This creates a point of reference for algorithms to use when building and delivering personalized experiences, so customers only see correct, on-brand digital assets.

Marketers can also turn to creative automation to create assets faster and take on repetitive tasks, including localizing language, resizing, format changes, etc. These menial tasks can also be eliminated with dynamic asset transformation technology that optimizes content based on channel specifications, removing the need for manual intervention at the distribution stage. Both solutions protect the creative team’s bandwidth, avoiding the need to design each asset individually from the ground up. By freeing up time for creatives to look at the bigger picture, they’re encouraged to come up with those imaginative, original concepts that will make their brand stand out online.

Without real-time asset reference and management, the performance of the entire ‘content engine’ becomes limited, from content creation right through to the distribution of creative content across digital touchpoints. As online channels, device types, and content formats grow in their numbers and complexities, the technology in play needs to be properly integrated to support digital experiences and not let creativity fall to the sidelines.

It’s key to remember that a great digital experience can become the victim of the content engine’s ‘cogs’ – content creation, management, and distribution – if they’re not seamlessly working together. All three components are necessary when offering personalized digital experiences. Only when they’re operating effectively and efficiently can creative content be brought to the same level of automated performance as customer data in powering digital experiences.

A dose of healthy competition

The truth is that embracing creativity is no longer optional. Digital natives like Spotify and Amazon have harnessed the power of data, along with a good deal of creativity, to deliver unmatched digital experiences. These brands have elevated expectations, leaving others competing to raise the bar.

This competition isn’t limited to the consumer sphere. Typically, B2B brands have been much more cautious than their B2C counterparts when it comes to championing creativity…until now. From Mastercard to Microsoft, many brands are tearing up the rule book and leading with emotive, creative campaigns designed to connect with their audience’s pain points and challenges.

In today’s digital-first world, brands should be prepared to sink or swim based on the quality of the digital experiences they offer to customers and prospects – regardless of sector or product specialism. In order to succeed, it’s crucial for creativity to take the spotlight. Without it, there’s no digital experience.

Cover image source: cottonbro