Marketers as Creatives

I scored better on the math part of the SAT than I did on my verbal. I love analytics. The first third of my career in marketing was spent only in paid search, conversion rate testing and Excel. I am a counter. A calculator. I have been in charge of the budget for most of my career, magnetically pulled to the numbers that make or break companies. On paper (or on LinkedIn, because who really uses paper anymore) I am a numbers woman.

But I’m not. I’m a creative. And, much to my own surprise, the past few years I have found myself identifying more and more with this role of creative. 

There are probably a million reasons for this. The web has steadily become more visual. It’s now a marketplace of ideas, an ecosystem of creative conversation, and an eruption of bold promises in beautiful colors. Or at least that is what it feels like to me. There are classes now to help us marketers learn design, and branding, and typography. Our teams are now heavily dependent on the bar to which we hold our design standards. Brands are built on beautiful foundations, and marketers’ campaigns are expected to deliver more than leads…they are expected to deliver experiences.

If you asked me 8 years ago what an ideal marketing team looked like, I may not have included a top-notch designer. I believed then the design team could live independent of marketing. But no more. Today, when I grab coffees with startup founders they ask who they should hire first on their teams and I say one of two roles – an amazing web designer, or a brand marketer that appreciates design theory. Every single marketing channel now requires a level of creativity that historically was not required for success.

It’s the new norm…marketers as creatives.

I know the school of thought out there around technical marketing. I adhere to it on many levels. I’ve taken Team Treehouse classes, MarketingMotive courses, and learned SQL just so I could hang with the technical cats around me. There is no denying that technical marketers are valuable. But I hope we don’t forget how hard it is to find a true creative. I also hope we don’t shut off our creative sides in hopes of fine tuning our technical skills. It doesn’t have to be one or the other, but given how much there is to learn, it often ends up being the case.

Tomorrow’s marketing will be driven by creativity. We will all be playing in new mediums to a new generation on new devices with new expectations hoping for new outcomes. We will literally all be flailing in a sea of creative marketing campaigns, and the ones that stand out will have put in the time to understand design theory, conversation marketing, psychological theory, and the power of persuasion.

I couldn’t be more excited that the tides are turning toward marketers as creatives. I think our marketing meetings are about to get a hell of a lot more exciting. Big ideas, white boards, and a faster paced marketing strategy that supports the same agile approach our product and dev teams have been privy to for years. We must market faster, fail quicker, pivot, and go big…again and again and again. Our consumers will demand it.

One of my favorite quotes is from Steve Jobs when he said, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while.” I love it so much. When I think of the amazing marketers I’ve met over the years they all had the ability– not to sell amazingly — but to connect things, connect brands to consumers, connect ideas, connect emotions to moments.

In a lot of ways marketers are not becoming more creative, we are the original creatives...just now we can dream openly about the crazy ideas we’ve had in the past. Be it the platforms, or the brands, or the bold expectations – we have been given open reign to be as creative as we could possibly imagine.

So if you roll into work tomorrow and you’re employing the same old playbook of marketing years past ask yourself…”WWYICD?” What would your inner creative do? Because you have a bag of crazy just waiting to be spec’d out, wireframed, built and shipped. Your creative time is now. Happy creating friends…


  • Jay

    Good post. The amusing part is, marketing has ALWAYS been about creativity. It’s only the last 10 years or so that we’ve become data-obsessed to the point that we’re hurting our businesses. You can study and test a marketing concept to death, but the best marketing comes when people have a great idea and trust that it will succeed.

  • sarmistha tarafder

    Great post. We are going through some disruptive times. Stories told in the face of such great changes are the stories that propel us to take the next step!

  • aaronfriedman

    Joanna – This resonates so well… I have been thinking this way for a while now and glad to see others do as well :)