When Science Meets Creativity and Has Babies

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By Alex Van Gestel, CEO, Verbalisation

As adland’s luminaries gather in Cannes, it’s a good time to reflect on the current state of creativity.

And to see how many of this-years award-winners will be able to point to the science that lies behind their creativity? Just how many of the campaigns and platforms were driven by intuitive leaps and gut feel rather than informed by evidence of what is actually happening in people’s minds?

The power of technology and the proliferation of mobile have led to great marketing innovation and creative invention over the last decade but the human insight seems to have taken more of a back seat.  

We believe that merging science with creativity is the future for brand building. Where brands are creatively objective, while being objectively creative.

We need this science because our media landscape demands it. As previously discussed, evolving channels and the ever-greater importance of earned media have created new levels of complexity in how we engage an audience. So, the challenge is to find a consistent and effective way to communicate that can cut through the digital haze, creating value not noise.

How do we do this? It is vital for brands to have a clear and compelling vocabulary: one that is informed by a genuine understanding of the audience.

Because only once you truly comprehend people – how they think, what they believe, why they do what they do – can you find the right words to motivate and inspire them.

In this data-driven age we need creativity that is built on a foundation of certainty not on sand. Underpinned, shaped, measured and refined through rigorous, robust and objective science.

It’s much the same as an architect taking the knowledge of the physical sciences and applying it to constructing a building. The new Switch House extension of Tate Modern in London is a great example of a new form of creativity, only made possible with the underpinning of science.

For our approach, we deep dive into the psychology of the audience and apply the science to construct a brand’s language. By understanding the way our brains process information and control behaviour, we’re able to engineer powerful messaging that hits the mind’s ‘relevance button’ and changes behaviour.

We know that when a company owns a consistent lexicon of language in the audience’s mind, it creates a clear relationship that spans the brand, product, service and experience. We also know that the right words enter the brain quicker and stay there longer.

So, how do we figure out what those right words are?

Understanding your audience’s psychology is like being able to see a lock in their brain. And seeing the shape of this lock is crucial if we want to cut the right key.

To make sure that we can do this consistently and accurately we turned to decades worth of findings from the behavioural, psychological and marketing sciences to develop a process that enables the decoding of audience drivers.  

By identifying the elements that will be most effective in influencing a specific audience, we are able to turn complex intelligence into actionable insights.

Our analysis is framed within 24 parameters that fall into four areas. There are the cognitive factors that drive people’s behaviour – to identify which psychological principles we should apply. There is the language that they will be most influenced by – to identify whether we should use, for example, metaphors or direct language. Then there are external factors that colour the way that they receive and process information – to allow for social and cultural codes in the way that we express and deliver the message. And finally we consider how they want messages delivered – to identify where, when and from whom they will be most open to it.

This operating system, which we call RAID (Rapid Audience Insight Diagnostics), acts like an insights centrifuge, identifying and correlating insights across its parameters to help us ascertain the shape and size of the lock.

Then, all that’s left is to make the key that fits this lock. The right messaging, expressed consistently in the right words, delivered consistently at the right touch points and talk points.

We believe that the future of communications, whatever the technology, will be to associate each brand with clear and compelling language: the strongest brands will be defined by their ownership and consistent deployment of words. The right words that stand out in an increasingly cluttered world and stand for what the brand and its audiences share.

This means precise selection of the language that each brand will use, so that copywriters become verbal engineers, not just ‘creatives’. And it means disciplined application of it across all media and touchpoints in the brand’s owned and earned channels. What might feel like repetition to you will be perceived as consistency by the audience, as they move from situation to situation, screen to screen. A retailer will also be a consumer and will expect to see the brand use the same language wherever she meets it.

As Sebastyne Young said: “A picture can tell a thousand words, but a few words can change its story.”

However, those few words need to be the right words. Words that are the beautiful bouncing offspring of science and creativity. Words that carry the DNA of both to influence the head, and the heart. Words that will take your brand forwards into the future.