July 15, 2015

Don't Mess With Creative

Sometimes, you're not the victim of merchandise productivity declines. Instead, the real problem is changes in creative strategy.

Back in the day, at Lands' End, we knew that creative could cause a +/- 30% change the productivity of an item. We knew that because we tested the strategy.

Most companies don't test creative. I'll take you back to my time at Eddie Bauer. We built a brand marketing department, from scratch. The brand marketing folks absorbed the creative team. Together, it was determined that our catalogs needed to "get younger". No, not from a merchandising standpoint, but from a creative standpoint. Out went the grizzled 40 year old male in jeans fly fishing ... in came shirtless twenty-five year old men carrying a canoe overhead.

Within hours of the change, sales dropped, by between 10% and 15%. And that's where they stayed. Sometimes we tumbled to -20%, other times -5%, but overall, it wasn't pretty.

Our catalog marketing team was responsible for prospect catalogs. We didn't change the creative of prospect catalogs ... the rules for those things were "best creative / best merchandise". Those catalogs stayed on plan.

You'd think we would have been rewarded for not sending the entire business down the toilet, but no. The creative folks were constantly badgering me ... "you are the problem, you acquire old customers and then old customers don't respond to our creative changes." I'd remind the creative team that 97% of our twelve-month buyer file came on prior to the creative changes ... so I was hardly the problem. Didn't matter.

I am always amazed by how few employees are actually motivated by sales, and by profit, especially given the fact that the small number of employees who are motivated by sales and profit seem to climb the corporate ladder much, much faster than everybody else. During that experience, back in the late 1990s, a large team of marketers / creatives cared about creative faith more than sales proof.

Maybe it's always been that way.

But as a marketer, you have the ability to put a stop to creative nonsense. Use the comp segment framework to measure the problem. Put a number to the problem. At Eddie Bauer, we could show that the creative changes were costing us $60,000,000 of demand and $15,000,000 profit. It's funny ... the Finance folks become alarmed when $15,000,000 of profit disappear in an effort to make creative imagery look appealing to younger customers.

Marketers have a disproportionate amount of impact on the business. When a marketer helps a company avoid a $15,000,000 cliff, people take notice.

Don't focus on omnichannel theory that helps generate page views and revenue for folks who do not work at your company.

Focus on helping your co-workers achieve their potential.