ROI and the Intersection of Exploration

When chemists at Oregon State University discovered a brilliant new blue pigment serendipitously, they were not thinking about creating art. But in a true art meets science moment, an applied visual arts major began using the blue pigments in her artwork as part of an internship in Subramanian’s laboratory. This was also her first foray into the world of chemistry. Human history is filled with examples of innovation that occurred at the juncture of art and science, whether it’s as profound as Leonardo da Vinci’s explorations of anatomy or as mundane as liquid nitrogen ice cream. The point is simple – creative inspiration, whether in product development, advertising, or any other activity, is a matter of rethinking how we look at a problem.

Driven by CEOs that want to see ROI and engagement for every cent spent versus the equally valuable but often nebulous idea of “brand impact,” campaign and branding initiatives can be particularly challenging for CMOs today. Seemingly competing world views clash in large part because we take a binary position – it’s an either/or mentality where art and science are somehow in conflict. But is that fair or is it a modern construct? Are art and science so divergent or have we slipped into a lazy pattern of thinking.

Brands that want to take advantage of the intersection of art and science can start by simply acknowledging the fact that creative and metrics are not mutually exclusive concepts. By blending these two components of the creative process (and yes, science is a creative enterprise) and giving them a common goal to work towards, we see focused innovation. We see new expressions of a common undercurrent.

Blending art and science is about collaborating in ideas generation: the inter-relationship is critical, you can’t have one thing without the other. A bunch of code or data is just a bunch of numbers without the art. A visual masterpiece that produces no action is inspired but not inspiring. Science enables us to be more creative, and creativity allows us to get the most out of our data. But consider “the multiplier effect”. If either the data or creative are bad, the idea will fail. Or worse yet, if they work alone, without the cross-pollination that happens when different ways of experiencing the world come together, then the result can be flat out detrimental. It’s not one or the other that we need, it’s both. It’s not science plus art equals results, it’s more science times art, so a zero for either means failure.

That is where the interesting ideas are – at the intersection of exploration. The future is all about ideas connecting. Those who can bridge art and science will be in demand, will be powerful. If our ideas are going to change hearts and minds, then we need to find expression that can move freely between the boundaries of art and science.

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Designing Research: Start With Understanding the Research Categories.

Research shouldn’t be haphazard.  There should be a plan and a design for conducting it, not a rough idea of how things should be done.  Every detail matters, and it begins with breaking the plan down by understanding what type of research needs to take place, when it needs to take place and how it will be used.  A design is used to structure the research, to show how all of the major parts of the research project — the samples or groups, measures, treatments or programs, and methods of assignment — work together to try to address the central research questions.

All good messaging begins with understanding what makes your customers tick on a rational and emotional level. We approach research with four phases in mind:

  • Study and Learn – This is due diligence work.  It can be used to prep before doing more involved, primary research or once a campaign, product, etc. has been launched.
  • Explore – This is where you find unmet needs, subtleties of behavior, patterns of consumption and all of that information that leads to breakthrough innovation and insights.  These are the most time intensive processes, but are the most powerful for understanding the right questions to ask and the right solutions to provide.
  • Create and Execute – this is the creative stage, where you have assumptions and hypotheses to work from.  These methods push to understand individual motivations and perceptions (not necessarily reality, but what people believe).
  • Test It – This is the nuts and bolts phase, when the creation phase has effectively come to a close and it’s time to make sure all the details are in place. This stage is crucial to a solid execution.  It also identifies any pieces of the puzzle that may have been overlooked.