How Science Supercharges Creativity

Being artistic is no longer the single key to creativity. Now, backed by data, businesses are taking tips from computer science, psychology, and math to enhance their creative ideas.

When a creative idea takes root, it’s a highly empowering (Eureka!) experience.

And if you’re in an industry that’s known for being powered by creative ideas—advertising, marketing and media for instance—it can be the life and death of your success.

But in today’s content-driven industries, being creative on its own isn’t a sufficient skill anymore. Creative teams have always had to be artistic. They’ve had to rely on their instincts and think about what types of words, colors or imagery illicit certain types of responses. But now, with increasingly digital, measurable media forms, creative departments are turning to scientific theories and disciplines to elevate their material.



It may seem like a stretch of skills at first, but actually it’s a natural extension. Think about what happens in nature: often the most creative patterns (the spirals of seashells or spots on a leopard) have elements of beauty and creativity, but are actually based upon trends and logical patterns. When we see a fresh piece of advertising, we tend to think it was generated by one solitary burst of brilliance; or a think tank building one idea on top of the other like laying brick. But more and more often, we’re seeing quantitative disciplines incorporated throughout the entire creative development process.

So if you’re a creative type in your company, and you’ve been tasked to warm up to these disciplines, do not fear. We grew up with science teachers telling us that "science was all around us." Science is going to take your creativity to the next level. Here’s how:

Before: Target the right people (Computer Science)

Much of the beauty of art is that it speaks to people in very different ways. Looking at art is a very personal experience. So is interacting with digital content, but in this case, a favorable impression can make your company a great deal of money. First and foremost it’s extremely important to make sure your creative is addressing all the individuals in your target audience.

That’s easier said than done. Most marketers think there are a few hundred different types of buyers out there. It’s closer to a few hundred thousand. Some of the new and complex algorithmic targeting engines can provide transparent insight into the profiles of individuals that should be targeted in your campaign. This insight will guide creative developers to hit the right person—with the right message.

During: Ask the right questions (Psychology)

In order to target the correct audience, creative developers also must put on the hat of a mind reader—but better yet, make statistically sound predictions. One secret to targeting the right people is eliciting an initial response to make sure you’re on the track, taking the feedback and adjusting creative if necessary. When issuing creative content, consider engaging with the audience by asking for feedback through a poll or survey. The job also involves considering external forces and the current mindset of your audience—what’s important to them in the moment. A good example is matching a campaign for winter boots with a local weather forecast, in order to pose an actionable scenario to your viewer.

With the creative developed and running, the quantitative skills become even more important. Having several messages running in the campaign requires that the algorithms optimize each creative independently to match the most relevant presentation to each person.

After: Clearly measure impact (Mathematics)

As mentioned before, reactions to creative content are highly personalized. This has historically made a particular piece of content’s impact difficult to truly measure and manage.

This is one area where digital media has completely changed the nature of creative engagement. We now have access to a number of key factors (click-throughs, length of view, conversion to a particular place) that provide us with an idea of the creative’s effectiveness. However, these measurement skills are not always shared with the siloed groups that dreamed up the campaign. Another key to success is that all involved with the development can look at the numbers, analyze the results and use them in the next generation of creatives. Remember that after one campaign is before another.

Perhaps the best explanation of creativity comes from one of the more prominent innovators of the 21st Century, Steve Jobs. He described it by stating, "creativity is just connecting things." Everyone is creative in their own personal way, but it involves a combination of stimuli and response. As a result, those that develop media content should not think of creativity and science in separate terms. Nor should people be afraid to learn new scientific skills which can work to their advantage. With a new set of logical processes before, during and after the content is generated, look for your creative campaigns to go to an entirely new stratosphere of success.

Eric Bosco is the Chief Executive Officer at ChoiceStream, a provider of personalized advertising solutions for today’s leading brands. Follow him on Twitter at @ericbosco.

[Image: Flickr user Paul Tomlin]

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