In a World of Digital Tools and Data Analysis, How Does Creativity Rank?

Michael Mendenhall, CMO & Chief Communications Officer, Flex [NASDAQ:FLEX]

Michael Mendenhall, CMO & Chief Communications Officer, Flex [NASDAQ:FLEX]

Impact on Time to Market

In the modern business environment, time to market is a critical success factor, more so than ever before. Much of this increasing velocity is credited to creativity and rapid innovation, but digital tools and data analysis have undeniably contributed to accelerating times to market. Data provides visibility. Data gives insight into behavior and trends and how we manage business in real-time. Cloud computing and mobility make everything real-time, and software algorithms are able to read insights that were previously unavailable.

“Creativity is the single most important attribute, company-wide, to ensuring survival and improving performance”

Impact on Narrative

Data and digital tools can also serve to facilitate creativity, but this does not diminish the need to communicate a brand’s narrative in a simple and engaging way. As marketers, you should not become over—reliant on digital tools to the point where you lose the discipline and commitment to building basic narratives that are adapted to your different audiences—each of your employees, customers and stakeholders. People need to know what your brand stands for and what your product is. Data and creativity go hand in hand—data provides insight, but don’t underestimate power of great story.

Which is more Important?

So which one is more important—Data or creativity? As I mentioned previously, the most successful marketers are those that leverage both to their benefit. But if you have to choose just one, make it creativity. If you can’t think creatively or have an imagination to see what is possible and to think through solutions, then you’ll be unable to innovate, and unable to compete. Creativity is the single most important attribute, company-wide, to ensuring survival and improving performance. Creativity is a precursor of innovation, and innovation is the main driver of the modern economy, and the defining characteristic of the companies that will lead the next wave of economic growth.

More Art than Science

Creativity is more art than science and, conversely, digital tools and data analysis are more science than art. Because of this, as markets and economies become more technology-driven, there may be a tendency to place an unbalanced emphasis on the science (digital tools, data analysis) at the expense of the art (creativity, innovation, storytelling). This may be even more pronounced in B2B industries.

The B2B Fallacy

Having worked in both B2B and B2C environments, I’ve noticed that in B2B industries, there was always something missing from the narrative, and in how marketers created content. I think what is missing is the understanding that - everyone is a consumer. You shouldn’t necessarily treat someone differently because they are buying something for a business, versus buying something for themselves as a consumer. Yet, all B2B marketing starts to sound the same. B2B marketers seem to have lost the sense that EQ is just as important as IQ—it is critical to cultivate an emotional connection with the people that are your customers. B2B marketers tend to value contents like research papers and whitepapers—even when no one reads them! So, essentially all of the resources applied to content production may have been wasted.

Reinventing the B2B Narrative

In my current role at Flex, I felt that we needed to reinvent B2B marketing and content creation. So one thing we did was, we assembled our own full-fledged production and editorial team, and started our own magazine, called Intelligence magazine. We eliminated all the white papers and research papers, and fully committed to providing information in an approachable format. Regardless of your background or familiarity with our industry or technology, you will find our articles incredibly insightful. Our magazine is informative and educational, and provides avenues for deeper exploration of any featured topic. We create unique content for various channels such as social media, online and print. In addition to a print edition, we have a digital version that you can find on Ultimately, we’ve provided not only a very useful tool for the industry, but also a valuable piece of intellectual property for Flex. We’ve also created additional dynamic content through an online video series we recently launched called Connected Conversations. This program takes the magazine topics to a different level through insightful interviews with CEOs of companies who are changing the course of humankind with technology.

We do print, digital and a web show—and in doing so, we’re building our intellectual property and brand. It’s a new way to redefine the thinking around creative storytelling and B2B marketing.

Being a Creative CMO

The most important skills that you need to know as a CMO are how to manage and lead a team, how to tell a company’s story in multiple formats and channels, and how to deploy your company’s resources to effectively produce your company’s content. You have to fundamentally understand the development and process to produce great content. But you also need to have the analytical ability to understand what the data is telling you—the insight you derive from your data ultimately drives customer service and support, product lifecycles, and overall management of your business. 

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