The future of marketing is creative
How creativity can give purpose to intelligence — and transform your business into an experience powerhouse.
In 2009, the average person consumed nearly 34GB of information daily according to researchers at the University of California-San Diego. Since then, we’ve added content and channels in exponential fashion. Twitter feeds, TikTok videos, Instagram stories, WhatsApp messages, Slack channels — all continually refreshing, all begging for our attention. In a world where terabytes have replaced gigabytes, 34GB sounds like a digital detox.
As it makes us smarter, all this information can make us slower. As insights sharpen, we can often be paralyzed by an infinite set of customer data. For modern marketers, every conversation about artificial intelligence and machine learning includes the realization that we’re drowning in data — just look at this mind-blowing infographic by marketing technology blogger Scott Brinker.
Experts have even come up with names for the condition — infobesity, infoxication, information anxiety disorder. All that said, there’s hope. And it comes from a trusted — if forgotten — source: Humans and their endless capacity for creative problem solving.
An Internet Minute
In 2019, a single minute on the internet included the following:
694,444 hours of content streamed on Netflix
2.1 million Snaps
created on Snapchat
1 million Twitch viewers online
188 million emails sent
Like most marketers, Nnamdi Nwoke doesn’t have to check his phone to know what awaits. As senior director of U.S. growth marketing and new business at SAP Concur, he knows there will be emails, status reports, analytics dashboards, social media tallies, sales figures, industry newsletters, and probably a few animated GIFs.
Nnamdi — a creative thinker who grew up drawing comic books and started his career as a designer — manages the overload as well as anyone. He’s developed a system to prioritize, digest, and respond — but still spends two or three hours each day working to understand the waves of data that crash on his desk. There’s just so much information.
“I ask everyone on my team to be creative in solving the problems suggested by data.”
Senior director of U.S. growth marketing and new business, SAP Concur
Like most of us, Nnamdi worries about the impact of so much information. He turns off his emails and blocks his calendar to help guard his time and to focus on the relationship between data and his KPIs. Beyond that, he stresses the value of creativity. “I ask everyone on my team to be creative in solving the problems suggested by data,” he explains. “Before every meeting, I want to know that my team has connected with other departments and gone past their own skills and opinions.”
People are attached to all sorts of devices. More than 60% of U.S. consumers say that not having a smart phone would be a major disruption to their lifestyle.
While the robots and the algorithms amass quantities of information that would blow the minds of data analysts from two generations ago, it’s human creativity that will save the day. Creativity gives purpose to intelligence. It absorbs data and then uncovers insights. Creativity powers transformation. And transformation yields impactful and sustainable experiences for your customers.
It’s time to reconsider. It’s time to find the common ground between the overwhelming data of the digital age and the wide-eyed imagination of creators, makers, and dreamers.
Information, Intelligence, and Ingenuity
In March 2019, two unlikely speakers addressed a room of tech-savvy innovators — agents Nyssa Straatveit and Jacob Eastham of the Central Intelligence Agency. Surprisingly, their topic was not intelligence, but creativity. Following recent assessments that the agency was suffering from a failure of imagination, the intelligence community has implemented creativity-focused training methods. In some exercises, teams embrace the inner wolf — wandering literally and figuratively in the dark and the unknown — and in others, they ask WoMBAT (or, What Might Be All The...?) questions before developing strategies and plans.
The takeaway from the CIA’s shift is simple: Information alone is not intelligence. Without the creativity to make data actionable, information has negligible impact. The world’s most complicated spreadsheet, deepest database, or most stunning data visualization is not going to change your business. And it certainly won’t deliver the rich experiences your customers crave.
While machine learning and AI can automate repetitive and mundane tasks, the insights you need come from the full spectrum of intelligence and a seamless integration with creativity. .
Historically, artists like DaVinci studied mathematics, human anatomy, and physics. Composers like Mozart and Beethoven absorbed inspiration and then created work that extended far beyond the sphere of its origin.
The Moonlight Sonata is not just a piano piece — it’s a mathematical expression, a natural exploration, a physical and emotional stimulus. True creativity inhales information and thrives on insight, then pushes us in directions we never imagined possible.
Your ability to leverage AI while employing soft skills (empathy, teamwork, problem solving) is key to moving beyond information and developing an intelligence practice built on creativity. Forward-thinking organizations might even consider the rise of the Chief Intelligence Officer — and a shift in CIO responsibilities.
The Sweet Spot
Becoming a true experience business requires finding the sweet spot where data unleashes human creativity like never before. It’s more than cohabitation or even collaboration. When you see intelligence as the fuel for creativity — and creativity as the power behind transformation — then you’ll start to discover the opportunity to connect with your audiences through unique, impactful, and meaningful customer experiences.
“Leaders have to encourage and elevate creative thinking. It’s not enough to have a culture that tolerates creativity. Every meeting is an opportunity to reject the status quo — and we have to endorse creative problem solving and require it from our teams.”
Sarah Kennedy Ellis
VP of Global Marketing, Adobe
Netflix knows what we watch, when we watch it, and how many times we scrolled through the entire catalog without watching anything — gathering more viewing and interaction data than any content producer in history. Over the last decade, while being coy about the exact data they’ve gathered, Netflix has made no secret of the fact that it employs intelligence (artificial, emotional, and analytical fused together) to determine how it will approach future programming decisions. The assumption has always been that Netflix was developing content in a data-driven lab, with analytically engineered shows and movies. That’s not the case. Not exactly, anyway.
Instead, Netflix uses intelligence to feed the creative process — greenlighting shows to meet the unique tastes of niche audiences. It’s a liberating model, one in which auteur-level filmmakers are empowered to take creative risks because Netflix knows that it can pinpoint the corresponding audience. In this sense, Netflix operates at the very convergence of creativity and intelligence, serving as a matchmaker between writers, directors, actors, artists, comics, and other creatives — and the audiences looking for their new favorite binge-watch.
It’s the creative work — otherworldly sci-fi, Oscar-nominated drama, heart-thumping rom-com — that gives purpose to the mountain of data delivered by every scroll and click on the Netflix platform. It’s a perfect and nearly infinite cycle of intelligence and creativity.
Embrace the Shift (EQ + AI)
When we talk about creativity as an integral part of becoming an experience business, it’s important to remember that we’re not talking about a singular customer experience but shifts, evolutions, and transformations in every part of your business.
This isn’t a marketing initiative. It’s an everything initiative.
So, while AI and machine learning handle automation at a speed and scale impossible for humans, emotional intelligence (EQ) gives context and nuance where computers fail. EQ covers a broad and sometimes difficult-to-define set of skills: empathy, understanding, observation, listening, intuition, teamwork, and — above all else — creative problem solving. There’s nothing more important to creating an experience business than closing the gap between hard and soft intelligence.
Top Skills For Success in 2025
Nowhere is the necessity of blending EQ and AI clearer than at the National Center for Exploited and Missing Children. At NCMEC, creative problem-solving is essential to reuniting children with families. It’s an environment where time is a crucial, limited resource. More than two million images and videos move through the NCMEC asset management system each month — a number that demands automated solutions along with creative firepower. As terabytes of vital information travel between a diverse range of partners, forensic artists use cutting-edge Adobe Photoshop tools and filters to provide age-enhanced profiles of missing children.
It’s a comprehensive approach that marries information management, emotional intelligence and creativity. “It’s been transformative,” said Gavin Portnoy, Vice President of Strategic Advancement & Partnerships. “By taking advantage of every digital channel available, we can communicate messages about missing and exploited children on a much wider scale.”
As a result of the shift to embrace AI, EQ, and creativity — and the implementation of new tools and platforms — NCMEC reduced website bounce rates by 75 percent, doubled traffic to donation pages, developed new prevention programs, and most importantly, furthered their mission to reunite children with families.
Be The Change
To give purpose to intelligence through creativity, to leverage EQ and AI equally, and to transform your businesses into an experience powerhouse — things will have to change. And change comes with challenges. Especially at scale and at speed. But it’s possible — if you can maintain your focus, align your teams, and utilize the right tools. This may be more than a marketing challenge, but marketing can lead the way. Here are five steps to guide you:
Use data to unlock customer insights.
Five years ago, 24 Hour Fitness found itself caught in the middle of a renewed health and wellness revolution. New data-rich and home-friendly competitors like Peloton had joined the fray while economy-level gyms like Planet Fitness were offering memberships for $20/month. Instead of jumping into a land war on both fronts, 24 Hour Fitness brought the fight back to their own turf — redefining the fitness experience for its 4 million members.
Utilizing a holistic strategy across email, kiosks, apps, geo-targeted social, tv, and more, 24 Hour Fitness was able to develop deeper and more personalized profiles for each of their users. They matched location data with fitness interests to suggest workouts and classes while the 24GO application banked thousands of hours of unique fitness content to meet the on-demand needs and whims of members any time and any place. A 360-degree understanding — and anticipation — of each 24 Hour Fitness member’s journey has helped connect more than half their base to the 24GO app, with a projected conversion of 85% in the next year.
With younger audiences, especially Millennials and Gen Z, who spend so much of their lives online, it’s easier and easier to pinpoint the channels that matter and the influences that drive purchase. Break down your perceptions. Gather data from every available source. Talk to customers. Learn what they love and don’t be afraid to feel their pain. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of empathy in modern marketing strategies. Once you understand what they want, meet them whenever and wherever they are with content and experiences to enhance their journey.
Only 31% of marketers strongly agree that they are effective at marketing to Millennial and Gen Z customers.
Three Things Customers Value Most In a Brand
CREATEBreed loyalty with meaningful, relevant, and shareable content.
Fan engagement across professional sports has undergone a revolution in the last 15 years. Armed with more choices, more channels, more access, and more data than ever before, fans can now follow their favorite players around the clock and around the world. For the PGA, this shift means that every fan interaction is an endlessly customizable journey — especially in the digital world. Instead of being locked into a single stream of content, the PGA can build personalized highlight packages around fan favorites — players, courses, events, and even specific courses.
“Constraint breeds creativity.”
Sarah Kennedy Ellis
VP of Global Marketing, Adobe
Top Three Emerging Technologies
2. Marketing Content
While this is wonderful for fans, it creates a monumental challenge for the content creators (and distributors) at the PGA. But careful audience segmentation — along with an efficient and creative workflow — means that the PGA can find the sweet spot between automation and personalization. The result: A feed of highlight videos tailored directly to the individual interests and preferences of golf fans around the world. Fans never miss their favorites and the PGA leverages intelligence to creatively deepen the connection between professionals and their followers.
According to a recent Brand Intimacy survey, emotional connection to brands varies widely from generation to generation.
Top 5 brands for each generation
Forge deep connections on- and off-line.
To engage customers at every point of their journey, Home Depot unified all their customer data into a single customer profile. Ranjeet Bhosale, director of online analytics and business intelligence, explains, “Instead of separating metrics from online and offline channels, we focus our attention on capturing everything including website activity, in-store sales, call center volume, return volume, order cancelations, and much more, thus enabling us to make the best decisions to improve the shopper experience across all touchpoints.”
77% of consumers prefer to make purchases in-store.
Customers are able to merge digital, physical, and even virtual experiences. They can utilize visual, voice, and predictive search to find products online, then determine in-store availability, complete their purchase, and pick up in-store. Most importantly, Home Depot engages customers in the same way that they see the shopping experience — erasing the line between ecommerce and in-store experience. It’s a trend that only looks to continue; nearly 50% of ecommerce orders are picked up at a Home Depot store.
Make conversion as easy and intuitive as possible.
90% of Boomers use email daily vs. 61% of Gen Z.
84% of Gen Z watch online video daily.
The American Red Cross relies heavily on volunteers to fulfill its multi-faceted mission. That dependence is part of the brilliance of the organization, but can also prove challenging in maintaining steady levels of assistance across its many initiatives. Looking to boost donor conversion rates and improve volunteer efficiency, the ARC unified its digital ecosystem in order to have a clearer view of needs, obstacles, and conversion rates in every aspect of its mission — whether donations to specific relief efforts or appointments to donate blood during a shortage.
“If we need additional volunteers in Florida, we can adjust the content or experience in that state with a specific call-to-action for volunteers,” says Josh Kittner, digital experience architect. “Or, after consulting our analytics, we may send an email to a specific audience requesting financial support. We can quickly put together an email with imagery and text that helps our donors understand the needs of those who’ve had their lives affected by disaster.”
Which Social Channels Your Target Generation Is Using
Never stop improving the customer experience.
For more than a decade, Disney has invested in big data applications, resulting in a series of innovations that shape customer experience across the entire Disney landscape. The most progressive is a dramatic evolution of the often-tedious effort to gather audience feedback on films still in production. Where teams would have gathered individual survey responses, they now rely on Affective AI to analyze human emotion gathered through audience-facing cameras during preview screenings. With more than 5,000 data points per person, computers can analyze the information in ways that would be impossible for humans. Armed with that intelligence, Disney’s artists and filmmakers can iterate and improve their work to guarantee a thrilling movie experience for audiences around the world.
The Future Of Marketing Tech
Predictive and augmented analytics
Experience The Future
We’re drowning in data and spreadsheets, paralyzed with infobesity, infoxicated. At times, it feels impossible to craft meaningful engagements with customers in a splintered media landscape. But now you can see a way forward.
Only 14% of marketers report advanced digital maturity
• data and content integration
• best practices
• strong technical skills
44% of U.S. marketers say content creation and delivery are aligned.
The truth is that a new pathway has already opened up — a shift that realigns and reunites creativity and intelligence. It’s an evolution, a revolution, and everything in between. It’s big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation — but it’s also none of those things. The truth is that creativity will shape the future of marketing. It won’t happen in a vacuum. It won’t be Don Draper and a Kodak carousel — nor will it be a room full of IBM computers.
It will be the full spectrum of intelligence feeding creativity. Creativity giving purpose to actionable insights, empowering organizational transformation and driving impactful, relevant experiences.
And you’ll be the one who makes it happen.