Creatives are from Mars, Marketers are from Venus
Creative professionals play an increasingly important role in the business world, bringing brands to life and shaping experiences. Many companies are assembling more in-house talent as the need for creative work grows, and business leaders rely on creatives’ unique perspectives and skillsets to drive business results.
While creatives bring undeniable value today to a company’s reach and impact—especially given how ubiquitous company brands and associated campaigns are—a critical component to enabling success is overcoming differences between how creatives and marketers traditionally work.
For many brands, there’s a commitment to getting creatives and marketing professionals to work more in lockstep to unleash a powerful competitive advantage. When creative pros learn to speak the language of business goals, they can channel their creativity into stronger results. And when marketers learn to trust the creative process, they’ll start to see fresh ideas and create higher-impact work.
This topic has come up a lot at Dropbox and, as Head of Brand Studio, Collin Whitehead is steeped in the practical details of making it happen.
“My role at Dropbox is to bridge the creative world and the business world through process design,” Whitehead says. “I want to keep creative teams in craft while helping them drive business results, so I need to speak both languages fluently.”
To improve alignment between creative and marketing, Dropbox has taken deliberate steps to establish a common language and shared goals. Here are a few ways that Whitehead has worked to change the culture and processes of creative and marketing at Dropbox.
Conversations with business stakeholders
Creatives need to be part of the business conversation to truly contribute to business success. Whitehead sought out to achieve this with a series of meetings between Dropbox’s creative team and the strategic finance team. Previously, these teams rarely interacted.
The idea was to give the creative team a baseline understanding of how Dropbox generates revenue and the fundamental value it delivers to customers—and conversely, to help business stakeholders understand the value of the creative process. These meetings set the stage for tangible changes in the way the creative team works and thinks.
“We became a lot more transparent, with creative teams showing the math of how we arrive at solutions and removing a lot of the subjectivity and mystique of a creative presentation,” explains Whitehead. “In the past, we may have recommended options based on personal taste. Now we’re explaining the discovery process and showing the research that drove our thinking to support business outcomes.”
Structured creative reviews
Just as creatives are learning the language of business at Dropbox, marketers and other business stakeholders must learn the language of design to articulate their needs and critique the work effectively. With that in mind, Whitehead and his team are gradually transforming their creative reviews, encouraging business teams to use a more structured and constructive approach as they react to the work.
“Rather than opening the floodgates to feedback, we ask for three elements that resonate and one that needs clarification—a technique we borrowed from Brian Collins, head of the agency COLLINS,” Whitehead says. “We get a better signal that way, which is especially helpful for less experienced creatives. Clear, constructive feedback helps us do better work.”
Accountability built into the creative process
Creatives at Dropbox are also adding a few crucial steps to their process with scorecards and retrospectives. Scorecards help guide the creative process by posing a set of questions used to evaluate the work and its effectiveness in driving brand awareness and sales. It’s a mental check to keep the team moving in the right direction.
Once a project is complete, the team gathers for a retrospective, closing the feedback loop so they can learn and improve. They examine results, reflect on road bumps, and celebrate successes. As a result, creatives have started to challenge their own subjective views on success and focus on business impact. The shift in mindset is already making a big difference in how the team operates.
“In a retrospective after a recent campaign, we looked at the real-time analytics and realized we missed something significant in the narrative,” explains Whitehead. “We wanted to see the campaign succeed, so we honed the messaging and immediately saw an uptick in performance, early enough to make sure the campaign met the business goals.”
Channeling the creative impulse
Dropbox’s efforts started paying off early on. When the company went public in March of 2018, the creative team played an integral role in the preparations—working alongside business leaders to shape creative direction for the road show.
“It was fascinating to see illustrators, graphic designers, and motion designers sitting at the same table with the finance team, tackling important business problems,” Whitehead says. “Being so embedded in the process put the creative team in a great position to act as expert advisors, and they delivered with a suggestion to create an animated graphic showing the potentially exponential growth of accounts. That graphic was just a small example of how we were able to use design thinking to better demonstrate the momentum of the businesses.”
When companies can bridge the gap between creative and business teams, as Dropbox is doing, there is tremendous opportunity to produce exceptional work with exceptional results. After all, designers and other creatives are problem solvers, trained to stay focused on customers and pointed toward specific outcomes. By bringing creative teams into business conversations, companies can channel those strengths and tap into another invaluable asset that creative professionals offer: creative impulse.
“As a creative lead, I try to help my team find a balance between meeting business objectives and exploring wild new ideas,” says Whitehead. “We need to set clear expectations for projects that demand more measured tactics, but we also need to carve out spaces for creatives to fully express themselves and come up with design breakthroughs.”
Dropbox uses Adobe Creative Cloud to improve collaboration between creative and business teams. Learn more here.