There’s an old adage that marketers use, “I know half of my marketing budget doesn’t work, I just don’t know which half.” That was once true. Clients had to rely on agency account directors or creative directors to translate results. Not necessarily the case anymore.

In this age of analytics and big data, there are dozens of measurements to tell us what work works and what work doesn’t. But even as sophisticated as our ability to gather metrics has become, there is still no secret formula, no app or algorithm for generating ideas. Creating results for brands still comes down to creating experiences worthy of engagement.

We like to say it’s really not about Business to Consumer or Business to Business anymore. It’s about Business to Individual. And while our predictive and analytic tools get us into the head of the individual, creative thinking gets us into their heart. 

To create work that works, our ideas must not only be accountable to our metrics, but first of all, they must be motivating to our targets. Here are some of the ways we achieve it:

Be human.

No matter the target, we are speaking to people. Not a data set. They laugh, they like, they have feelings and they are moved by unique images and interesting words. They remember. And they share too. Sometimes they even become advocates. People like the work that really gets them. Whether our tone is serious or humorous, we have to connect emotionally to people for our work to work.

Make a point.

Funny, there is so much content generated daily that either doesn’t say anything or tries to say too much. Trying to catch attention in this overly excited marketplace is increasingly challenging. Make a point! Content may be king, but content without purpose is just clutter.

Simplify.

Even though you might be able to cram everything into the message, you shouldn’t. Keep it simple. The marketplace is too crowded to try to say everything at once. If you really think you have so much to say that you can’t boil it down to a singular idea, then chances are you don’t have a point (see above).

Think visually.

People stop for pictures. But only if they’re interesting. Work to find unique imagery that deserves a double take. A twist. An unexpected mashup. A way to tell the story that creates a reaction. Truly original imagery can be difficult to describe and execute, but in the end, it is the work that works hardest, because it’s what stays in the target’s mind.

Try it.

Permission to fail is also permission to be great. Sure, it’s intimidating. But if we never give ourselves permission to fail, we’ll never do anything original. The media landscape is changing constantly. So testing new ideas in new media is not just brave, it’s necessary.

With analytics constantly evaluating the performance of our campaigns, there is nowhere for bad ideas to hide. Every day, our imaginations and our instincts are exposed to the unsympathic scrutiny of measurement. So to anyone whose objective is to end with better results, my advice is this: start with better ideas.