Three quarters of marketers for smaller and medium-sized companies believe the culture of measurement is killing creativity.

Almost three quarters (74 per cent) of marketers in small and medium sized companies feel that a culture of measurement is killing creativity, according to a new study by digital agency Dotted ( The survey of in-house marketing decision-makers explored the challenges around balancing data with more creative-led approaches to campaign planning.

The study also revealed how demands from the executive team often complicated the task. Nearly six in 10 (59 per cent) respondents from SMEs said senior management won’t support pure brand-building, and over half of this subgroup said they are directed to focus only on measurable activity.

Despite these concerns around data bias in marketing strategy, the research showed that imaginative work is still very much part of the planning process. Over a third (34 per cent) of respondents in small businesses listed structured creative thinking as what drives early campaign preparation, ahead of previous campaign (24 per cent), or conversion data (28 per cent), analysis.

Marketers were also asked about their first action on receiving a project brief. In this respect, the study revealed an equal split - approaching a third (30 per cent) said they asked their teams to start planning the creative, while the same percentage tell their staff to look at the demographics and data.

Commenting on the study, Rebecca Manville, Managing Director, Dotted said: “It’s alarming to see so many marketers in small businesses concerned with a lack of balance between measurement, data and creativity in their organisations. This underlines the importance of finding a repeatable method for insight and creativity to meet – in a way which works for the whole team and allows instincts to be explored.

“Finding the right process will help consistently negotiate this balance and correctly prioritise activity. It also improves efficiency because everybody will know where they stand, and previously difficult decisions – such as when analysis hands over to creative – are simplified.”

Julia Munder is International Marketing Manager for luxury leather online brand, Maxwell Scott ( Julia says: “Balancing creativity and data will always be a challenge, but we find that data helps keep our ideas in check. Although it’s important to resist the urge to jump to conclusions too quickly, data helps redirect and focus creative energy in the most productive way. Quality insight, coupled with great ideas and governed by good instincts seems to work best for us.

“I'm using ever greater levels of detail to analyse our campaigns. We need to know what works and why. Our CEO is easier to convince when you can argue your ideas with conversion data. Of course, there are brand building activities, like online PR, that you can't measure immediately. The effect of a good PR piece is often only visible long-term.”

It seems some SME marketers are trying to address the challenge by moulding teams capable of weighing up creative in light of data insights, as well as wider organisational objectives. Over a quarter of respondents in small companies (27 per cent) said they are seeking more staff with a general business understanding, and 28 per cent listed problem-solving ability as a priority. Over a quarter (26 per cent) said they look for management degrees when hiring for junior positions.