In an era where everything must be quantified, and executives are obsessed with data, it’s easy for marketing professionals to forget their primary job is storytelling. In a crowded marketplace, what distinguishes successful brands is an ability to construct and tell an engaging narrative in which consumers want to be an active part. Few people understand the art of storytelling better than Andrew Gordon, who led Pixar’s animation team for more than 20 years and animated such poignant classics as “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters Inc.,” “The Incredibles” and “Toy Story 3.”

In a recent interview with Expert Insight, Gordon discussed his views about what kind of ecosystem breeds imagination. An innovative company, he says, is one with a creative culture. His speaking and interactive workshops reveal how businesses can ensure they don’t lose their emotional awareness amidst the marketing spreadsheets and statistics.

In the interview, given after Gordon delivered the closing keynote at the 2018 Intelligent Content Conference, the animator argued the primary obstacle to successful storytelling in business is that corporate cultures typically value hierarchy. This results in creativity being stifled. “If you’re building a culture of creativity, people need to speak freely,” says Gordon. “Most businesses undervalue feedback, candor, failure and iteration.” To develop impactful strategies, marketing professionals must operate in the kind of freewheeling environment that suits writers and artists, not the stuffy corporate boardroom.

A company that embraces empathy and creativity as marketing strategies will win the battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers. Gordon, who is currently co-directing a film for Illumination Entertainment, helps corporate leaders discover a brand’s underlying story and break through the noise to reach their intended audiences.