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Best Marketing Strategy: Art/Tradition or Science/Technology?

Art vs Science

As marketing comes under increasing business pressure, and industry competition reaches new heights, the debate is becoming more fierce than ever before: should marketers focus on art or science?

Also debated as tradition versus technology, experts and neophytes alike from business to academia are arguing whether the future of marketing is art and tradition, or science and technology.

For those who see marketing as an art, they focus on insight-centered research, common sense, or even whims and gut instincts. These artists, these traditionalists, believe the key to winning business is to develop an emotional connection with the consumer.

As for the scientists, they are centered on a constant flow of real-time data and creating behavioral models. They believe that analytics and data are the only way to build business, that the only truth is in the numbers.

But neither is right or wrong, neither is past or future. The fact is, to prosper in business today and in the future, you need a synergistic combination of both art and science, tradition and technology. You need both insight and creativity, and data and metrics, the right brain and the left.

One reason why it’s increasingly essential to leverage both art and science, and profit from the synergies between them, is consumer fatigue. Petabytes of data are added to the web every minute, and consumers are virtually drowning in a sea of information. It will increasingly take every skill and efficiency for marketers to reach the customers.

A real life case study is STIHL, the world’s largest chain saw manufacturer. Through a recent company initiative to leverage both art and science, the company has found new business and markets, including one revenue opportunity worth an astonishing $200 million.

That’s because with an integrated marketing dashboard as its cornerstone, STIHL used the science of marketing analytics to discover which efforts yield the highest marketing ROI. The company then employs the art of traditional marketing to connect with its most promising target demographics.

Let’s explore these concepts further. The traditionalists, who sees marketing as an art, are increasingly undervalued because many falsely define them as advocates of old-school media channels such as TV, radio and print – or above the line marketing.

The marketing technologists, who favor science, are associated with newer channels such as digital, social and mobile – below the line marketing. Thus, marketing scientists are all the rage.

But the truth is that traditionalists are marketers focused on brand and storytelling, regardless of channels or platforms. They focus on the emotional aspects of consumer behavior, and believe if they can see into consumers’ needs and desires, they will win their business.

The scientists, in contrast, are focused on technology and data. They believe that the key is skillful use of data analytics and technology applications. Delivering the right message – at the right time, via the right channel – will fuel growth.

Here is why both are required – marketing is a social science, rather than physical science. Consumers often make decisions unconsciously, thus introducing uncertainty. Science alone cannot deal with these uncertainties. Humans are both right brain and left, and ergo selling to them requires both.

Take for example a video marketing campaign for STIHL. The science component might reveal most viewers will drop off after 5 seconds, or having positive reviews increases click throughs. But the art component in contrast, might reveal why the person is in the marketplace – for example dissatisfaction with a previous purchase – and that the quality perception of Made in the USA will boost response.

Perhaps the most important aspect of balancing marketing art and science is to get an integrated view that combines both. There are nearly 1,000 marketing technology applications available today, but most focus only on the art or science, not both. You need an integrated marketing dashboard to give you the big picture view – of both art and science – that will fuel big sales growth.

It takes a village, the saying goes. And indeed this is true in marketing: it takes a village of marketing experts from diverse backgrounds, to balance art and science, the right brain and left, to be the market leaders of tomorrow.

By Jeff Winsper

Jeff is the President of Black Ink and offers more than 20 years of leadership experience in marketing, serving companies ranging from Fortune 500 to start ups.

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