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Is Marketing an Art or a Science?

Do you find yourself crafting beautiful stories one moment and crunching numbers the next? You must be a marketer! No wonder people are left puzzling –  is marketing an art or a science?

Marketing professionals leverage data analytics to get insights about consumer behavior. Then they must find creative ways to strike the right chord with their audience. So they must get both the science and the art right. 

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The editorial team of Martech Advisor recently invited me to share my thoughts about whether marketing is an art or a science. The sense of deja vu made me smile, because I had practiced speaking on the same topic when I completed my MBA and was preparing for interviews. That was many, many years ago, so what does this question mean in 2020?

The artistic or creative aspect of marketing is often on display – in ads, short films, social media posts, and events. The witty copy,  startling punchlines, and stunning imagery that make brands memorable to the audience. It’s natural for marketing to be considered an artistic or creative pursuit based on these impressions. 

But behind the scenes, marketers focus on data – consumer behavior data, market intelligence, research reports, and sales numbers.  This data-driven and scientific approach to marketing may not always be visible to external viewers, but is a very important aspect of the profession today. 

This is exactly what makes marketing so challenging as well as exciting –  marketers are literally juggling the scientific and the artistic!

Ad films that tell a story that remains with viewers for a long time are created based on insights gleaned from hard data and analytics, told in a way that connects emotionally with the audience.

Let’s say we are creating a marketing campaign.

We will start with a plan, that includes objectives of the campaign, timelines, budgets for campaign production, media planning – all related to numbers, or the science aspect of marketing.
Once the plan is in place we will creatively visualize the campaign – the imagery and the messaging. How will the campaign stand out from the clutter? Achieving that is definitely an art.
As the campaign moves forward we will monitor performance and ROI, so we are back in the mathematics and science of it.
So you can imagine that a typical day in the life of a marketing professional involves both science and art.

Marketers need to know the art of storytelling and must be able to connect the dreams and aspirations of the target audience with the brand promise. Buyers don’t make completely rational purchase decisions based on product specifications and features. They buy the story that the brand tells.

But the data and science aspects of marketing are also extremely important, and technology is playing a larger role in marketing with each passing day. Marketers must read, interpret and analyze macroeconomic, market research and consumer behavior data in order to compete today. Technology is changing the marketing landscape very rapidly and marketers must keep pace. Digital marketing, AI, AR, and mobile communications all have important applications in marketing.

In an interview with AdAge, Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes was asked, “what have you learned that will surprise other CMOs?” She replied, “One of the most important things is the blend of creativity and data. People ask me, does data kill creativity? The answer is an absolute no, because I’ve never met a creative that doesn’t want to know how their work is being perceived. And I’ve never met an analyst that doesn’t want to see the creative work harder. That’s one of the things that I always encourage my peers to think about: don’t go off and do these two things completely in silos.

Today it’s more important than ever before for marketers to be equally proficient – not only in the art and science of marketing but also its business context.

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