Marketing Art and Science, ‘til Death Do they Part

We’re all familiar with the Matrix, Terminator, or 2001: A Space Odyssey, but the history of man vs. machine is ultimately a story of technical innovation with profound implications on the way we live. Never before have we relied on machines like we do today, but this sometimes leads to irrational fears that the science of marketing will eliminate the important role of the art, strategy, and creative elegance of marketing.  

Recent advances in technology allow machines to compute just about anything, leading some to believe that ‘heavy lifting’ should be left to computers as they are a guarantee of better speed, accuracy, and cost. Within businesses that are repetitive and predictable, such as supply-chain and manufacturing, machines have a clear-cut advantage. But what about marketing – an industry that requires an understanding human nature – which by nature is unpredictable? 

In that case, some will tell you it is probably best to marry man with machine. But why? 

First, humans are better equipped to deal with ambiguity and consumers are inherently unpredictable. They can be impacted by events like the weather, the time of day, or the economy. Marketers are more likely to have expertise around what, and what not, to measure. For example, a marketer can use quantitative and qualitative feedback from diners at restaurants to understand whether or not kale is merely a fad or something that owners ought to put on the menu. Consumer preferences change rapidly, and machines alone may not be able to discern emerging trends quickly enough.

Second, any talented marketer looks at data as a complement to their ability to deliver creative new ideas that connect with consumers. To build a brand, and to position a highly differentiated product, a marketer also needs to rely on her intuition to decipher consumer attitudes and preferences, which cannot be described in numbers. For example, the iPhone and more recently, Nest, are as much a creation of artistry, as an advancement of technology. The brilliance is in empowering man and machine to put all the parts together.

Lastly, technology is often used to spark creativity. By mining data to provide new insights, marketers often find new directions to explore. Thus technology can form the basis of an iterative cycle where asking the right questions about the data can lead to new insights and new ideas. The take-away? Embrace technology to bring data and science together with art and strategy in order to reach the hearts and minds of the consumer. 

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