A paradigm shift is underway as there is an intense battle going on in the field of marketing between traditional marketers who rely on creative flair and instinct, and the ‘quants’ who are usually data scientists of some sort, with spreadsheets full of numbers showing a variety of metrics, graphs and results.
If the two types of marketers keep on arguing, the marketing function loses out, so it is pertinent that their issues with each other are taken into account and resolved permanently. More importantly, a way forward needs to be defined so they can work hand in hand. (And who knows, get married?)
There is no doubt that integration of analytics is essential for the successful resolution of any marketing problem. When 67% of the buyer’s journey takes place online, it becomes very easy for marketers to leverage precise data points and gain insights into the buyers’ thought processes. Traditional marketing such as billboards, ad campaigns on the TV, radio or newspapers, and other posters, flyers, and standees can never deliver such granular insights, despite the increased integration with technology.
I remember seeing billboards in Japan that tracked eyeballs using sophisticated gadgets, but such innovations will only increase the overall cost of the campaign, and then justifying the ROI becomes next to impossible. At best, traditional marketers can get data from small sample sizes within a specified target audience and extrapolate those learnings to represent the entire audience. Big Data beats that with the blink of an eye.
According to “The 2015 State of Marketing Report” by Dun & Bradstreet and Netprospex, a whopping USD 32 billion will be invested in marketing technology by 2018. This is a clear indication of the direction in which most CMOs and VPs of Marketing are taking their companies. However, there is a limit to using Big Data to fix marketing problems in your company.
Leaders of the marketing domain need to learn how to integrate data from analytics into their existing marketing functions. There is a real risk of ‘management by numbers’ as this approach is likely to lead to a limited set of activities — because you will end up focusing only on those things that work based on data. In the end, marketing will lose out on its ability to think outside the box — it is usually the only business function that does that!
Marketing instinct is easily dismissed by data scientists, but it has real value. The instinct is usually born out of intimate relationships with customers — an ability that data science cannot replace just yet. In an age where every agency promises to produce ‘viral’ content (because every brand desires it), data has very limited knowledge about what will work and what won’t. Again, this is an arena where creative flair comes into play and the best always find something that clicks with the audience.
Then it also depends on the scenario — perhaps little or no data is available when you launch a new product or service. In such cases, you must leverage on the ‘poets’ and their ability to use creative content to entice customers. But even in such scenarios it is important not to be outright about dismissing the limited data that is available — nor to altogether refuse to collect data.
Design thinking shines when it is illuminated by data.
There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to marketing, but the creative and the technical need to work hand in hand to develop an enriched view of a particular marketing problem before finding a strategy that will work. In the present day, marketing strategy is driven by both creative flair and data.
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