Where the math meets the mad
By S Swaminathan
Over the last several decades, marketing has been sharply oriented to right brain thinking. It has focussed on building one big creative idea. A compelling storyline that shines across different mediums: television, radio, print, or more recently online, while getting the product, pricing and distribution right. The marketing of yesteryears celebrated the ‘art’ form a lot more and created powerful brands. But is what worked in the past, relevant for the future?
Today, marketing is getting more data-driven. There is data everywhere. Digital data from the web in the form of user behaviour – what consumers browse, click, share etc; transactional data coming from what consumers have bought or tracking purchase path or journeys across marketing channels; data from social — comments, shares etc; data from mobile apps; data streams from video views; real time data from customer feedback/experience; data from customer service etc. This enormous trail of data left behind by customers is what marketing must contend with. It is unlike anything seen over the last hundred years. Hence, marketing surely needs to get more analytics-driven and tech-friendly to understand consumers and engage with them to build powerful brands.
Therefore, marketing in the future is expected to be more left-brained and analytically-driven. It is widely believed it will be more science than art. But can science and automation alone move consumers and increase brand preference?
At last count, there were over 5000 mar-tech (marketing technology) products available to help marketers embrace this change – transforming marketing from an art to science – be it AI-based solutions, analytics platforms, marketing automation suites, web-centric digital experience platforms, content marketing platforms, data management platforms, media optimization tools, sales automation or CRM tools etc. And yes, more of these will become available in the future. How effectively are marketers and mar-tech/ad-tech firms, putting this science of software or platforms to work for brands and more importantly consumers to experience this difference? There is a long way to go.
The need of the hour is the science and art of marketing coming together to make these investments count. This is the biggest missing gap today. Currently, in addition to multi-million-dollar media budgets, there are also multi-million-dollar budgets allocated for marketing technology. CXOs are looking for value beyond just ROI, as these are multi-year investments made to enhance customer experience and insight. They are now looking for experience efficiencies. The science of software, platforms and data needs to embrace the imagination and innovation marketing desperately needs or seeks. This is where the science of marketing needs to start embracing the art of marketing.
This is a break from the ‘customise, develop, deploy and maintain’ mindset that tech is most often used to. It requires a design and customer journey thinking that must be leveraged to make these mar-tech platforms work. The tech- developers need to behave like the mad-men from advertising of the yesteryears. They need to infuse creative ideas in technical thinking, add imagination and inspiration rather than seeking templates or accurate requirements. The need to appreciate and understand customer behaviour deeply, infuse intuitive UX design, embrace hypothesis testing and agile change management is critical. Consumers are demanding this change in the market place. Companies need to start thinking or looking at all of this from a consumers’ lens and make the software/platforms adapt quickly.
Marketing has perfected the fine art of storytelling over many years and there is a lot to learn. Especially for data folk who embrace the new science of marketing. They need to imaginatively and creatively weave the story with data. It’s no more data for its own sake but for insights and inspiration, to understand consumers better. There is a need to simplify the complexity and do a better job of presenting these solutions. This is where data sciences must collaborate with art folks to build better stories.
The marketing of tomorrow will not just be about great brands but about building great brand experiences. Marketing will become more strategic than ever before, as it will start to touch many parts of the organization. Technology will leave its mark across functions as consumers touch or interact with different parts of an organisation. The marketers of tomorrow will have to practice not just serendipity but learn to manage ‘process with a soul’ to enhance customer experience. They need to learn the art of embedding ‘experience ideas’ in every customer interaction process, imaginatively. Marketers need to become experience orchestrators and start to work with together with the mad-men and math-men.
It is essential for mar-tech and data sciences to understand marketing is an ‘emotive science’. The fundamentals are here to stay: remain close to the customer, embrace their needs and enhance their value and experience. Marketing in the future requires not just ‘right brain’ or ‘left brain’ but ‘whole brain’ thinking!
Marketing is no more just an art or a science alone. To make an impact to the entire organization and to the consumer, marketing should lead the fusion of art and science. The science of marketing needs to work closely with art of marketing for consumers to see tangible value and differentiated experience.