Forbes: The Formula For Balancing The Math And Magic Of Marketing

This article originally appeared in Forbes magazine.

The availability of analytic data has propelled marketing forward in many ways, helping to identify patterns and behaviors that can shape marketing messages as well as improve product development.

The only problem with focusing on analytics is that it is easy to mistake the algorithm for the person and not everything about human beings can be reduced to a number or predicted by a set of data points.

This is one of the top subjects at the ACM CHI 2016 conference in San Jose this year, one of the top conferences for Human-Computer Interaction. Human beings are not machines and often change their behaviors, attitudes, and actions.

However, as a new report from Bain & Company noted, today’s marketing person has become more of a mathematician with their work because of the pressure to report the return on investment for every campaign that’s conducted. Yet, the magician in them was what really makes the campaigns into something that emotionally connects with their target audience.

With both marketing approaches bringing something to the table, it seems like there can be a way to meld the contrasting mindset and skillsets to leverage the benefits of both.

Marketing As A Science

With the emergence of Big Data, marketing has morphed into a scientific study replete with heavy investments in software to justify everything they are doing to find, attract, and keep the right customers. What all this software can’t do is tell marketers what’s going on in people’s hearts and only some of what is going on in their minds. Human beings are moving targets and fickle creatures that continually change their minds to the point that software has to keep relearning their latest moods and behaviors.

With access to new types of information that marketers never had before, including what people are actually saying about the company on places like social media, this science has helped to gain a real-time perspective of what the customer and consumer is thinking right now. Sometimes, science makes it difficult to get the information as quickly as you would think because it is scattered across systems, apps, servers and databases. Also, not everything in marketing can be calculated or quantified.

Marketing As Art

Prior to technology hijacking marketing, it primarily succeeded because it was viewed as an art form. That’s because creativity was enacted to make the audience remember a product or brand and believe that it can fulfill a need, solve a problem, or satisfy a desire. Stories are created that make the audience laugh, pluck a heartstring, or imprint a memorable image in the minds of those seeing it.

There is no mathematical formula for that because it can definitely be a hit or miss proposition. When that emotional bond is formed, there really is no need for analytics to prove it. The audience makes it quite clear how they feel as the sales tally up. It’s when there isn’t much of a reaction that suddenly the conversation about return on investment pops up.

Marketing As Artful Science

With numerous calculations and canvases, companies are realizing that they can do both and turn marketing into an artful science. The Bain and Company report provided examples of companies that were already putting the two together. These companies are integrating Big Data into an omnichannel consumer perspective to structure campaigns.

However, they are still primarily building these campaigns around stories and emotional connections to work their magic. When they get too innovative and subjective with their campaigns, these companies are willing to put the science part on the back burner and go with their gut.

The research provided the example of Hilton, which has combined science with art for an insightful, yet engaging, relationship with its customers. Its automated system connects the guest stay history, web browsing and call data, third-party information that the guest splits spending between Hilton and Starwood, and projected occupancy data Data management thus allows Hilton to improve its cross-selling, balance occupancy across properties and make the process faster and more convenient for the guest.

Lessons Learned

For marketers that want to adopt the artful science approach that Bain refers to as “digical marketing” the research suggests the following tactics:

  • Spend marketing dollars on digital marketing vehicles to reach the most audience and leverage the availability of Big Data.
  • Continually test and learn what works by studying the analytics and applying intuition that can then be used to create more effective marketing campaigns.
  • Use the available data to make changes to marketing campaigns quickly.
  • Own the magic of marketing and use it to your advantage to create those engaging stories that build emotional connections with your target audience.
  • Invest in the appropriate talent and tools that combines creativity and software.
  • Create a single view of the customer through collaboration between marketing, IT, and other organizational functions that leads to an overall plan and shared priorities that benefits everyone.

Getting Started With Digical Marketing

Bain suggests starting points for companies that want to meld the science and art of marketing. First, turn the data you collect, including analytics and human interaction like direct customer feedback, into a holistic picture of the customer. Second, encourage your audience to be emotional and share their feelings through online channels like social media. Even if it is bad feelings towards you, it’s qualitative information that goes well beyond what the numbers have reported.

These insights provide context that helps better understand all that Big Data. Third, be willing to try something new in the ever-changing world of marketing and consumer behavior rather than simply relying on traditional marketing methods. This will put you at the forefront of any available opportunities to make bigger strides with your audience than your competition. Together, the math and magic of marketing may do more to advance how companies identify, attract, and retain customers.

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