Before “Big Data” was coined, many of us came to believe that marketing was more art than science. Marketing was the butt of jokes: That’s just marketing, as if to suggest it’s just fluff and doesn’t have much of an impact.
When I graduated from college several years ago, my mother thought that my going into marketing would mean wasting the skills and mental agility she helped us develop in all our years of upbringing. Being in the healthcare field gave her the bias that science can solve pretty much anything outside of religion. From this vantage point, marketing was left field. She didn’t understand why my childhood proclivity to science (all those years of science club and experiments!) has now shifted toward a different focus. What she didn’t understand then was I was still being fueled by the same drive that drove me to science in my younger years. The kind of inquisitiveness wrapped around fact-finding techniques and tinged with business sense that answer questions about human behavior is nurtured by the field of marketing.
Why is marketing thought of as an art? It’s because many people think marketing only touches the realms of branding, positioning, presentation and creative communications. What many don’t realize is that marketing is based on science, more than any artistic drive. Branding and positioning is about consumer perception and behavior, which we learn through the sciences (psychology, sociology and anthropology). Marketing is rooted in business. It is more than brand communications; it permeates distribution, product development, price, promotions, and the list goes on. Before the “Big Data” wave, marketing depended on facts. Big data made marketing a lot more quantitative, yes, but it merely surfaced increased points of evidence, which mandates more sophisticated analytical techniques.
When people point to marketing as the department that is only responsible for brochures and shiny prospectuses, they don’t understand that beneath the pretty colors, font styles and formatting design, it is driven by an understanding of human persuasion, which involves penetrating the human psyche. The point where marketing becomes an art isn’t written through salient means, but in latent discernment: it subtly fashions itself as art, but it is powered by data-oriented examination. It has the image of a popular girl… and the soul of a geek.