Most industries fit very clearly into one of two categories – art or science. For marketing, however, the line is a bit more blurred. And depending on who you ask, you may get starkly contrasting answers as to which one it is.
This may seem like a purely philosophical argument, but thought behind it can cause marketers to approach their daily work in very different ways. That approach can not only influence their individual efforts, but the direction of their company’s marketing overall. So which direction should your strategy ideally lean?
The most successful marketers and marketing teams use a little bit of both. Keep reading to find out how you can strike the right balance to create a creative and data-backed strategy for your business.
The scientific side of marketing
When it comes down to it, marketing’s primary function is to attract customers and generate revenue.
With that in mind, it makes sense that some marketers put all of their focus on measurement and analytics. Whenever money is involved, it’s important to make informed decisions. And thanks to all of the analytics that are available to Internet marketers, it’s becoming easier and easier to monitor every single piece of data related to your business.
You have access to information from site traffic to bounce rates to conversions right at your fingertips. That data is extremely useful, as it can help you see what’s working and what isn’t, as well as run tests to try out new methods. It takes most of the guesswork out of improving sites, and is easy to quantify – meaning that it’s also easy to justify, either to yourself or to whoever is in charge of your company’s finances.
If you’re a logical, analytical kind of person, this probably sounds like enough reason to base all marketing decisions on scientific reasoning alone. But before you do that, let’s take a look at where an artistic sense fits into the equation.
The artistic side of marketing
How many times have you heard the phrase, “Know your audience”?
Probably too many to count. In this case, though, I mean it in the broadest sense possible. Regardless of your industry, you are marketing to human beings – not robots – which is why your marketing decisions can’t be based on data alone.
Think of marketing campaigns that have stood out to you as a consumer and made you want to make a purchase. If you’re like most people, you’re probably thinking of one that was either extremely innovative, or played to your emotions. Off-the-wall, standout campaigns aren’t produced by science.
They’re a product of human creativity, and often involve skilled storytelling, stunning imagery, or simply a new way of explaining a product. Perhaps even more importantly, some level of art is needed to create the branding for your company. Your logo, messaging, and overall identity need to be unique if you want to stand out from your competitors, and no amount of data and analytics can produce an original idea.
Another area where science cannot do the work for you is in building customer loyalty. Although this is a relatively new development in marketing, social media has made it entirely possible to develop relationships with your current and potential customers. However, it is only true if you actually engage with your customers, and there is no scientific formula for that.
How to combine art and science to create a successful marketing strategy
Art and science both have their place in a successful marketing strategy, but if you’ve been heavily relying on one (or are new to marketing altogether), it can be tricky to strike a balance. Data without creativity can come across as robotic, while creativity without data can be fun but ineffective. So how can you incorporate both?
The best way is to use your research and analytics as the framework for your marketing strategy, but use an artistic approach when creating the actual content. For example, let’s say you want to write a new blog post or article for your site. How can a combined approach work for content marketing?
You can use analytical tools to do keyword research and choose a topic, and maybe find some interesting statistics or a study, then give yourself a little freedom when it comes to the style, content, and visuals in the actual post. Alternatively, you can look at it as a three-step process: Use a scientific approach to determine the topic and basic content, use an artistic one to influence how you deliver it, then return to science to see whether or not your efforts were successful. This same process can work for almost any aspect of your marketing strategy.
Look at previous efforts to see what worked (and what didn’t), and use it as a starting point for your brainstorming. And if you happen to come up with something completely new and interesting, consider trying it out – as long as it doesn’t directly contradict the knowledge you already have about your audience or industry.
How Old Spice used this process to create a viral campaign
For a real-world example, let’s take a look at Old Spice.
In 2010, business was slowing down, and they knew they needed a new marketing strategy to keep the brand alive. So what did they do? They studied their demographics and learned that women make up more than half of men’s body wash purchases.
Many men depend on their wives or partners to choose and purchase body wash and deodorant, and don’t actually make the purchases themselves. Because of this discovery, Old Spice decided to start marketing to women, and “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” was born. Within six months, their year-over-year sales increased by 27%.
By using demographic research to create an off-the-wall campaign targeted to women, Old Spice was able to make itself the brand it is today. You should try to keep this balance in mind when doing any aspect of your marketing, including interacting with your team or department. Working with a mix of analytical and artistic people can seem like a challenge, but can be extremely beneficial for your strategy in the long run.
When it comes down to it, science and art are at two ends of a spectrum, and your marketing strategy should fall somewhere in the middle. So where is your company’s? And how is it working out for you?
Let me know in the comments below!
Trevin serves as the VP of Marketing at WebFX. He has worked on over 450 marketing campaigns and has been building websites for over 25 years. His work has been featured by Search Engine Land, USA Today, Fast Company and Inc.
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