Is Marketing Art or Science?

Marketing is one of the most misunderstood area in business. The high budget requested by marketing division combined without the definitive guarantee of immediate return on investment makes marketing budget discussion an everlasting back and forth between marketing and finance.

Marketing, along with sales, is the biggest tools for growth for a company. It "promises" the ability to pull customers in the market to become the users which will eventually bring profit to the company. However, the reality is not that simple. Marketing is actually a long and indirect way of educating, convincing, and converting people to become customers.

Marketing is a bit like asking your crush on a date. First, you have to introduce yourself (product awareness). Second, you have to show him/her your personality and characters and personality (unique selling proposition). Third, you have to convince him/her that his/her future is better with you on his/her side (brand promise). Finally then, he/she might want to be with you but if, and only if, you are his/her type (product relevancy).

Marketing is the same thing but you do steps above for a business and you do it simultaneously to millions of people. There are no deterministic method in the world for reliably finding a date and, similarly, marketing a product. What you can do instead is to learn from the past, learn from others, pick the most reasonable approach, try, and hope for the best.

The recent rise of digital marketing often seems to answer the nondeterministic nature of marketing which comes from its capability to measure the output of an ads (digital marketing can measure ads impression, ads interaction, even purchase after seeing ads). However, measuring ads output does not mean we can have the formula for marketing.

To make a formula for marketing we need to have two major things: First, the ability to monitor input vs output, which is available through digital marketing. Second, a reliable formula for input vs output. The reliable and accurate formula is nowadays still far from reality, at least on the day-to-day practical fields. We are still not able to create a model for the output given some inputs: marketing spending, selected channel, and marketing content. Maybe it is just me, let me know if you have found one.

In my personal opinion, digital marketing can be thought of like a more advanced billboard with several improvements:

  1. We can show the ads to group of people that we choose (targeting capability)
  2. We can pay only after ads audience do selected action (see ads, click ads, install app, or purchase)
  3. We can monitor input and result of our campaign Starting after the point where customers see the ads, the psychological process of advertising is still the same with marketing as we know it. People really need to be convinced to purchase your product.

In my opinion, the understanding that marketing is nondeterministic despite some improvements by digital marketing in measurement needs to be communicated to a wider audience in business. If it happens, by then maybe both side can agree that marketing is an art not a science1.

  1. Science definition that I use here is the definition often used in day to day conversation which means science can be mathematically formulated so we know the exact input-output relationship