Why Successful Marketing is Equal Parts Art and Science

It’s no secret, data has revolutionized marketing. Where marketers once relied on instinct, they now rely on insights gleaned from careful data analysis.

Here on the ZoomInfo blog, we’ve laid out the benefits of data-driven marketing time and time again. But, there’s one question plaguing the minds of traditional marketers who remember a time before the data revolution. The question is: Has the increasing dependence on data and analytics taken the “art” out of marketing?

As you might expect, the answer to that question is more complicated than a simple yes or no. Today, we explore both sides of the marketing coin — marketing as a science and marketing as an art. Let’s get into it!

The Art Of Marketing

Psychologists believe the human brain is separated into two distinct functions, referred to as the “left brain” and the “right brain.” The right side of the brain is responsible for creative thinking and artistic intuition — which is why artistically inclined marketers are considered to be “right-brain” thinkers.

A “right-brain” marketer focuses their energy on producing high-quality marketing materials that capture the hearts and minds of their audience. They may understand the importance of marketing data, but they know creativity breeds success that can’t be found in spreadsheets and reports.

Let’s review some of the advantages of taking an artist’s approach to marketing:

1. Right-brained marketers create exceptional, unique content.

The demand for unique content has grown leaps and bounds in recent years. In fact, 47% of B2B buyers consume three to five pieces of content before engaging with a salesperson (source). In the B2B space, marketers face the challenge of turning technical, complex, and — let’s face it — occasionally boring concepts into captivating and engaging marketing content.

For example, let’s say you’re creating a video advertisement for your newest product. A science-minded marketer might create an ad that lays out all the necessary details: what the product does, why the customer needs it, and how they can buy it. An artist, on the other hand, might structure the advertisement as an engaging story that illustrates a rewarding customer experience.

2. Creative marketers often use their intuition to guide their decision making.

The scientists in us would say data-driven insights facilitate better marketing decisions than gut instinct. For the most part, that’s true. But, human intuition is an irreplaceable tool. No matter which metrics you track or which tools you have at your disposal, you will still encounter problems that can only be solved with creative, human thinking.

Think about the most innovative businesses and business leaders in the world. Did they come up with their groundbreaking ideas by simply tracking metrics and analyzing data? Occasionally. But most often, industry leaders see an opportunity to create something new and divert from the status quo. And, often they trust their instincts to guide them where data can not.          

3. Right-brained marketers can often form deeper connections with prospects and customers.

Artists have the unique ability to understand human behavior. It’s why you relate to the characters on your favorite TV show, it’s why the dialogue in a great novel seems so authentic. And in marketing, a human understanding of your target audience is essential to your success. In fact, 50% of B2B buyers are more likely to make a purchase if they connect emotionally to a brand (source).

Data analysis will reveal useful insights into your audience’s activity, preferences and habits. But it takes an artist to look beyond the data and engage an audience on an emotional level. An artist knows how to craft campaigns that speak to an audience’s desires, fears, frustrations, and other intangible qualities that makes us human.

Example of the Art of Marketing

Ironically, my favorite example of marketing as an art comes from a fictional story: The popular television series Mad Men. If you’re unfamiliar, the show is set in the 1960s and its protagonist is Don Draper, Creative Director at an ad agency.

In one of the show’s most famous scenes, Draper pitches an advertisement for a Kodak carousel slide projector. As he flips through his own personal photos, he explains the product’s unique ability to tap into a specific human emotion: nostalgia. He argues they should market the product not as a futuristic technology, but rather a “time machine” into the past that allows consumers to relive their fondest memories.

Yes, the series takes place well before the Internet and the rise of data analytics. But Draper’s monologue presents a timeless example of marketing as an art form — more specifically, the art of understanding and targeting human emotions.

The Science Of Marketing

Just as creativity comes from the “right brain”, science-driven marketers are predominantly “left-brain” thinkers. In other words, they operate based on logic, facts and analysis rather than emotions and artistic intuition.

Research shows modern businesses continue to shift more towards data-driven marketing strategies. In fact, 64% of marketing executives “strongly agree” that data-driven marketing is crucial to success in a hyper-competitive global economy (source). With this trend in mind, one could argue that left-brain thinkers are better suited for marketing roles than ever before.

Let’s look at some advantages of approaching marketing from a scientist’s perspective:

1. Left-brained marketers base decisions on facts and evidence.

The science of marketing is an endless process of analysis and adaptation. Data-driven marketers set clear objectives, track important metrics, and analyze their results to determine which tactics are successful and which aren’t. Data supports every choice they make, from the structure of a landing page to the time of day they post a Tweet. Through testing and iteration, they are able to constantly optimize and improve every facet of their marketing strategy.

2. Science-oriented marketers tend to prioritize accuracy — which pays off during audience targeting.

Yes, an artist might know how to engage their audience emotionally. But, their efforts will be in vain if they can’t find their audience in the first place. A scientific marketer doesn’t rely on guesswork. Instead, they analyze customer data and construct comprehensive buyer personas made up of key traits and characteristics shared by their best customers. Guided by accurate data, marketers are guaranteed to identify who their target buyers are, where to find them, and how best to engage them.      

3. Left-brained marketers often create hyper-personalized campaigns.

One-size-fits-all marketing is obsolete. Modern marketing success hinges on personalization. Consider these statistics:

  • More than 78% of customers will only engage offers if they have been personalized to their previous engagements with the brand (source).
  • 87% of consumers surveyed say that personally relevant branded content positively influences how they feel about a brand (source).
  • 77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience (source).

For more evidence supporting personalized marketing, check out the following article: 26 Personalization Statistics for the Modern B2B Marketer.

Personalization is a highly scientific marketing technique, as it requires thorough analysis of customer and prospect data. Marketers must segment their audience based on specific data points including everything from demographics to online behavior to purchase history, in order to deliver the right marketing materials to the right people at the right moment.

Example of the Science of Marketing

This example doesn’t come from a fictional TV show like Mad Men — but rather, it comes from the platform you may use to watch it. Let’s say our earlier example compels you to go on Netflix to binge Mad Men. The next time you visit the Netflix homepage, you see an entire category of new personalized recommendations titled “Because You Watched Mad Men.

To Netflix, your viewing history is a gold mine of valuable data. Through a complex algorithm, they’re able to build a comprehensive profile of your viewing preferences, and recommend new shows and movies in real-time. As consumers, we take these personalized recommendations for granted— but they’re a sign of the science of marketing at work.

How To Balance The Art And Science Of Marketing

If you’ve made it this far, you already know marketing is not an art or a science — it’s both.

Marketers need a creative mindset to build a brand and develop innovative marketing campaigns that allow their products to stand out in a highly saturated marketplace.  Yet, they also need an analytical mindset to measure campaign success and to make the necessary campaign tweaks and optimizations.

But, this perfect balance of right-brained and left-brained individuals doesn’t happen by accident. Here are some tips to create a strategy that perfectly blends the art and science of marketing:

1. Build a well-rounded team.

Picture a marketing team comprised entirely of “artists.” They create the most unique marketing content in their field, from engaging blog posts to immersive visual imagery. But, they don’t see the point in slowing their output down with confusing data analysis.

Now imagine a team of “scientists”. They’re experienced data analysts, SEO experts, and developers who can fine-tune their strategy on the most granular level. The problem is, they can’t create any unique content or generate innovative ideas.

You get where we’re going with this: Your team should be a diverse mix of artists and scientists. Maybe an “artist” with very little marketing experience doesn’t know Google Analytics from AdWords, but they’ve got a hundred truly unique content ideas. Maybe a “scientist” can’t write an engaging blog post, but they take one glance at your traffic results and know exactly how to optimize your website.

Encourage the “artists” on your team to learn and understand the importance of data. Encourage the “scientists” to learn how to translate that data into creative marketing content. Each perspective will learn from the other, account for the other’s weaknesses, and ultimately contribute to a team that’s greater than the sum of its parts.     

2. Make your buyer personas more human.

We mentioned buyer personas earlier as an example of science-based marketing. But, no marketing concept encapsulates the blend of art and science quite like buyer personas. Think about it: A buyer persona is a representation of an ideal customer— a living, breathing human. If you craft a persona based solely on raw data, you’ll have a black-and-white, impersonal view of your target customers.

Buyer personas serve as a guide across your entire marketing strategy. If you prioritize a balance of art and science when you create them, that balance will permeate through all of your future marketing initiatives.

3. Report on hard and soft metrics.

On the surface, reporting seems like a scientific process. But, you can reflect the blend of art and science by reporting on both hard and soft marketing metrics. Hard metrics are concrete, quantitative figures — such as leads generated, cost per lead, click-through rate, and revenue generated.

Soft metrics are qualitative figures that can’t be represented numerically — things like audience sentiment, thought leadership, brand awareness, and audience engagement. While more difficult to track than hard metrics, soft metrics can be measured using surveys, social listening and other qualitative assessments.

Science-minded marketers prefer hard metrics because they’re indisputable numbers directly linked to revenue and ROI. But, soft metrics are important to assess the more intangible, creativity-driven indicators of a marketing team’s success. For example: A captivating video series might not directly generate many leads, but it may start a flood of positive conversation surrounding your brand on social media.

4. Invest in the right tools.  

Make sure the id=”urn:enhancement-98b280cd-9897-492e-9ea0-c007d5fb9663″ class=”textannotation”>tools and technologies you use help facilitate a balance of art and science. Your marketing tech stack should include systems that can store and maintain large amounts of data, track performance metrics, generate reports, and automate administrative tasks.

When you increase efficiency via technology, your team reaps the benefits of science without being bogged down by constant data entry and maintenance, reporting and analysis. In other words, your team can channel more of their day-to-day energy into creative projects.

Final Thoughts on the Balance of Art and Science in Marketing

Modern marketing is made of tactics and strategies that are completely foreign to the marketers of the past. Change is inevitable for a business practice that’s intrinsically linked to technology and innovation. But as data sources become more ingrained in your efficient marketing strategy, it’s important to remember that marketing is an art as well as a science.

The perfect marketing strategy balances creativity and analysis, intuition and data, emotions and logic. This blend of artistic and scientific attributes is, and will always be, the formula for long-term marketing success.