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Marketing in a Data-Driven World… From Mad Men to Mad Scientist

Are Marketers More Mad Men or Mad Scientists?

I have been in marketing for over two decades. As I meet people in social situations, on airplanes, and on the sidelines at children’s soccer games, and they ask what it is I do, I get responses that constantly amuse me and lead me to the conclusion that the general public has absolutely no idea what a marketer does. I am often asked things like “have you created any commercials that I might have seen?” and peppered with questions that evoke visions of Mad Men-esque 1960’s style agency work and late night creative martini-filled pitch sessions.

I admit I do love to catch the occasional Mad Men episode, and a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon one that had me chuckling. You may remember the one that Don Draper is pitching a lipstick advertisement and after persuading the executive to see things his way, he says something along the lines of, “We’ll never know, will we? It’s not a science.”

How the times have changed. I would argue that in today’s data-driven world, marketing is no longer an art and is now squarely a science.

Sure, great marketers still understand their buyers at a gut level, but their hunches are no longer the impetus of a marketing campaign. Their hunches are now the impetus for a data-driven, fact-finding mission, and only after the analysis has been completed and confirms or contradicts this hunch, is the campaign designed and launched.

This is only possible because today, marketers have access to enormous amounts of data – not just the basic demographics of years past. Most marketers realize that there is great promise in all of that data, but it’s just too complicated, time-consuming, and costly to truly harness it. How can you really ever make sense of the hundreds of data sources and tens of thousands of variables within these sources? Social media, web analytics, geo-targeting, internal customer and financial systems, in house marketing automation systems, third party data augmentation in the cloud… the list goes on and on!

How can marketers harness the right data, in the right way, right away? The answer starts with making the commitment that your marketing team – and hopefully your organization as a whole – will think “data first”. In the coming weeks, I will focus on what exactly thinking data first means, and how it will pay dividends to marketers.

In the mean time, I will make the personal commitment to be more patient about answering the silly questions and comments about marketers.

Now, it’s your turn to comment… 

What are some of the most amusing misconceptions about marketers that you’ve encountered?

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Do you agree? Is marketing an art? A science? Or somewhere in between?

Are Marketers More Mad Men or Mad Scientists?

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