Brokerage Ops the October 2016 issue

Art Versus Science

“Why can’t we have the whole brain?”
By Susan Rushford Posted on October 6, 2016

The debate about whether marketing is an art or a science is decades old. And even marketers themselves are conflicted. For years, marketing was ruled by the right brainers—the ones who inspired and fostered engaging ways to elevate and grow brands. They were the artists—designers, writers, interpreters and strategists. Today, marketing also requires those who can generate data, interpret and measure it, and deliver seamless experiences in a more diverse omnichannel world.

Enter the world of left brainers. Left brainers help drive tangible results by generating qualified leads, converting prospects to clients, customizing and personalizing content and measuring the success of your efforts.

Dave Sutton, president and CEO of TopRight Transformational Marketing posted, “….engaging in this debate always generates friction because the connotation of the term ‘art’ is that artists lack scientific rigor and logic. Similarly, the connotation of ‘science’ is that scientists are cold, lacking in creative genius and intuition.” This conflict challenges us to revisit the skills needed to guide our marketing initiatives as well as the processes we use to make the magic happen.”

Are we hiring creative strategists or data scientists? Should they be designers and wordsmiths or technologists and analytical marketers? Who should be our next hires and what resources will we need to invest in to support them? Unfortunately, the answer isn’t clear cut and there’s no silver bullet. Certainly, technology-savvy marketers are a critical ingredient to your team, but you can’t lose sight of the strategist who drives the innovation to help your brand stand out. One without the other can diminish your success. I surmise that the essential trait on your marketing team is “balance.”

Regardless of which side of the “art versus science” debate your marketing team was schooled in, today’s marketing officers must be able to think strategically and leverage the two disciplines to garner effective campaigns. Inspiring messaging that engages, creates action and drives revenue demands a mutual respect for both creative and analytical mindsets.

Inspiring messaging that engages, creates action and drives revenue demands a mutual respect for both creative and analytical mindsets.

One way to start creating that balance is to bridge the language gap with your internal IT teams. More and more, chief marketing officers and chief information officers are being viewed as natural partners in what probably feels like an unnatural space. Here’s where the art versus science marriage gets some practice. Forsythe Technology recently projected that 70% of an organization’s brand experience will be delivered through technology resources, giving the marketing and the information teams cause to collaborate.

Chief marketing officers can benefit from chief information officers’ expertise in helping identify, navigate and interpret the vast amount of data out there, in testing the outcomes they have on hand, and in offering professional guidance on the technologies that will best help achieve their business goals.

CIOs, on the other hand, can benefit from CMOs’ know-how in turning data intelligence into customer-centric engagements that glean ROI and help differentiate the brand. Testing the intersection between left and right brain disciplines begins to foster cross-functional collaboration and create a cultural shift in integrating disciplines. Tightening the bond between these two unlikely partners requires a mind-shift for both, but in the end, it can build a stronger partnership that can help the organization as a whole evolve.

As you begin to strengthen your marketing teams, evaluate résumés with a subjective perspective as well as an objective one. Résumés will be laden with the requisite experience but make sure your next hire is curious, nimble and a translator who is willing to understand and appreciate the mastery of what the other side brings to the table. Drew Neisser, author of The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing, says the job of today’s CMO is “way too complex to rely on one approach or even one part of the brain.” The balance between the two can generate revenue, create efficiencies and inspire innovation. And if “…marketing were as objective and predictable as most sciences, we would lose the creativity that defines the best campaigns.” So the debate doesn’t have to end with a decree for left brain or right brain. Dave Sutton would argue (and I would agree), “Can’t we just have a whole brain?” 

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