All marketers know that their jobs are part art, part science. Some companies lean more towards the analytical science of quantifiable marketing, and others are more comfortable with producing beautiful works of art. Is one necessarily better than the other? Not necessarily, depending on your target audience and your business objectives.
According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the marketing industry is heading down the path of producing and analyzing quantifiable metrics for as many aspects of a campaign as possible, similar to the financial industry’s transition in the 1970’s:
“There is every reason to believe marketing will go through a similar transition, but the principles of marketing–which are around storytelling, entertainment, targeting and selling–will be augmented by analytical tools,” Schmidt said.
This sounds good on paper. There are very few marketers who want to know less about how well their campaigns are working. But it is easy to fall victim to the hype and start thinking that all of our analytical problems will be solved by throwing more CPU cycles and clever code at the problem.
From my days as a Media Planner at a very analytical advertising agency and a Web Marketing Manager a very analytical automotive retailer, I can tell you that the current crop of advertising metrics and analytics packages are nowhere near where they need to be to replace a human being’s experience and strategic capabilities. As Schmidt said, analytical tools will only augment the principles of marketing, not replace them.
The Holy Grail of Marketing Analytics (doesn’t exist)
To really satisfy all the needs of all marketers, a full-fledged analytical marketing program would have to satisfy my newly-created (and partly tongue-in-cheek) tenets of the “Golden Rectangle“; balance the aesthetically pleasing with mathematical accountability.
Tenets of the Golden Rectangle of Marketing
- Analytical marketers must be able to correlate sales to marketing initiatives. Every sale must be attributed to one or more marketing channels for a period of time. This includes online-to-offline conversions and purchase decisions that involve multiple decision makers and/or long periods of time.
- Analytical marketers must take all known (and unknown) variables into account when drawing conclusions. This includes macroeconomic factors, competitive strategies, seasonality, media mix, creative execution, brand recognition, solar flares, word of mouth, personal beliefs, and customer’s internal thought processes among other things.
- Analytical marketers must drive real-time decisions about optimizing across every marketing campaign a client is running, regardless of medium. Hindsight is always 20/20, but it doesn’t tell advertisers what to do with their next marketing dollar when the variables change.
- Analytical marketers need to understand that some of the success of an advertising campaign will always depend on the human input, whether it is creative or strategic. Machines won’t be able to replicate those traits for a long time to come.
So while it’s great to think that one day all marketing will be entirely analytical and based on some algorithm somewhere in the computing cloud, we have to remember that we live and work in the real world of human wants, needs, desires, psychology, sociology and physiology. If Google can learn to manipulate those variables, they may very well create the next golden rectangle. Until then, people can still serve as the cogs in the marketing wheel.