The Art and Science of Marketing
The debate over whether marketing is an art or a science has been going on for decades. Some argue that marketing requires the creativity of an artistic approach and the fluidity of a free-flowing process, while others claim that successful marketers use a strong scientific methodology to guide their work. The truth is that effective marketing relies on a balance of both.
Scientific marketing is about rigorous experimentation to test and validate hypotheses. This is the core of the scientific method that can be applied to any discipline. It involves designing controlled experiments and minimizing confounding variables. It is also about keeping an open mind to new theories from other disciplines (e.g., psychology, economics, computer science, neuroscience, biology, industrial engineering, anthropology, and sociology), bringing them into the marketing context, and translating them into meaningful models for testing.
Marketing science is about understanding how to interpret and apply research findings to real-world business problems. This involves understanding the limits of what science can tell us about the world, recognizing that not all data is unbiased, and learning how to recognize common errors or misrepresentations in interpretations. It also means being aware that some things simply cannot be tested by experimental methods and finding ways to evaluate the quality of alternative explanations.
In the end, marketing science is about using a combination of logical thinking and creative intuition to make business decisions. The best marketers know this and can apply scientific concepts to a variety of situations. This can include everything from creative briefs to agencies to new product development to market mix optimization to customer service and sales force management.
Over the past nine years, many interesting developments have taken place in marketing science. In particular, the field has become much more international in terms of both people and tools. For example, the number of academics from outside North America has increased substantially. And, at events like the American Marketing Association Advanced Research Techniques Forum, the ratio of domestic to international presentations has shifted significantly in recent years.
Despite these trends, marketing science has not yet achieved widespread acceptance and penetration. This is reflected in the low average impact on marketing decision making that was perceived by both managers and academics. However, it is important to note that these measures are relative and do not necessarily represent the extent to which marketing science has been used at any given time. A better metric may be to look at the percentage of situations to which marketing science concepts and tools could be applicable, and then ask what percent are actually being used in those situations. For example, a survey of a sample of managers on the use of various marketing science tools suggests that menu-based choice modeling and perceptual mapping techniques are being employed relatively frequently (Table 5). On the other hand, it appears that marketing mix optimization, consumer behavior analysis, and conjoint/choice analysis are not being utilized in the same degree by either intermediaries or marketers.