Before considering whether marketing is either Art or Science or a combination of the two we must first define what “Art” and “Science” are.
“The expression of creative skill through a visual medium such as painting or sculpture. 2 The product of such a process; paintings, drawings, and sculpture collectively. 3 (the arts) The various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, and drama. 4 (arts) Subjects of study primarily concerned with human culture (as contrasted with scientific or technical subjects). 5 A skill: the art of conversation.” (Oxford Dictionary, 2009)
“The intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. 2 A systematically organized body of knowledge on any subject.” (Oxford Dictionary, 2009)
“When marketing communications use art it has the ability to get into our heads quickly and efficiently” (Alder, 2009).
Artistic approaches can build brand recognition quickly and create a powerful brand image that connects with consumers on an emotional level, if the message is right. This brand or product recognition can create something very powerful that creates a high emotional loyalty to the product.
An example of this in practice was the launch of “New” Coca Cola. “New” Coke was “a major marketing failure” (Wikipedia contributors, 2009). “the people with the numbers returned their quantitative analysis and claimed that their surveys said that “new” Coke would be as popular as the trendiest soft drink ever” (Accelerate Grads ’06, 2006). In spite of the huge level of investment and extensive market research the product failed, badly. What the research failed to consider was the emotional attachment that had built up over many years and this was not wholly quantifiable in the research. It would seem that Coca Cola is an emotionally based purchase decision.
The value on the “creative” element of a marketing campaign can be hard to justify, especially in a world where the measure of success is Return on Investment (ROI). How can you measure the creative impact in product marketing and can you be sure that this was the decisive factor in the success of a single campaign?
Art takes a subjective approach to methods within marketing (Saunders at al, 2009) The consumers view of a piece of marketing is influenced by many factors; some quantitive i.e. price and some subjective, the brand image, look/feel and some personal based on personal experience an conditioning.
The Organ Donation Council used shock advertising that has an explicit sexual overtone to gain awareness for their campaign (see appendix 2). This type of artistic “licence” can be both very powerful and very dangerous.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (Torok, 2007)
Do the world at large see such things as the IPOD or the classic Coke bottle as a piece of art. Both products are global and iconic. The IPOD trades on both its functionality and its design but overall it is the brand image that has been created over time that has enabled it to succeed against similar or better technology. On its own the technology is not enough!
Science appears in many forms in marketing, from psychology based theories such as the Theory of Reasoned Action (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) to quantitive analysis techniques such as pattern matching (Saunders et al, 2009) which are measurable and use unbiased methods of data collection (Brown, 2001). We could say that science is a more objective approach to marketing that uses quantitive and qualitative data to predict future outcomes.
The previous example of Coke shows the risk of not understanding the “soft” or emotional aspects of marketing, relying on data and surveys to determine strategy.
Science does however clearly have a place in marketing. “I know half of my advertising is wasted. I just don’t know which half” (Wannamaker, 1897).
It is clear that understanding consumer psychology is critical in positioning products. When considering marketing a product or service there is no substitute for solid quantitive and qualitative research particularly in the areas of pricing and competitor strategies. Consumer panels and socio economic segmentation are well tried and tested methodologies that take much of the gamble out of product launches.
The need for scientific analysis in marketing is clear and the case well proven. Is science alone enough?
Art and Science
Let’s consider one of the best known brands worldwide in the context of this question, Apple, “the most successful world brand” (Thurston, 2009).
Apple use a combination of great product design and innovation aligned to some great and memorable advertising. “Apple, like any marketer, needs to manage its marketing to deliver value to the brand and while the creative needs to be creative, the process determining what goes out the door and what does not needs to be more science than art” (Marketing Today, 2006).
Good marketing needs a mix of science and art . Science must be the building block of any marketing; for example using models of consumer spending behaviour or demographic profiling of target customers. This data will form the basis of the marketing mix. Based on the foundation art can take over in developing the message to right consumer at the right time in the most impactful way.
As we have seen in the case of Coca Cola when marketing uses an imbalance of either art or science the consequences can be disastrous whereas in balance, as in the case with Apple the combination can be very powerful.
Art provides the ammunition in the form of the product design and emotional messaging that combined form the proposition for the consumer and science directs this to the customer group best disposed towards acquisition of the goods or service.
Different products or services will have a differing degree of emotional or rational buying attached to them and as a consequence the balance between the art or the science will vary accordingly. For example, the marketing of a piece of industrial machinery will be more of a rational purchase whereas the purchase of a company car is largely emotive and as a consequence much of car advertising is directed at the emotional rather than the rational level.
In conclusion, marketing is what you make of it. Some firms will say that they adopt a purely artistic or scientific approach whereas in reality art and science are always present to some degree or other. For marketing to be effective and deliver the ROI demanded by organizations today marketing is and will always be somewhere between the two.