Is Marketing Just an Art?

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Modern commerce marketing can be data-driven and repeatable. It can raise profits and fend off competitors. But at some companies, marketing is unplanned and unorganized.

This came up during a recent job interview. A candidate was applying for a director of marketing position. I was one of the interviewers. I asked how one makes retail marketing repeatable, and the candidate answered that she didn’t believe it could be.

She said, “Marketing isn’t construction work. It is not workmanlike. It is more like art.”

But is it really? Certainly, marketing and advertising should include creativity. But it also requires a workmanlike competency — namely, measuring performance.

Optimize with Measurement

Measurement is necessary to optimize marketing performance. And this is especially true when a business advertises across multiple channels that are not easily measured. Examples include organic search, social media, content marketing, and traditional media, such as television and newspapers. Competent marketing measurement could help a business understand how all of its promotions work together.

Effective marketing measurement helps a business understand how all of its promotions work together. Photo: Lucas Blazek.

“We look at a lot of interactions,” said Barry Croke, a director at Analytics Partners, a consultancy.

For example, “Consider the relationship between search and all other media channels. We’ll oftentimes build specific search models to help attribute performance to television or whatever channel it is.

“That’s been a big thing for a lot of the omnichannel [advertising] clients we work with. Many have focused on direct-to-consumer media [such as pay-per-click ads], which is very trackable. It’s more of a last click or last touch measurement.”

Measuring the interaction of media, like Croke described, can reduce waste, identify opportunities, and manage how often a prospect sees a similar ad.

The process helps a company analyze advertising budgets for placements, technology, and even agencies. This, in turn, facilitates cost cuts associated with underperforming ads, redundant ad tech platforms, and overlapping firms.

According to Croke, marketers should “develop measurement programs for performance over time to track everything, account for everything, and look for opportunities.”

“Sometimes return on investment is not the best metric,” said Croke. “Say you launch a new product. Marketing for that product will not likely have a strong ROI. You have to be cognizant of those factors…to make sure that the context is there [in your measurement plan] beyond just reporting numbers.”

When a marketing team can report results within the context of an objective, it may be easier to get buy-in from the entire company. When they understand how marketing contributes to the company’s success, other departments are more likely to rally behind additional investment and offer help.

According to a report from Croke’s company, businesses that make marketing decisions based on measurement get buy-in across the company and grow five times faster.

Workmanlike marketing measurement, then, boosts growth.

Customer Experience

Marketing measurement can also contribute to better customer experiences.

Most of us have been bombarded with ads from a single company in, say, one day. The same ad showed up 10 times while watching Hulu, for example. Then it appeared on Facebook. Then it followed you on YouTube and even ended up in your email inbox.

That is not a good customer experience. Likely, the company did not understand how multiple marketing channels interact. Competent measurement can help with that, too.

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