Ah, yes. The old left brain versus right brain argument when it comes to effective marketing. The question of what truly drives effective marketing attempts to pit actuaries against Mad Men. Madison Avenue against Number Crunchers. Artists versus Scientists. It is an interesting debate, and one that I have seen probably since the very first day I entered the business world. So which one rules: creativity or math, design or analytics?
I, for one, am tired of this debate. I think it is an outdated and irrelevant conversation, quite frankly. If there has been one thing that the digital age has taught us is that marketers need both skill sets. They don’t just need a passing interest in both, they actually need to LIVE in both areas. I believe the days of being a really good direct marketer, or numbers person, OR a high-flying studio executive at a major ad agency are gone. Marketers, and especially good Chief Marketers, need to own both personalities and skill sets.
The reason I believe this so strongly is that digital marketing, done via the internet, mobile devices or social media, presents an amazing opportunity to create marketing that is supremely visually appealing and impactful, yet steeped in analytics and measurement. I’m not simply referring to impressions, clicks or sales. The ability to measure how people interact with your advertisement, what they really think of it and what happens after they interact with it exists like never before, and as technology evolves even more, math, science and creativity will intersect on a much greater scale.
Think about it this way: twenty years ago, advertisers could run billboards in Times Square or place a great ad on top of a taxi. The advertiser (or agency) really had no way of knowing how people view the ad, much less how they interacted with it. Sure, there have always been vague (at best) techniques for measuring advertising done outdoors, on TV, or on radio. But largely, advertisers were left in the dark when it comes to really knowing without a shred of doubt what the real impact was on the millions of dollars they were spending. Professionally, this was me for many years.
On the flip side, you had direct marketers, direct mailers and direct response infomercial marketers who were less concerned with aesthetics of their ads but almost wholly consumed with numbers and metrics. Anything that moved, they measured. A few creative tweaks here and there were necessary for most marketing campaigns, but largely those tweaks were made in order to measure the impact of the changes and how those related to direct sales. Professionally, this was also me for many years.
Enter the age we’re in today which is far more digitally-based, and I believe we are on the verge of a marketing utopia. One indisputable fact is that a lot more investment from marketers and advertisers is getting put into interactive channels (online, mobile, etc). This is because it is where consumers ARE these days. They are online. They are on Facebook. They are blogging. They spend most of their time in front of a computer screen, and good marketers always want to be where their audience is.
It is a burgeoning marketing utopia because marketers that were on either side of the two scenarios I painted above are being forced to merge together and intersect. And why not? Creative folks most consumed with a compelling design and execution now actually have some more data at their fingertips to stoke their creative fires even more. I fail to see how that is a bad thing, in fact it should be embraced. Number crunchers have the benefit of technology at their backs, which allows them a lot more creative license to become more, well, creative rather than spending a majority of time or energy plowing through spreadsheets or figuring out how to slice and dice their list or database differently. Automation is a great thing for the direct response types because it provides speed and ease; think of all the time they can now spend on creativity and messaging.
The truth is that if you’re a marketer who wants to have a long career in your profession, you need to be masters of both domains. You need to be more creative than the next marketing professional. You need to have a deep grasp of numbers, analytics and all the metrics available to you. As people’s lives become more and more digital, possessing one set of skills but not the other will leave you behind the competition. My advice? Embrace the right and left brains and understand that they intersect now, and will forever, for truly effective marketers.