Marketers Just Want To Market: Here’s How

Author: 
Michelle Huff

A noted Greek philosopher, Gus Portokalos of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” delivered a memorable toast to his daughter and new son-in-law near the end of the movie. “Here tonight,” he said, “we have apple and orange. We all different but, in the end, we all fruit.”

The best marketing minds are like that – a marriage of seeming opposites that end up working together. Strategic marketers today must balance the right brain that controls creativity and intuition and the left brain that processes information logically and analytically.

That’s because the profession is part art, as it’s always been, and part science, thanks to the rise of Big Data, social media targeting and other technology for targeting and nurturing buyers.

Don’t Drop Creativity

But there is increasing teeth-gnashing among marketers that the center of gravity has shifted too far to the left, with the methodical, mathematically-oriented aspects of the job getting too much focus at the expense of the core fun of marketing.

As Loreal Chief Marketing Officer Hugh Pile put it recently during a panel session of the British advertising group ISBA, “There’s a lot of discussion of left-brain logical skills, about science and analytics, and we need that stuff because of the marketing technologies that are available to use in programmatic and analytics. But we need to counter that with right-brain skills: creativity and ideation.”

It’s become a fact of life for many marketers that they’re so bogged down in day-to-day tactical operations that they can’t pay as much attention as they’d like to why they got into marketing in the first place – for the art of it. A combination of factors is responsible.

One is the obsession with data. “If it moves, measure it” has become the mantra at many organizations. Metrics-based approaches are being applied to everything, from the success of an individual email campaign to the validity of broad marketing programs.

Make no mistake: This is a healthy obsession. Valuable insights are gained from the data and make marketers smarter. But it tends to be time-consuming to gather, analyze and report on all of this data. And it’s easy for over-reliance on data to distract a marketing organization from the human side of marketing.

Data Doesn’t Stir Emotions

I like how Gartner analysts Jake Sorofman and Andrew Frank characterized the situation in a Harvard Business Review article a couple of years ago:

Data can play a leading role in developing strategy and bringing precision to execution, but it does nothing – absolutely nothing – to stir motivation and create the desire that makes cash registers ring. Data is important, but it’s content that makes an emotional connection. That’s why we believe today’s data-obsessed marketers are at risk of cultivating only half a brain. Marketing leaders must remember that true brand intelligence lives at the intersection of head and heart, where the emotional self meets the analytical self.”

Another factor weighing down many marketing departments is that, despite the technological advances available today, they continue to rely on old manual processes.

Take the work involved in doing a webinar, for example. It’s a stream of activities: Getting people to register, promoting the event, reminding people about it, building a landing web page, following up with attendees as well as with those who didn’t, etc. It can be a tedious, bandwidth-sapping process that drains time and energy from big-picture thinking.

Many marketers also still wrestle with the List Monster – the need to manage and maintain myriad lists, such as those containing email addresses for targeted campaigns. Despite technology that can automate these processes, a surprising number of marketing organizations still cling to manual, spreadsheet-intensive systems.

All of which gets to an interesting point about marketing technology, which sounds so left brain but actually encourages balance between the right and left brains in marketing. By automating a lot of the day-to-day processes that have become de rigueur for marketing in the digital era, marketing technology isn’t so much about machines doing what marketers do as it is about them taking over what marketers don’t want to do.

Technology holds the key to freeing marketers to be creative and strategic – in other words, to market.

I’ll toast to that!

Michelle Huff is chief marketing officer of Act-On Software, a marketing automation provider.