Marketers mixing "science" and "art"

30 January 2013

NEW YORK: Brand owners like Best Buy, Heineken and Target are mixing "science" and "art" in their marketing, reflecting the rise of big data on the one hand and the need to engage shoppers on the other.

CMG Partners, the consultancy, polled executives at over 50 large firms regarding the main shifts shaping the sector. Drew Panayiotou, senior vice president, US marketing at Best Buy, the retailer, argued rigorous data analysis was a major trend.

"Marketing has lost a lot of credibility because there is a lot of talk about the magic, but there isn't enough talk about the science," he said. "When you see the amount of information we have about customers and how we go to market, there is a huge opportunity for marketing to drive your business."

Lesya Lysyj, the chief marketing officer of Heineken USA, the brewer, suggested simply substituting numerical insights for the more intangible aspects of a marketer's craft was not the solution.

"Intuition can be powerful when you have the history and experience to make decisions based on instinct," she said. "Experienced marketing leaders should be empowered to work off their experience."

For Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, depicting data as the "be-all and end-all" is essentially a "fallacy", according to Susan Helstab, the company's executive vice president, marketing.

"I work in an organisation that is highly intuitive, particularly in our hotels. We are face-to-face with our customers all the time, right?" she said. "It is not about the aggregate; it is about the individual."

David Leavy, the chief commercial officer at Discovery Communications, similarly asserted that understanding which subjects were gaining online traction was only the first step.

"You can get the analytics of what is trending and what is not, but in the end, you are building a consumer experience so you have to make it visually appealing, you have to make it sticky and you have to make it engaging," he said.

Target, the retailer, faces a need to achieve such a "balanced" model, as the flood of available data provides insights into online and offline habits, while flair is required to connect with customers at the point of sale.

"How do we think about balancing both inputs that we have?" Jeff Jones, its chief marketing officer, said. "Not believing that there is a recipe to achieve, but that both are important to use and grow."

Bill Cobb, the chief executive of H&R Block, the tax preparation firm, stated revenues are ultimately "the key barometer" for marketing's success, but did not exist in isolation.

"I think it is essential that a CMO, especially a CMO in a customer business, have a very good handle on their customer measures, especially around the retention and satisfaction of their customers, a net promoter score, things like that. Those are central to understanding how a business operates," he said.

Data sourced from CMG Partners; additional content by Warc staff