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The Environmental Exchange Group (EEG) is a commodity trading and sustainability consulting firm. Providing strategy, planning and other support services for renewable energy project development. My central thesis is that marketing vitally needs both art and science, intertwined, to pursue the idealistic-but-not-unattainable intersection of meaning, truth, and money. As a once aspiring musician, a computer scientist, and now a marketer, I’ve been thinking about how these three different worlds intersect.
I propose to you that, perhaps surprisingly, this three-way intersection is the future of marketing.
The important thing to note here is that the physical and temporal distance between that marketing stimulus and an actual interaction with the customer could be quite large. The distance between a marketing stimulus and a customer experience has collapsed to a click. As another effect of the ZMOT, the distance between different media and channels is collapsing. But increasingly, paid media, owned media, and earned media are colliding in that great big melting pot of connected customers. In converged media, we also see that the timeframes in which marketing decisions are made are collapsing.
And finally, we have to acknowledge that the barriers to entry for potential competitors are collapsing.
For one example, consider how Garmin and TomTom lost the vast majority of their market capitalization within two years after navigation apps were introduced on the iPhone and Android.
Across all these touchpoints, the quantity of content that marketing must produce is expanding. To help us conquer this expanding digital landscape, the number of technologies available to marketers is expanding accordingly. There are so many powerful software capabilities that marketers can bring to bear in their work today. In turn, the data generated by these digital touchpoints and technologies are expanding exponentially. As the world becomes more and more digital, the budget allocated to digital marketing is expanding as well. This re-prioritization of marketing investment is motivated by how the role of marketing in the customer lifecycle is expanding.
This expanding role of the ZMOT in customer acquisition is the responsibility of the marketer — we’re winning (or losing) customers before sales ever enters the conversation. All this leads to the powerful fact that the strategic importance of marketing in the C-suite is expanding.
Hybrids, people who seamlessly blend previously disparate disciplines, will naturally think across silos.
We look to the right brain for meaning, the left brain for truth, and the unification of the two as a way to make money in modern marketing. In the context of the marketer scientist, my point is that storytelling is as important as ever. In the digital space, where everyone can publish, the competition among stories is ridiculously intense. But in our digital world of effectively infinite data, the constraints on acquiring and manipulating data are evaporating. Recent research from MIT reports that companies who have embraced analytics acknowledge that it gives them a competitive advantage — and that it also helps make them more innovative. However, in the digital world of connected customer ecosystems and the zero moment of truth, your brand is what everyone else says about you.
One of the greatest gifts that digital offers marketers is the ability to experiment — more cheaply, more easily, and with less risk than ever before.
In contrast, embracing continuous experimentation enables what David Armano has called unconventional marketing. But to make this work, your organizational culture must advocate big testing from the top down — encouraging, not dissuading, experimentation. First, as mentioned in our discussion about the ways in which marketing is collapsing, the distance between customer communications and customer experiences has shrunk to a click in so many situations.
The interactions you deliver in and around the digital domain are viewed by your audience as an integral part of your product or service.
Second, the joy (or frustration) your customers experience quickly gets uploaded into social media and search engines, where it influences the de facto definition of your brand. This is why demand for designers (not just graphic designers) and user experience (UX) professionals is skyrocketing in marketing.
The same applies for marketing automation software, social media listening software, web optimization software, etc. So perhaps it’s not surprising that a survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit last year, which asked CEOs to pick the top three skills that are most important for CMOs to have, 27% chose data-driven analytical capability and 21% chose technical expertise. Given how central technology now is to marketing’s mission, it also makes sense for marketing to have technology specialists integrated within its ranks. Having a marketing technology office in marketing is not a replacement for working with the IT department either. Of course, as vital as technology is to the success of modern marketing, it’s also important to recognize that it is just a means to an end for delivering remarkable customer experiences. By this point, your head may be spinning — the tectonic plates of marketing seem to be shifting right under our feet.
It requires a balance of insisting on embracing change — putting your head in the sand is a terrible way to handle disruptive innovation — while recognizing that organizational change doesn’t just happen with a snap of your fingers.
In a world of converged media and connected customer ecosystems, silos are impediments, not efficiencies.
To make sense of this new age of marketing, I highly recommend an article from Harvard Business Review, A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making by David Snowden and Mary Boone. The modern marketing organization must continually adapt, which is the impetus behind the growing agile marketing movement.


First, by evolving from a marketer identity to a marketer scientist identity, all of us in marketing should be comfortable with the intertwining of these different capabilities into our profession. Second, as a marketing leader, you’re looking to build a team that collectively blends these different capabilities into a cohesive whole.
Hopefully this has provided a glimpse of how these different strands of marketer DNA and scientist DNA are complementary, not contradictory.
We can simultaneously embrace more art and more science into our vision of modern marketing — climbing our way towards the worthy intersection of meaning, truth, and money. Scott – this is brilliantly done and kudos to you and whoever helped you pull this story together. Physical energy and environmental commodity trading and sustainability consulting are at the core of our business, complemented by supply chain management services. I’ve been on a whirlwind tour of southeast Asia with SAS, keynoting CMO events in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and India. Now, when someone encounters a marketing stimulus, they can instantly pursue their curiosity online.
Marketing produced in silos increasingly looks disorganized or schizophrenic in the eyes of customers, who fluidly navigate between these different kinds of media without even recognizing the boundaries. And it requires a new approach to marketing management that is able to define and execute strategies in an inherently cross-media fashion — keeping in mind that you only directly control a few of the many moving parts in this great convergence machine. Typically, shorter decision cycles were for more tactical or in-the-weeds choices, while longer cycles were for more important and strategic decisions. With digital platforms, combined with the dynamics of connected customers, innovative new products and services can achieve massive adoption in a relatively short period of time.
For GPS device manufacturers, this was their entire business; in the smartphone ecosystem, this was just one of a million apps. At every stage of the buyer’s journey, we are competing for attention, requiring quality content to entertain, educate, inspire, and convince prospects. Across all these different touchpoints, we need to deliver content and experiences that work on computers, smartphones, tablets — with an eye towards future devices, such as Google Glass, the mythical Apple TV, digitally-enabled cars, and so on. There are now dozens of major marketing platforms and suites — SAS is one — and literally hundreds of more specialized point solutions — my company, ion interactive, is one of these. But selecting the right pieces for your own marketing technology strategy and operationalizing them throughout your marketing team is a challenge in itself. Companies can no longer afford to treat digital as a side show, a science fair project — for many, it’s now the leading interface to their audience. A recent CEB survey of B2B customers found that 57% of their buyer’s journey was being conducted online before they ever talked to a salesperson.
Marketers are moving from sergeants of tactical communications to generals of strategic customer development. One of Seth Godin’s popular books was All Marketers Are Liars — which he recently rechristened as All Marketers Tell Stories — that celebrates the art of great storytelling in marketing. The challenge that has emerged instead is making sense of it all, putting all this data to good use. There’s great technology out there to handle this, but it requires a leadership commitment to data as process, not just an asset, and an architectural vision of how to integrate it into marketing operations.
Not everyone in marketing needs to be a data scientist, but everyone in marketing should be data savvy: comfortable using analytics and data-driven decision making.
The myth of data being boring, dry, and dull is passe — if you find data boring, you’re doing it wrong.
There is still a vital role for management judgment, intuition, and experience to properly apply and govern data.
Out of those 12,000 experiments that Google ran, only about 10% of them resulted in the tested change being adopted into their business. We can test out many more bold new ideas on a small scale, measure and improve them in a succession of rapid iterations, learn from experience, and then amplify the ones that are proven winners.
It’s the same core principles of iteration and adaptation that are driving the rise of agile marketing. And while brilliant storytelling is still essential to marketing success, it’s no longer sufficient.
Customers follow links from ads, email, search engine, social referrals, your web site, your mobile app, etc., and they expect functional satisfaction from what happens next.
Metaphorically, it’s like a novelist bringing their work alive on stage — serving as the playwright, director, producer, and all of the actors. All of these experiences, experiments, and data swirling in marketing are managed by or delivered through technology. For instance, your choice of analytics software — how it processes data, how you or your team configures it, the visualizations it gives you — will significantly influence how you perceive your customers. The capabilities of the packages you select, their user interfaces, their defaults, their configuration options, and so on, will affect how you use them — which will directly impact the experience delivered to your prospects and customers.
But I do believe that it is important for everyone in marketing to become comfortable with applying technology and collaborating with technologists. This is why I advocate for the role of a chief marketing technologist, who would serve as the technical right-hand of the CMO — kind of like a CTO for the marketing department. On the contrary, a chief marketing technologist can serve as the primary liaison to IT, helping to coordinate marketing’s efforts with company-wide infrastructure and technology governance policies. It’s challenging, as real change always is, and it benefits from people proactively working to manage it. I draw inspiration from the story of Andy Grove of Intel and one of his strategic inflection points, where his answer was to walk out the door, turn around, and come back in as if he were a new CEO brought in by the board to enact tough-but-necessary changes.
As the champion of the customer, marketing must inherently be a champion for moving forward with the market and not getting stuck in time. Of course, there will necessarily be different specialists and multiple groups required to scale marketing. A Ferrari is complicated: it has many components that are intricately assembled together in a precise fashion. The ecosystem of connected customers, converged media, marketing technologies, etc., is much more like a rainforest than a Ferrari.


It was a fascinating and inspiring journey, but regrettably, I didn’t find much time to write while on the road. The first half explores ways in which marketing is simultaneously collapsing and expanding, while the second half makes the case for the hybrid marketer scientist.
We’d hit our target audience with a marketing stimulus, typically advertising, to build awareness and interest. When the customer finally experiences what they bought, then that’s the second moment of truth — do they like it?
Other customers, other prospective buyers, customers of your competition, and a whole global cast of advocates, critics, and influencers. But in this age of real-time marketing, we’re increasingly faced with short decision cycles that can nonetheless be important and strategic. They were blind-sided by a digital innovation that didn’t come from any of their traditional competition. Across our own web sites and applications — our owned media, if you will — and the ever-blossoming social media landscape, there can be literally dozens of points where we can and should engage with our audience. We need to consider how multiple of these devices are used together in concert, multi-screening. And while there is some consolidation among marketing technology vendors, with the goal of taming this menagerie, the pace of new product innovations from entrepreneurs continues to accelerate in parallel — because the environment in which we’re all operating is continuing to evolve.
Research by Google and Shopper Sciences found a similar dynamic in consumer purchases — especially considered decisions such as cars, travel, electronics, insurance — where prospects would examine as many as a dozen sources online before making their decision.
In a survey of marketing managers by Gartner last year, only 9% felt that marketing in their company was strategic in nature. This is how paradigm shifts come to revolutionize science — and will revolutionize marketing as well. For instance, we may start out as a student, make early progress as an individual contributor, advance into managing and leading other people, and so on. On the contrary, it makes storytelling even more important because the science (ideally) lets you target the right story to the right individual at the right time — but if the story lacks resonance, all that science is worthless: the recipient will treat it as spam.
Not hum-in-the-shower sort of warbling, but wooing and wowing like Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Adele — whomever’s voice vibrates in your soul. Looking to data not just for confirmation, but proactively exploring data to unearth new customer insights.
Pragmatic marketers should seek to balance data and experience — the combination of art and science — rather than fall prey to the false dilemma of exclusively relying on one or the other.
There was the notion of the brand promise — fulfilling the expectations set by your brand image — but that responsibility was often someone else’s department. Gut-level, take-your-best-guess, roll-the-dice-and-pray marketing is anachronistic in a world where you can quickly just run a test.
After the dust settled, many months later, only then would we tally the results, fire the people who guessed wrong and lionize those who guessed right. We mitigate risk not by avoiding daring innovations — which is a recipe for stagnation — but by testing them early and often. Marketing’s responsibility is expanding from the delivery of customer communications to the delivery customer experiences.
Or, more accurately, when the continuity between marketing and experience is broken — and your organizational fault lines slap them in the face — they’re quickly annoyed and offended. If you’re just taking some canned report for granted as the voice of the customer, your perception may be quite distorted.
Forrester Research has also championed this approach, encouraging CMOs to create a marketing technology office within their organizations.
Scientists treat technology as an enabler, and that’s how marketer scientists should think of it too. Therefore, one of the key roles of the marketer scientist should be that of change agent — helping their teams adopt these new capabilities. You need to be an expert Ferrari mechanic to sort out the cause and effect of any maintenance or repair. It’s an environment in which exploratory data analysis and experimentation helps reveal effective patterns in the system, but not necessarily cookbook recipes.
Prospective customers can visit your web site, search to see what other people have to say about you, check out your social media presence, look up your competitors, see what their social network friends and colleagues think about you, and so on. And that requires higher metabolism marketing management to make effective decisions in these collapsed timescales. But looking forward, 2 years from now, 67% expect marketing to be primarily strategic — a 7X increase. Just because some aspects of marketing are collapsing in no way restricts other aspects of marketing from expanding at the same time.
Marketing can blend art and science together to simultaneously achieve meaning, truth, and money. Keep in mind that the exact same underlying data can be analyzed and interpreted in many different ways. And recent research from Gartner confirms that 70% of enterprises now have a chief marketing technologist role in place. This is a 360-degree mission, working with executives above, staff below, and peers across the organization. This is the next generation of integrated marketing, and it’s more interconnected than ever.
In contrast, a rainforest is complex: the ecosystem of flora and fauna is interrelated in many dynamics ways. At some point in the future, the prospect would hopefully make a buying decision — choosing between our brand or a competitor’s. Any given action — a cause — can generate many fractal-like ripples of effects, looping back on each other in ways that are very hard to predict.



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