I have pondered the wisdom of philosophical debates around marketing superiority for over 20 years now. When I first became a marketer I was challenged and disappointed by the “shoot from the hip” decision-making which guided marketing decisions and content in the high-tech industry. It seemed more art than science and, somehow, that seemed entirely wrong. I investigated various approaches in other industries and discovered that CPG was using more data-driven decision making. I wanted to bring that level of rigor back to the high-tech industry so I set myself on a course to attend Kellogg so I could study the masters of CPG marketing methodology.

Recently I am troubled that only data-driven decisions exist in high-tech marketing. Specifically, most marketing budgets are evaluated on the basis of the number of qualified leads that they bring in. The notion of a purchase cycle or awareness funnel seem to be entirely missing from modern day high-tech marketing. Suddenly I realize that in my own small way, I have created a monster.

As I ponder the problem more, I realize that really we have just traded one form of lazy decision making for another. As marketers we remain unwilling to bring marketing decisions to a level of nuanced, yet empirical, thought. Instead we rely on a single source of decision making information entirely too often.

The spark that caused me to write this post came from a course on Sociology that I’m taking through Coursera.com. The professor, Michael Duneier, assigned reading from William Ogburn. He argued for entirely scientific methods for the field of Sociology but noted,

“This decline in the prestige of intellectuality will be only amongst the scientists themselves.”

In essence marketing intellectuality is the gut feel that marketers have that they cannot prove. It is based on experience and judgement. Whereas the scientists will only make decisions based on proven, measurable results. I was struck by the tension that all fields of study have between the proven and unproven, feeling and facts. It just didn’t occur to me that other fields of study have the exact same ongoing debate.

What can we as marketers do about finding balance in our field? I admit that I am by nature a scientist. But I have come to appreciate the other viewpoint for which as a young and inexperienced marketer, I held total disdain. Maybe after you think about the question more for yourself you’ll agree and together we can tame our monster.