Marketing: Art or Science or neither?

Pundits, experts, academics, and others have written for decades about Marketing being an art and a science. Then comes the droning debate about which part is most important; how to have art/science balance (is that anything like work/life balance?); whether the art people should be separate from the science people, but then how do you communicate. And this goes on and on to no useful conclusion. (Proof: The conversation continues with no solutions provided.)

The Marketing/Sales disconnect has similarly been debated for years with no useful conclusions being reached other than we just need to learn to get along. (Where have we heard those unhelpful words before?). As we have written about elsewhere, we believe the disconnect between Marketing and Sales is solvable if you consider a different paradigm.

The art/science debate is likewise a wrong-headed analogy, which has prevented finding a solution. If you start looking for a solution to a problem based on a faulty or invalid assumption, you are less likely to ever find the solution. The art/science foundation is flawed and using it will never result in improving Marketing performance or management.

The appropriate foundation is to recognize that Marketing is a highly flexible, adaptable business process. All processes have some degree of flexibility in them. The most rigid processes (usually safety related) have little if any flexibility for a reason. Those processes that deal with uncontrollable events (the behavior of people, the weather, the enemy) must be more flexible.

Why not make all processes flexible you might ask? The more flexible the process the more expensive the process is to operate (generally). In human driven processes, flexibility usually demands judgement or skills that are in shorter supply, and therefore scarce and more expensive to acquire. This suggests that processes need to be as flexible as necessary and no more so.

Since Marketing deals with the customer, competitors, the environment and other uncontrollable factors, it, by definition, needs to be a flexible, adaptable process. If you stop thinking about it as art vs. science (a paradigm which has not helped improve Marketing performance) and look at it as a process, which needs an appropriate level of flexibility and adaptability, there is ample evidence from other business processes that this model will improve Marketing performance.


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