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The Debate Rages On: Is Marketing Art or Science?

The increasing importance of data and analytics, and the nearly 2,000 marketing technology platforms/tools in the marketplace today have given rise to what Scott Brinker has called “The Chief Marketing Technology Officer.” 

At the same time, the growing importance of consistent, authentic and proactive engagement across the entire customer experience have led others to call on marketing for a Customer Experience Officer, Chief Customer Officer, or Chief Brand Officer.

But how do you measure a customer’s experience?

Isn’t it all about the data?

This naturally leads to the question of marketing success:

Is marketing achieved through art or science?

Truth is, I’ve always been troubled by this art vs science polarization as the answer is both.

It’s more of a cultural question than it is a debate positioning the creative process against scientific method. Engaging in this debate always generates friction because the connotation of the term “art” is that artists lack scientific rigor and logic. Similarly, the connotation of “science” is that scientists are cold, lacking in creative genius and intuition. It’s the old “left brain versus right brain” argument. Can’t we have a whole brain?


Scientists don’t begin by knowing the answer—they value the process  (just like artists).

In the current age of entrepreneurialism, it’s safe to say that many great scientific and technological innovators are creative thinkers. Some of the most creative thinkers I’ve encountered were not in the art department – but in the Math and Science departments. 

And yet, “The greatest scientists are artists as well,” as Albert Einstein said. Think about Leonardo da Vinci, Frank Lloyd Wright, or even George Lucas.

But does the process for teaching scientific creativity differ from artistic creativity?

And can creativity be taught?

Are great marketers born or made?

An article published in The Atlantic last year—“Scientists Are More Creative Than You Might Imagine”—weighed in on this this debate.

Science is our century’s art.

Science is spectral analysis. Art is light synthesis.

The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge.

Art and science have their meeting point in method.

~Earl Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

Marketing Masters Weigh In

My team still cringes when I say, ‘You can’t eat awareness.’
~Dan Marks, CMO, First Tennessee Bank.

Drew Neisser interviewed 64 marketing masters on the art and science of their craft for his new book “The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing.” His recent article on broached the topic of art vs. science after he asked more than 150 CMOs “Is Marketing More Art Or Science?” In part 1, Neisser shares the perspectives of those who say science.  

Talk to enough CMOs–I’m approaching 150 such conversations–and you’ll perceive an underlying trepidation when it comes to their job function. Some of this stems from the age-old “responsibility without authority” quagmire, but more recently the anxiety relates to the rise of data-driven activities, such as CRM, programmatic media, and marketing automation.
~Drew Neisser, Is Marketing More Art Or Science? (Part 1: The Scientists)

What do you think: art or science? Or artful science? Or scientific art?

Share your thoughts on the art vs science debate in the comments below. Signup for blog updates here and follow us @TopRightPartner for ideas on how to #MoveTopRight.

Photo Credit: Kari

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