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Marketing - Art or science?

I read a blog post the other day (unfortunately I didn’t copy the URL and I don’t remember which blog) where someone answered the good old marketing question being - “is marketing art or science”. Let me tell you, I am so tired of that question. Let’s just clear that question once and for all. I really don’t see the point of asking it. Marketing is science and marketing is art. Why is that you might ask? Let me try to come up with some points of both sides:


Marketing is a science because marketing is about satisfying customers needs. To understand customer needs we need to develop scientific methods to learn about our customers and the needs they have. Also, the market and consumers generally behave in certain manners and deal with known variables. Porter’s five forces is a good example of this. These five forces determine the profitability and behaviors within a market. The five forces being: competition within the industry, customers bargaining power, suppliers bargaining power, threat of entry of new competitors, threat of substitute products. These forces shape the strategy of the company.


Reading the points under science we might assume that marketing is all about science, but it is not. While we can predict behaviors of consumers and the market by using scientific methods, the decisions based on the scientific results are not always correct. Take Coca-Cola for example. They did extensive market research when developing a new product - a new coke. The majority of the participants in the research were very positive to the new coke. Management based their decision on these results and were sure of success when they launched the product. What happened? It was a disaster. People demanded the classic coke back. In fact, Coca-Cola had to relaunch the classic coke to the market because of the failure of the new coke. This shows that the science of marketing, even when being right within its terms it can be very wrong in terms of marketing.

So to conclude - marketing is both a science and art. This is why there are so big differences between marketers who succeed and those who do not succeed. On one side we have creative art directors trying to use their creative skills to do marketing - they usually fail because of being focused on creatively alone and not seeing the long-term picture. And then we have the scientific market researchers, who stand by their numbers and never make a decision without thoroughly going through all options. These people make safe decisions, but also wrong decisions because they are slow of making decisions - thus competitors can get the upper hand - and they fail to see the dynamics within the market and the arbitrary psychology of consumers.

Written on 19 June 2004.
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