Art and Science: The Evolution of Effective Marketing

Is marketing art? Science? Both?

In the halcyon days of marketing’s youth — stylized and idealized thanks to media efforts like Mad Men, art, or perhaps even “magic,” was the foundation of consumer capture efforts. Fast-forward to 2016 and metrics dominate the landscape: How did visitors arrive at your website? How long did they stay? What did they click on? What did they ultimately buy? More importantly: Why?

Businesses now find themselves in a strange position. Cutting-edge measurement and feedback techniques aren’t enough to solidify sales, while amazing art direction isn’t enough to drive ROI alone. The conclusion? Marketing is no mere art and no simple science but at its best a blend of both. Here’s a look at the evolution of effective marketing.

Metrics Matter

Metrics don’t tell the whole story, but they’re an integral part of the narrative. According to Forbes, however, it’s easy to make mistakes that can “kill” your marketing analytics. First up? Not defining a clear goal. With a host of tools on the market and thousands of metrics to track, it’s easy to get lost in the noise. Define your outcome: Higher sales volume, lower customer churn or better digital content are all options, and all require a different approach. The piece also notes that many companies get caught by the desire to chase every possible data point and understand every consumer reaction, an effort that quickly overwhelms even the best marketing team. Streamline your metric-measurement effort for best results.

Consider an example from Search Engine Journal: Many companies get caught up in the hunt for marketing metrics that directly measure ROI. The problem? They’re necessarily limited, especially when applied to social media, which has quickly become a driving force in the race to convert new customers. Photo-sharing site Instagram boasts more than 400 million monthly active users, while Facebook claims over one billion worldwide. As a result, it’s critical to leverage some data from your social marketing channels—one great method is using consumer “sentiment” for a better understanding of current customer impressions. So what can you measure, exactly? SEO Journal suggests a number of great starting points, including:

  • Comment Velocity — How often are users commenting on your social content? Huge leaps in volume mean a substantial uptick in interest (just make sure it’s for the right reasons).
  • Reactions — With Facebook’s new “Reactions” system you can get a better idea of the specific response users have to your content, beyond just like or indifference.
  • Volume of Mentions — Is your brand being mentioned by users on their social media channels? If so, how often? More is almost always better.
  • Tone and Context — Are comments and shares brand-positive, brand-neutral or brand-negative? Neutral still means great publicity, positive is the ideal but if you’re seeing negative tone and context, consider revamping your current marketing campaign.

Useful Metrics and Tools

Social media is a great example, but it’s just one example: What other metrics can you measure to improve marketing strategy? And since most companies aren’t made up of marketing gurus, what tools can help get the numbers you need with a minimum of effort?

Metrics: When it comes to measurement, TheContent Marketing Institute lists a few key categories, including:

  • Consumption Metrics, such as open rates or clicks for your email campaign along with download numbers for any e-books or white papers your company has released.
  • Retention Metrics, which include the number of returning visitors on your blog or your total number of social media followers.
  • Sharing Metrics, for example the number of “likes” and organic re-shares of your content on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.
  • Cost Metrics, which include the amount you’re paying to design and distribute marketing content.

The Art of the Sale

But science is only half the battle when it comes to effective marketing. Early advertisers enjoyed success for a reason: Their campaigns resonated with customers and created a shared narrative, which led to brand loyalty. This isn’t so different in 2016; companies are constantly reminded that their brand needs to “tell stories” if they want to attract consumer interest. But that’s a difficult task in a world dominated by quick-hitting social media content and viral videos. How do you make your marketing efforts stand out?

Creativity is the name of the game, and social media is the playing field. As noted by Small Biz Trends, there are a number of ways you can help your brand stand out, such as letting employees periodically “take over” social media accounts or showing behind-the-scenes photos of staff at work or your company designing its latest and greatest product. It’s also worth leveraging the power of video-based marketing, especially through large platforms such as Facebook Live. Here the trick is finding a balance between unscripted and too stiff. Since very few staff have the ability to effectively ad-lib on camera, it’s worth having a basic video outline prepared—but if you’re just reading lines, potential customers will spot the difference and your marketing spend may end up as an expensive and hilarious meme that doesn’t drive sales the way you hoped.

At the Intersection

As noted by an American Marketing Association whitepaper, “marketing-induced” customers add short-term value to your company while “word-of-mouth” customers provide long-term benefits. In other words, both science and art have a role to play in the evolution of effective marketing. Metrics are necessary to create and drive short-term conversions, which in turn set the stage for more long-term loyalty informed by creative and socially aware marketing efforts.

Bottom line? Solid numbers and great stories aren’t enough on their own to empower your marketing strategy. By targeting the right metrics, using the right tools and tapping the right kind of social design, however, it’s possible to leverage hard data as the foundation of a creative and compelling marketing campaign.