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The Art&Science of digital marketing

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We are living in a cultural tsunami of technological development.

As a partner of a customer engagement agency, it seems there’s a new technological advance and technique to consider every day. Our clients are also thinking about these advancements and how to use them to engage their customers.

The big question is: how do the art of creativity and the science of technology work together? Which should be the lead factor when it comes to digital marketing?

Lets start with the science of technology

The arguments for technology to take the lead in digital marketing are strong. I’ve been to a number of events and conferences over the last year; UX, mobile, e-marketing, social etc. And the technical experts presenting are very convincing. That their scientific approach is guaranteed to be effective and that technology should come first.

Why so convinced? Because they have proof. Proof that their technology works. They tell us exactly where to position everything on a webpage. They tell us where to position the pictures and how big. How many words to have. How often to send emails. And so on.

They also tell us if we do things in this exact and scientific way, our results will be better than if we don’t. And why do they know this? Because very quickly they have built the body of evidence to prove their scientific techniques work.

However, I’ve noticed a pattern that happens when technology leads.

The examples that the technical experts show are starting to look the same and the quality of the creativity suffering.

The pictures might be in the optimum place, but the photography is bland. The copy might be the right length, but it lacks brand personality. There is a danger that everything will start to look the same and that the personality and soul of the very brands the technology is supposed to be helping, will be lost in a world of sameness.

It makes me wonder… if every website has its buttons in the optimum position and every marketing email follows the same rules, then what will be the differentiating factor that will encourage online consumers to buy from brand A as opposed to brand B?

What about the art of creativity?

Of course, the other side of the argument is to put your trust in the pure art of creativity and fresh new ideas to lead. This is potentially the more traditional and exciting methodology. Engage the customer with creative brilliance – the likes of which they have never seen – and they will flock to the brand.

This approach does work. The challenge can be pinpointing EXACTLY what it was that engaged the customer. Ideas are emotional beasts.

Yes, there are ways to test. And the importance of understanding the mind set of the consumer is paramount (so, yes, there is a certain science to creativity). But when you’re forging innovative and differentiating ideas that have never been done before, there’s no specific evidence to prove what will and won’t work.

Fantastic ideas have always created great impact. We only have to think of the Cadbury’s Gorilla or the Guinness Surfer to acknowledge that brilliant creative thinking really moves people.

So how should digital marketing be produced?

The challenge here is, there’s no future in either art or science leading when it comes to digital marketing. Lead with the science route and we risk just looking back at what went before and using existing facts and proof to work with. This will lead to a sea of sameness and status quo.

Follow the art route and we will forever be relying on the purity of the idea – and instinct – to carry the day. However, we risk creating ideas that may be strong offline but are potentially unusable in a digital space.

It’s now time for each to fully embrace the other as equal partners in their client’s success.

Art&Science are in this together when it comes to effective digital marketing. It sounds like common sense, but it’s not happening enough. I certainly haven’t seen convincing examples of this at recent events I’ve attended. And when I speak to people in the industry, I’m not hearing about artists and scientists working together in harmony yet. Or at all even. I hear more about frictions and each party blaming the other for just not getting it.

If I was a client and my agency told me that either art or science should take the lead in digital marketing campaigns, I’d run a mile. It simply won’t work. It’s time to fully embrace collaboration.

It’s about balance.

Art&Science as true bedfellows.

And that’s the future.

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