Is Marketing More Art or Science? (Part 2: The Artists)

In the ranks of CMOs, you’ll still find those who rely on their intuition and place big marketing bets that the data doesn’t necessarily direct.

Is Marketing More Art or Science? (Part 2: The Artists)

Reference W. Edward Denning’s quote, “In God we trust, all else bring data,” at a gathering of CMOs, and it’s sure to generate numerous nods and  few “amens.”

These folks understand clearly the power of data to help them make informed decisions on targeting, messaging, media spending, and more. Yet–and you knew a big YET was coming–in the ranks of CMOs, you’ll still find those who rely on their intuition and place big marketing bets that the data doesn’t necessarily direct (unlike the “scientists,” who I featured in Part 1 of this series).

My new book,“The CMO’s Periodic Table: A Renegade’s Guide to Marketing,” features interviews with 64 masters of their craft, including several artists who will admit publicly that not every worthwhile marketing initiative can be conclusively tied back to a specific sale. This is not to suggest that these creatively distinguished individuals aren’t equally committed to growing their respective companies. On the contrary, these CMOs have grown their businesses through highly innovative campaigns, whose sum of the parts get the job done even though the parts can rarely be isolated from the whole.

Let’s meet these CMO “artists.”

**“I am not a believer in dealing with any sort of pretesting of advertising, and we never did anything of that nature.” – Terri Funk Graham **

****As the head of marketing at Jack in the Box for well over a decade, Terri Funk Graham, in cahoots with long-time agency partner Dick Sittig, served up some of the most daring ads in the QSR industry. Imagine the guts it took to run over its spokesperson (Jack) with a bus, as Terri did on the Super Bowl in 2009. And then there was the ad featuring a hallucinating young man who coveted 30 tacos that inspired protesters, a situation Graham handled with her own special sauciness. Unafraid of being politically incorrect, these and other Jack ads cut through and drove sales but were never pretested or subjected to committee approval, both of which Graham cautioned “can hold you back from developing great creative work.”

**“Creativity and innovation aren’t just about another page in a magazine or another billboard with clever imagery or copy.” – Lee Applbaum **

****When Lee Applbaum became CMO of the iconic beverage brand Patrón Spirits, he took an admittedly conservative “stewardship” approach to his new duties. Not wanting to screw up a good thing with the master brand, Lee directed his team toward new products and “reimagining the conversation in our category.” The launch of line-extension Roca Patrón presented just such an opportunity to disrupt via events, social, digital and mobile. Applbaum’s “Roca on the Rails” campaign featured a fully restored, opulent 1927 railcar offering bespoke dinners and tastings with celebrated chefs. This unique experience started a wave of PR coverage and social buzz that helped to exceed sales goals by 50%.

**“Creativity is driven by staying authentic to your brand and your mission.” – Loren Angelo **

****CMO Loren Angelo is not shy about sharing the success Audi of America has enjoyed on the sales front, pointing to 45 consecutive monthly sales records and elevating brand opinion and consideration by over 30% since 2006. This growth is the result of bringing “smart, entertaining creative to market,” like using Snapchat during the Super Bowl to launch the A3, which it continued via a partnership with “Pretty Little Liars.” Angelo is not afraid to experiment with new channels, even if the ROI is not readily measurable, noting that, “Creativity comes in the message as well as the medium in which it’s delivered. … Building the brand with time-starved, affluent Americans requires us to bring unique ideas to a variety of channels.”

“We don’t do things just because they’re a trend; we do things because we think it’s the right thing to do for our customer.” – John Hayes

As the longtime CMO of American Express, John Hayes has orchestrated a number of the most innovative marketing programs in the industry, from Small Business Saturday, to OPEN Forum, to CEO Boot Camp to Membership Rewards. All of these represent examples of what I call “Marketing as Service” programs that deliver intrinsic value to the targeted consumer. Hayes rationalized these efforts by explaining, “We have a belief that if you serve people well, they’ll become your customers because everyone wants and deserves to be served well.” At the same time, he acknowledged, “When you get to a granular level, it’s difficult to say this program generated this many cards and this much spend for American Express.”

“If marketing were as objective and predictable as most sciences, we would lose the creativity that defines the best campaigns.” Drew Neisser

I could go on about the Artists featured in my book, sharing, for example, how General Electric’s Beth Comstock found the inspiration for Ecoimagination, an idea that now generates more than $6 billion in sales each year. Or Daniel Lubetzky’s efforts at KIND Snacks to grow a billion-dollar business based on “doing the kind thing” for his customers, employees, and the world.

But instead, I’ll wrap up with the observation that the job of the CMO is way too complex to rely on one approach or even one part of the brain. Admittedly, as the head of a creative agency, I harbor some fear that the data geeks are winning and big ideas will give way to programmatic incrementalism—a fear that is somewhat tempered, however, by the stalwarts referenced above. Time will tell, and in the meantime, I’ll keep seeking out the CMOs who recognize the need for both art and science.

See what the Twitterverse is saying about marketing creativity: