Do Marketers Have A Responsibility To Humanity?

As long as there has been marketing, there has been a philosophical debate raging.

Is marketing an art or a science?

Consider art to be one extreme, science the other, and the practice of marketing as a pendulum swinging back and forth.

Visionaries in the creative revolution of the 1960’s were in the art camp and created the legendary VW ads, the Avis “We Try Harder” campaign, and the Benson & Hedges “A Silly Millimeter Longer” work.

They divined their magic and forged human connections based on empathy, understanding and creative expression.

The science team believed in proven techniques–– developing a unique selling proposition, repetition-repetition-repetition, asking for the order, sweetening the deal (“but wait, there’s more!”), and so on.

The art side loved humor. The science team was all about rationality and reason. Marketing’s pendulum has swung back and forth between the two poles over the last 50-years.

We’ve had times when it was all about entertainment. Executions where one wasn’t sure what the message was about, but it was funny and entertaining. When the advertiser’s logo popped up, it was as if to say, “This fun time brought to you by _________.”

We thought if people liked our work, they’d like our products and buy them.

And there have been times when there was an over-reliance on putting the entire focus on the product. Corporate chest-thumping with little room for humanity, only hyperbole, and bluster. Rationality would beat our audience into submission.

Great shops have managed to serve both masters, finding engaging ways to persuade using a balance of emotional titillation with rational grounding.

So, where are we today as an industry? Has the pendulum swung toward art or science?

Is that your final answer?

We’re in the science realm. Deep into science.

Today, most companies are focused on making their quarterly numbers. We’ve become slaves to the balance sheet, so naturally, numbers rule.

Thus, digital and social gobble marketing’s attention and dollars because those media have metrics and analytics to show. The CMO can produce charts (CYA) when the CEO or CFO asks for the ROI on marketing spending.

There’s security in that alphabet soup.

Big data and artificial intelligence give marketers scientific tools they’ve never had before, and the marketing industry is all-in on science and technological wonders.

But is that good?

What do you think about the overall quality of marketing today? Do any campaigns or messages stand out to you?

Yes, we have untold channels to consumers, but we’re usually flooding these channels with tactical crap.

No wonder ad blockers are growing in popularity, and avoiding commercials is a popular sport. We all hate to be cyber-stalked because we showed interest in a product or subject, and as a result, we’ll be served pop-ups and banner ads for the next six years.

But brands are not built on incremental gains. Great brands result from bold ideas that engage humans and compel interest.

Science has enabled us to pester people like never before, but let’s never forget that at the receiving end of our messages is a human being, not a bot.

Although, a bot may be the one clicking on our messages.

Please, don’t allow the pendulum swing toward technology do so to the exclusion of humanity.