Is Marketing Management an Art or a Science?

Marketing and Sales


james ogweno
Entrepreneur, Kenya

Is Marketing Management an Art or a Science?

Marketing management represents creativity rooted and augmented by data for strategic decision-making and so must it remain. This article presents contending arguments as to the nature of marketing managementm - whether it is an art or a science - with a presupposition that while traditionally marketing and the management aspect in it has been considered artistic, it is, contrarily, strongly toward scientific practice - an indication that marketing management is both an art and a science.
Kotler and Armstrong (2001) defined marketing as “a social and managerial process whereby individuals and groups obtain what they need and want through creating and exchanging products and value with others” (p6). Marketing involves anticipating, managing and satisfying demand through exchange of goods and services and involves people, organizations, places and ideas. Fundamentally, marketing management describes the utilization of marketing techniques to manage a firm’s marketing resources and activities. Marketing managers influence the timing, level, and composition of customer demand. The body of knowledge relating to marketing decision and management is complex and large and, therefore, several misconceptions exist about marketing management. The debate often pits “numbers” against “creativity" in defining marketing management. The scientists contend that numbers are the paths that make marketing a management while the artists counter by saying that scientific results alone do not perfectly capture the dynamics and nuances of a market which, fundamentally, is made up of people. Additionally, the fact that marketing management is a perfect meeting point for intuition, data, creativity and analysis means it suffices to be an artistic science, a scientific art or both.

Marketing as an Art
That marketing management is an art is an old belief. The belief that marketing management is an art springs from the fact that, as a practice in business, it relies on right brain thinking and creativity to manipulate resources and services for profitability. Art, in itself, is based on complex processes of the mind and not solely on sudden intuition and involves long processes requiring decision making. While intuition is the root of the art process, personal technique, creativity, motivation for a purpose and a lot more account for beneficial practice in business. Contemporarily, it is the aspect of marketing that successfully addresses issues faced by businesses and executives today; a task that requires both creativity and vision. Arguably it is this intuition coupled with practice that makes marketing management possible. In this process, science is not relevant or does not suffice at all.

In pursuit of economic and operational excellence, fluency is paramount. Marketers and their partners rely on fluency described by a financial outcomes language which is capable of establishing a systemised processes and best-practices and which is cognisant of the effects that this activity causes on shareholder value. Under such predetermined action to influence, imagination must take over. This imagination must have an element of free thinking enough to affect real world applications that influence markets. This, proponents of marketing management as an art contend, is pure art.

Marketing as a Science

There is a strong emerging belief that marketing management and its inherent theories are reducible to formulation, experimentation, hypotheses testing and statistics that inform decisions and therefore, the practice is a science. That the practice employs various tools ranging from analysis of the industry, competitive strategy and economics of competitors (cost structure, resources, competencies, product differentiation, degree of vertical integration, historical responses to industry, etcetera), it’s an approach that relies on data and numbers to arrive at workable decisions through an assortment of researches such as qualitative marketing, quantitative marketing, experimental and observational techniques and is therefore, purely scientific. Several competitive intelligence processes and environmental scanning for trend identification and marketing analysis additionally make marketing management a manipulative science with results that are purely numeric-centric.

The absence of measurements in artistic appeals that accompany marketing often keeps artful campaigns in marketing low in marketing strategy scale. There are no known tools to measure image and influence of artistry in marketing appeal except by experimental advertising or display. That measurement-centric strategies account for most planning that takes place in effective marketing means the practice is purely reliant on science that guarantees vision and strategy. Creativity in and of itself in marketing management without vision, strategy or a clearly defined ROI, so proponents of marketing management as a science argue, is not more than "necessary evil" and a service in futility. For example, in the case of Apple iPod, the firm needs to needs to manage its marketing to deliver value to the brand: while the creativity of the iPods needs to remain so to attract clients, the process of determining what is exposed to the market against competition is more of science than an art.

Marketing management involves strategic assessments, customer segmentation, opinions management, critical path management, internal stakeholder engagement, predictive outcome models, investment modelling, budget control, real-time reporting, assumptions reviews, and actual ROI assessments and review and approval checkpoints. These processes distinguish marketing managers more as scientist wanting to prove the unknown from the known than artists wanting to appealingly portray the known. Year after year, creative suppliers and new staff come and go, but the sheer numbers which determine the nature and magnitude of marketing projects remain and never ease off. Rather than the appeal, more research discreetly targeted to customers offer and timing and the utilization of new technologies makes marketing management efficient and economical. Arguably, what people work on in marketing are ones that most people can easily relate to in their daily experiences and are therefore, scientific.

In recourse, however, a school of thought is emerging that considers marketing management a scientific art. According to a definition by Kotler and Keller (2006), marketing management encompasses both the development of new products and services and their subsequent delivery to customers. These viewpoint echoes that of McKenna (1991) who, in his article entitled Marketing is Everything, argued that because marketing management entails all factors incidental to a company’s ability to deliver value to its clientele, it must be "all-pervasive...part of everyone's job description” (p7). In dispelling the belief that marketing management is only an art devoid of science or anything related to it, these views tend to imply that the art-science entangle is rather a cage-match but which, on the contrary, should be a partnership because marketing is both- art and science.

From the foregoing, it is evident that the nature of marketing management is a subject of intense disputation. Those who argue in support of its artistic nature cite creativity, experience and innovation as its hallmark. Scientists think it is purely a discipline involving data manipulation, research and numbers. However, overall there is a strong belief that it belongs in both disciplines. In the presence of the right models and necessary information (along with the ability to process them to make marketing decisions), what turns out is basically science. Lack of these things forces managers to rely on their perfect (or imperfect) qualities, which in reality, are difficult to explain or quantify. However, the fact that marketers in contemporary management practice need to express outcomes numerically, does not mean experience, intuition, self-criticality, and savvy should be abandoned”( Kotler & Caslione, 2009 p54).

Ultimately, perfect marketing management practice is determined by processes and results that arise from the same. How we get there-whether through scientific approach or pure artistry- is rarely a debate under a conscious realization that all measures in the world never mean a lot without artful messages on them. Nevertheless, there is a science to everything as well and the fact that the art of marketing makes the science complete. This is a fundamental proof that the two depend on each other is manifest in the fact that it is necessary to have an artistic mind which presents a business view artistically and an analytical mind to engage the necessary tools that make marketing successful.

There is no credibility in ignoring research and measurements in every marketing strategy. It is also irrelevant to abandon innovation, creativity and the artistic zeal for pure reliance on data and numeric. Conclusively, art is the best original piece of marketing management but for workable marketing strategies in management of businesses, science will make artistic things come true. Similarly, the art of marketing makes the science complete. Marketing management is therefore a scientifically managed art.

Kotler, P and Armstrong, G. 2001. Principles of marketing. Ed. Prentice –Hall.
Kotler, P. and Caslione, J. A. May 2009. Chaotics: The Business of Managing and Marketing in The Age of Turbulence. AMACOM Publishing.
Kotler, P., and Keller, K. L. 2006. Marketing management. 12th ed.. Pearson Prentice Hall.


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