Of all the slams on marketing, one of the biggest is that it is, in a word, guesswork.
That distinctly pejorative view of our shared business discipline is that it is without any discipline at all. Images abound of marketers with Aquafina bottles in hand, brainstorming amidst riotous laughter, in conference rooms wallpapered in ad concept sketches.
We protest that this is an uninformed, almost-Hollywood-tainted view of us. That, far from being the job of creating first-quality BS and strategic initiatives based on wild guesses, marketing is an occupation of knowledge and information. We want the world to understand that it is a series of rational decisions resting on solid and carefully researched fact. We strive to soundly disabuse our engineering and sales and finance cousins of the view that marketing is just a bunch of guesswork.
Only problem is: it's true.
Saying so is, of course, heresy. Most especially in the eyes of all those selling services and software promising to "eliminate the guesswork from marketing." But I must tell you—based on nearly 30 years of guesswork—if ever something qualified as "marketing BS," it's phrases like that.
It makes no difference how scientific the vocabulary is that shrouds it. Fill me with the best information in the world from the best researchers money can buy. But don't talk to me about eliminating guesswork until you give me my own HAL 9000:
Good morning, Mike. The tractor must be sold through the retail channel in all states but Rhode Island, where you should use Arnie the manufacturer's rep in Providence; it must be priced at US$45,142; it must be battleship grey; it must have a seat padded with closed-cell polyethylene foam; it must be advertised with full-page, four-color ads in "Progressive Farmer and Farm & Ranch Living."
Research gives us guidance. But after the focus groups and the perception audits and the segmentation studies and the Nielsens and the customer surveys—we make those decisions based on interpretation of research data—based on experience, knowledge and creativity.