I was getting some errors on the MarketingProfs content management system yesterday. So I did what any proper technophobe would do—I sent up a panicked flair to our patient and attentive Chief Information Officer, Aaron Lorentz. As always, Aaron diagnosed the problem. But this time he did something a little different, in that he offered a quick explanation email:
"'Script timed out' or Error Line Number 0 on pages that normally run fine mean something prevented the server from processing the page as usual, e.g. IIS is hung up, or there was a file/data accessing conflict. These are very vague Microsoft errors...and difficult to drill-down on. So, I basically have to guess what happened based on logs and server performance.... Not exact science by any means... ."
Aaron's words were a bit of a revelation to me, sort of like those uttered by my next-seat neighbor after a leg of last Thursday's flight from Santa Barbara to Boston. After spending most of the ride listening to air traffic control via the plane's passenger audio system, she commented, wide-eyed, "Wow! Flying a plane isn't the science you think it would be!"
With my limited comfort with technology, I assumed that tech diagnostics—like flying an airplane across the country—is all science, not art. But as Aaron later said, "Sometimes it's a best-guess based on previous experience."
But what about marketing? Is it an art, or is it a science? The debate often pits those who preach ROI against those in the squishier "creative" end of the business. The ROI camp says that numbers are the path to marketing's seat at the management table, while the artists counter that decisions based on scientific results alone fail to capture the nuances and dynamics of a market that, fundamentally, is made up of people.
But here I'll take an admittedly more anecdotal view, which is to say that marketing, like some aspects of technology and flying a jet, is often both. I like what the guys at Orbis wrote in Marketing Magazine a few years ago: "Just because marketers today want (and need) to express outcomes numerically doesn't mean intuition, savvy, experience, and self-criticality are abandoned."
In my view, the "art vs. science" debate isn't really much of a match at all. It's less of a cage-match and more of a partnership, because marketing as a business is both—art and science.
What's your take? Let me know your thoughts—either via email or on the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.
Until next week,
Chief Content Officer