Why we need the explorers

In a recent TED talk, eminent Physicist Professor Brian Cox discussed the need for explorers in science. During his talk he said,  “…the explorers of the world of the atom did not intend to invent the transistor. And they certainly didn’t intend to describe the mechanics of supernova explosions, which eventually told us where the building blocks of life were synthesised in the universe. So, I think science can be beautiful. It can reveal quite astonishing things…”

To most, marketing does not qualify as a science, an opinion I do not share, especially today. It may surprise some to know that today technology has provided us with the tools to confirm many of marketing’s deep seated assumptions and to debunk some of our most vehemently held views. And as we adopt the idea of exploring instead of guessing, our profession is impacted by findings which impact all varieties of other life skills. It is indeed “beautiful” as Prof. Cox says.

Thanks to science we are now able to measure consumers’ responses not by survey or by focus groups – a most unreliable source of the truth – but rather we can utilise MRI scans to witness what happens to the brain when we introduce products, brands and services. To measure emotional responses, understand how decisions are made and examine cognitive dissonance while it is occurring.

Thanks to pioneers, such as Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman, we can understand better how our subliminal mind operates, how our auto pilot works and how fast it plays out. We can understand how consumers think fast and think slow, we can fashion strategies on real research and we can, if we have the mind, educate our future marketers with standards that are on a higher plane than that of today.

The question then is, are we prepared to honour the explorers and forget the gut assumptions of the past to create a more perfect science? Are we prepared to bury our egos and ditch the garbage, which we now know is false? Are we able to unshackle ourselves from past techniques, which are not only counter productive to marketing but downright unethical?

During the 60’s selling mechanisms were created and taught as ‘perfect methods’. Today we know they were more than simply worthless, they were just plain wrong. Despite this salespeople today still operate under the mistaken belief that you can manipulate people into buying a product and expect their continued patronage and loyalty. Yes sadly the snake oil salesman still exists.

If marketing is simply defined as selling something, then we can continue the charade, but I’m ever hopeful that we embrace the now known science with the same enthusiasm to which we nurture creativity, because to develop a successful marketing strategy we need science and the arts to merge. As unlikely bed fellows, they are the ingredients which can produce marketing’s most perfect alchemy.