I recently had the opportunity to visit with a couple data marketing gurus: Sean Callahan, Senior Manager of Content at LinkedIn, and Eric Schnabel, Director of Facebook’s North America Creative Shop. They were here for Ole Miss for Data Day.
It’s fascinating to hear how their companies – and many others – are using data to segment, target and build relationships with customers. The idea of segmentation and targeting is nothing new of course, but the amount of information available and the sophisticated ways of using it has changed the landscape of marketing.
And it makes me think.
I’ve always believed there are really two sides of the marketing profession. There’s the “creative” side, which involves right-brain things like imagination, emotion and intuition. Creatives are passionate people who write, design, position brands, think outside the box….their work is colorful, poetic, subjective. Think of Don Draper on Mad Men: Find emotional appeals, trust your gut, pitch ideas, the hell with research.
Then there’s the “analytical” side, which focuses on left-brain things like information, facts, logic. Left-brainers are driven by data and numbers; they seek patterns, correlations and explanations. Their work is rational, objective. Research drives everything. Think of Sergeant Joe Friday on Dragnet: “Just the facts ma’am.” (To those under 50: Dragnet is an old TV show.)
I’m oversimplifying it, but I truly believe the profession has long consisted of people who focus on either the creative or the analytical. You’re either a dreamer or a data geek. Either or. One or the other.
That’s the world I’ve grown up in. I tell my students to know what side of their brain dominates as they ponder careers.
But the landscape is changing. When I hear people like Sean and Eric talk about how creative teams dive into data, or how data professionals think creatively, it makes me realize my assumption about “sides” of the profession is antiquated. As an example, Eric mentioned that some Facebook campaigns now have more than a thousand different versions of one ad, because there are a thousand ways to segment an audience. Success means that everyone involved needs to understand both creative and data.
Technology makes it easier too. I remember when people working on creative had to go to data analysts and request information, but desktop tools now put many of the queries and tables just a click away for anyone.
I think people themselves will always tilt one direction or the other — creative or analytical — simply because of how our brains are wired. But the idea that someone only needs to deal with one side is wrong. Successful marketers today must think in terms of both.