Marketing has changed a lot over the years. What used to be a field of dreams has become a battlefield in which massive armories of technology and data are brought to bear in a neverending quest for domination.
In other words it has become, supposedly, a serious enterprise.
However, confusion reigns. One of the main sources of disarray is a misunderstanding of marketing’s relation to numbers, math and science. Marketing, of course, is none of these, but a business function, and to be practiced seriously, it needs to be treated as one.
Marketing as Numbers
Good hard-nosed business people are fond of saying, “show me the numbers!” It’s a badge of honor among those who want to appear practical and well grounded. However, those kinds of heuristic proclamations beg the question: Which numbers?
We have no shortage of metrics, such as awareness, sales and advocacy, but each have their drawbacks. The relationship between awareness and sales is notoriously murky. Sales can be goosed up through discounting and flooding the channel. Advocacy, of course, tells you nothing about profitability.
Another problem is that numbers are essentially backward looking. Projections are based on historical data, which are used to make standardized assumptions and then extrapolated using standard methods. The future, of course, might be very different from the past and we don’t have future numbers. It hasn’t happened yet!
Simply looking at numbers tells you very little. Reasonable people can look at the same numbers and draw vastly different conclusions.