Ideas and insights to take your marketing to the highest level

March 30, 2015
Tim McMullen

The Future Lies With the Marketing Scientist

The world of marketing changes every day, often at breakneck speed. No new news there for anybody who’s been paying attention, but now we’re seeing an evolution at the very core of how successful marketers approach their craft. Behold, the rise of the marketing scientist.

Marketing scientists are the experimenters, the ones going out on limbs and reaping the fruits of success. They are creating ambassadors and fanatically loyal customers, and they are leading the brands that others struggle to emulate.

Those employing experimental approaches have become true marketing scientists by building flexibility into their plans and budgets, and by changing their practices to accommodate for the observations that they make about the world. We see brands that do this well take residence at the forefront of marketing. They build brand advocates and shape the strategies that others must use to keep up.

Let’s take a look at the changes that you can make to adopt this necessary mindset and stay ahead of the curve by becoming a marketing scientist.

1. Build a lab-like culture. Humans are naturally resistant to change, and businesses are even more so. This resistance is scary in an age in which new technologies are coming online almost daily to reshape our environments. As consumers adopt new technologies, they expect brands to do the same, so as a consumer-facing department, marketers must lead the push to make the modifications that customers want—with extra points awarded to those teams that are adopting new processes and technologies before consumers know that they want them.

We must actively foster an environment that supports change, minimizing the pain of trying new processes and technologies by making experimentation and scientific thinking the norm. Create an environment in which it’s safe for your team to think like scientists, to set hypotheses, develop iterations and record findings. Also, this means allocating real time for experimentation. Once you realize that “progress as a straight line” is a myth, you can begin to get game-changing results.

2. Carve out the excess to sharpen your corners. Building a connection between a brand and its customers requires strategic thought and effort. As a marketing scientist, it is your responsibility to hone in on the attributes that you share with your target audience, and to experiment to find the best way to make a connection with them.

Once you have established your sharp corners—the cornerstones of who your brand is, and what you do—each and every action taken on behalf of your brand must stay true to these sharp corners. Any actions not in line with the fundamentals of the company must be rethought.

Brands also must find their customers’ sharp corners and draw on commonalities to intersect with them, using parallel relevance to build relationships and lasting interactions. What do your customers like? What do they think about themselves? How do they relate with technology and media? Knowing all of these things, you can create your communication and marketing strategies to find your customers where they like to be, and relate to them there.

3. Use technology as a means, not an end. Being active on Twitter, existing on Pinterest and having an interactive website are not the goals that brands should make for themselves. Unfortunately, marketing is not that easy. Marketing scientists know that using the popular technology of the day should never be your goal, and that using it strategically to support company goals should always be your focus. Far too often, we mistake the paintbrush for the completed picture. Technology gives us amazing tools, but it is our job as marketing scientists to use those tools in new, interesting and meaningful ways.

The real goal should be developing aspirational strategies. They can guide you for years, regardless of technological changes. You will be able to stay true to your goals while whittling away at the technology that isn’t helping you, and invest in technology that will aide in reaching your organizational aspirations. This way, as technology evolves, you will evolve with it.

4. Take customers past engagement. Marketing has evolved constantly throughout history, transitioning from simply speaking to consumers to developing communication strategies that seek to foster engagement. Technology has aided in this transformation, providing brands both the means and the necessity to drive engagement. Modern consumers want more, though. Simply starting a conversation is not enough.

This is where involvement enters the picture. As marketing scientists, we must develop innovative communication strategies that will take the 20% of customers that really love our brands, and increase their loyalty even more by involving them in the development of products, offerings and marketing campaigns. These customers become brand advocates, moving your messages and products because they feel a connection to them. To involve these advocates, brands must think like scientists and invest in technology that will make it easy for customers to interact and share their ideas. A low barrier of entry and strategies that reach out to customers for their input will boost their desire to become advocates for your brand.

Acting as a marketing scientist involves a lot of moving parts: a flexible marketing plan, branding that’s in line with your sharp corners, and relevant interactions between brand and customer. If you’re missing just one of these variables, your marketing will not be nearly as successful as it could be.

To complete the transformation to true marketing scientist, brands must understand that experimentation and flexibility are necessities of the marketing scientist approach. Although it can be uncomfortable, allocating 20% of your marketing budget to flexibility and experimentation will place your company in a prime position not only to keep up with marketing trends, but also to have a hand in what leads them.


Tim McMullen is founder and CEO of Nashville, Tenn.-based integrated ad agency Redpepper, which works with clients such as Kirkland’s, Claire’s, Georgia Pacific, John Deere, Simon Malls and SVP Worldwide.

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