The Quintessential Marketer Scientist

Philosopher kings. Warrior poets. Scholar athletes. These compound nouns embody the grand ideal of the “hybrid” — those rare individuals who fuse multiple disciplines and talents into an epic combination. They’re larger-than-life heroes of history and literature.

Modern marketing deserves its own mythical hybrid: the marketer scientist.

The Marketer Scientist

Courtesy of Ion Interactive

The marketer scientist is not a reincarnation of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. (Or maybe Dr. Spock and Mr. Ogilvy?) No, these aren’t two opposing personalities fighting for control.

To the fur-flying cat fight between “art” and “science” in marketing, the marketer scientist boldly proclaims: I love both of you, equally. The marketer scientist doesn’t hear dissonance between the analytical left-brain and the creative right-brain, but a harmonious counterpoint, like a Bach fugue.

The marketer scientist seamlessly blends characteristics from the rich heritage of marketing with cutting-edge methods of modern science. It’s like Odwalla’s green superfood smoothie – an unexpected mix of ingredients that looks frightening at first, but is actually quite delicious and good for you.

4 Traits From The Marketer Half Of The Family

The key “marketer” ingredients in this bodacious blend of marketer scientist include:

  • Storyteller
  • Brand champion
  • Experience designer
  • Change agent

Traditional marketing roles — such as storyteller and brand champion — are not losing their mojo. On the contrary, technology has made them more crucial than ever.

How do you break through the cacophony of content flooding people’s inboxes, search results, and social networks? By telling stories that are truly compelling. (Tip: you can’t curate your way to compelling.) Brilliant, mesmerizing, word-of-mouth-worthy storytelling is hard work that takes real talent and dedication. But that’s also why it stands out from the mobs of “meh.”

Technology has made the mobs bigger and the cacophony louder. Storytelling is the precious antidote that turns zombie marketing back into human marketing.

Speaking of mobs, it should be obvious by now: your brand is what other people say about you in search and social channels. Things like brand advertising and brand standards are small potatoes compared to making sure that your company genuinely lives up to its brand promise in everything it does — because that is what will be reflected in the clouds.

The scope of the modern brand champion is all-encompassing. It’s less about what you say and more about what you do. It’s less about how you look and more about how you act. It reaches beyond the marketing department into every nook of the entire organization.

This is why marketers must increasingly be experience designers. Great experiences make great brands. In a way, storytelling is becoming experiential. It’s not enough to communicate words and images. We need to craft how the story unfolds as a customer interacts with us.

Because marketing is evolving so rapidly — and digital disruption can strike almost anyone’s market in an instant — the most important hat for a marketer to wear may be that of change agent. This is hard because technologies change exponentially, but organizations change logarithmically. As the link between the customer and the brand, the marketer is in the best position to advocate for the right changes. The marketer must carry the banner to innovate.

4 Traits From The Scientist Half Of The Family

The other strand of marketer scientist DNA, the “scientist” half, incorporates:

  • Data analyst
  • Experimentalist
  • Technologist
  • Systems thinker

Marketers have always worked with data to a certain degree. But in a digital world, where the thundering river of data carries millions of molecules of customer insights and intents, we must become better data analysts. Maybe not data scientists, but more savvy consumers of data and analytics.

Marketers should be to data what foodies are to food — connoisseurs, able to discern the quality of what comes out of the kitchen. (“Excuse me, waiter, this data smells funny.”)

The best use of data is for running controlled experiments. Just as the engine of scientific progress is powered by the scientific method — question, hypothesize, predict, test, and analyze — marketers can plug into that same momentum generator as experimentalists. In a digital world, you can launch an A/B test faster than you can have a pizza delivered.

Here is where the marketer and scientist strands of DNA entwine in a sweet love embrace. Experimentation enables you to systematically hone in on the most effective storytelling and experience designs. It facilitates the role of change agent by disarming skeptics with the three most seductive words in modern marketing: “Let’s test it.”

I’ll stand by my claim: big testing will be bigger than big data.

Of course, everything digital is inherently the input and output of software. While marketers don’t necessarily have to become code-crunching programmers — although some will, and they’ll be like Neo in The Matrix — the marketer scientist is an able technologist. He or she deftly wields technology as an integral part of marketing strategy and operations.

Last but not least, a marketer scientist is a systems thinker. All marketing components are viewed in the context of a broader ecosystem that includes prospects, customers, partners, influencers, the sales team, customer service staff and so on. Silos give way to a more holistic view of converged media and connected customer journeys.

It’s more than integrated marketing. It’s integrated thinking, like a Jedi master who appreciates how the Force connects all living things. “Use the Force, Luke.”

“I Just Saw Superman. He Flew That Way.”

You might think that such a chimerical marketer scientist could only be carved out of marble by Michelangelo himself. How many people can perfectly manifest all eight of these characteristics without the marketing industry equivalent of Gattica?

However, the goal is not perfection, but rather to strive for a new ideal in our profession. Don Draper is who we see looking behind us. The marketer scientist ideal is who we see on the road ahead.

The perfect marketer scientist is mythical.

But the practical marketer scientist is within our grasp. All it takes is a commitment to recognize the importance of each of these characteristics in modern marketing — as well as the balance and interplay between them — and to endeavor toward that ideal in our teams and in ourselves.

As conversion-oriented search marketers, you’re further along in that journey than most.

In my opinion, you are the quintessential marketer scientists.

P.S. For a more in-depth examination of the marketer scientist ideal, you may like an essay and presentation I wrote on art and science in marketing: meaning, truth, and money.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Search Marketing | Search & Conversion


About The Author: is the president and CTO of ion interactive, a leading provider of landing page management and conversion optimization software. He also writes a blog on marketing technology, Chief Marketing Technologist. Follow him on twitter via @chiefmartec.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter


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  • Art Webb

    Great article Scott. As someone who’s worked across digital marketing disciplines, I’ve often wondered how to describe my vocation in a nutshell. Now I can do it in two words :)

  • Scott Brinker

    Thanks — I’m glad to hear this resonated with you!

  • George Michie

    Great piece, Scott. When I handed over the CEO reins I got the privilege of picking my own title, so I picked Chief Marketing Scientist! Cool title, now the burden is to live up to it…:-)

  • Tony Leary

    Excelllent. I just met someone tonight, Kirsten Murawski, who this describes. It also reminds me of my roots in Knowledge Management and the value of storytelling. Thanks.

    Oh, and btw, that image looks like it came from 53 Paper (an awesome iPad app) :)


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