Is digital marketing art or science? And how does it relate to consumer psychology? It’s a question that’s been asked since the dawn of digital marketing: is it more art or science? And, more importantly, how does it relate to consumer psychology?
On the one hand, you have the “art” of digital marketing. This is the creative, strategic side of things. It’s about coming up with clever ideas and executing them in a way that will capture people’s attention.
On the other hand, you have the “science” of digital marketing. This is the data-driven, analytical side of things. It’s about understanding consumer behavior and using that knowledge to create campaigns that will resonate with your target audience.
So, which is it? Is digital marketing art or science? The answer, of course, is both. Digital marketing is both an art and a science. And, understanding consumer psychology is essential to being successful at it. Let’s take a closer look at each of these three elements.
Why does so many people refer to digital marketing as an art rather than a science? Well, there’s a few reasons.
For one, many of the tactics used in digital marketing, such as using catchy headlines or compelling visuals, are often based on personal taste and opinion. What one person finds appealing may differ from what another person finds appealing. Hence, the use of art rather than science to describe the practice.
Digital marketing tactics can also require a bit of trial and error. While there are certainly formulas and ratios that can help guide your decisions, sometimes the best way to improve your campaigns is simply to test different ideas and see what works. This is decidedly an art rather than a science.
Yet, there is a valid reason to refer to digital marketing as a science as well. All those creative and strategic decisions that are made when executing a digital marketing campaign—like which buttons to click or which pages to read—are recorded by web servers. This data is then analyzed by digital marketers.
The data allows digital marketers to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of their campaigns. This, in turn, allows them to revise their strategies in a methodical and analytical way. Hence, the use of science to describe the practice as well.
Why Both Science and Art?
Despite the fact that both art and science are used to describe digital marketing, the practice actually requires both art and science in order to be successful.
As we discussed earlier, one of the key elements of digital marketing is gathering and analyzing data. However, simply collecting data doesn’t make for a very compelling case that digital marketers can rely on.
Instead, they must be able to interpret the data in a way that accurately reflects what’s actually happening—which requires art. Once digital marketers have gathered and analyzed the data from their campaigns, they can use that information to make strategic decisions about how to allocate their resources.
This requires science. For example if we consider an online store as a digital marketer, then the data may show them which products are the most popular among customers. With this information, the digital marketer can ask the question: Which products should we focus on promoting?
Additionally, the outcomes of digital marketing campaigns often are inherently uncertain. Even if you use the most data-driven, analytical tactics available, you’re never truly sure how your audience will react.
This was exemplified in Netflix’s 2019 Annual Report, in which they explained their approach to digital marketing. They used a lot of data and analysis, but admitted that “ there is no perfect balance to be struck between predictability and surprise. The more predictable we are, the less interesting we are.”
This shows that digital marketers must be flexible and creative, requiring the use of art, even though their primary tool is data analysis.
How does digital marketing relate to consumer psychology?
The use of psychology in digital marketing isn’t a surprise. Every day we see digital marketers use psychological hooks to capture the attention of their audience.
For example, The Outcome Building using the hook “what would *your name* do?” This hook relies on the psychological principle of self-reflection, which shows that digital marketers need to understand consumer psychology in order to use digital marketing tools and tactics effectively.
As the world becomes increasingly digital, the role of digital marketing will only continue to grow. And the professionals who are best suited to leading and participating in online conversations are those who are able to blend art and science with psychology.
Digital marketing is definitely both an art and a science. It requires creativity to come up with effective campaigns, but it also requires data and analytics to understand what works and what doesn’t. Consumer psychology is a huge part of digital marketing, as understanding how consumers think and behave is essential to creating effective marketing campaigns. Ultimately, the most successful digital marketers are those who are able to use both art and science to their advantage.
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