The Dying Art Of Marketing Magic

 I’m sure you have heard this before: Marketing is both art and science, wisdom and magic.

I very much believe that’s true. But lately, marketing evolution has leaned hard on anything but magic or art. This thought came to me when I was sent an industry survey that asked which ads I had recently seen or encountered that made me think, laugh, take notice, etc.

I thought about it, and: nothing. Nothing I had recently encountered made me stop in my tracks and look up the message or sender -- or do anything else to reconnect with it.

And when I thought about it a little longer, all examples I could think of were in my past -- and mostly from TV. Have I really not recently seen an online, print or outdoor ad so interesting, surprising or engaging that it made me think again about the message sender? Have you?

Which made me wonder if I could recall an advertiser who has even attempted that kind of messaging? Is the relentless onslaught of Geico, State Farm or Progressive ads doing anything for me? Are the commercial breaks in the local evening news, literally filled only with car ads and drive-by law firms, making me rethink their role in my life? Is the ridiculous amount of retargeting that some retailers let loose hitting me in any kind of positive way?



Sure, I have bought stuff I saw advertised on Instagram. I have clicked on links if the offer appeared to be relevant. But I can’t remember anything that showcased a brand’s wisdom and magic -- the alchemy of art and science.

It seems that with all the wisdom and science we (supposedly) have injected into marketing, we have lost the art of magic. To repeat another one of my favorite marketer quotes: “We have more data than we have ever had before, and I am more confused than ever.”

Clearly data and consumer insights are leaning on the practical, the doable, the cost-per-click, ROI-to-action-driven dashboards that each marketer covets. Useful goals, sure, but magical outcomes, no.

What also gets in the way: overreliance on marketing manufacturing processes that do not allow for time spent on thinking, noodling, brainstorming or other ways to find inspiration. Procurement is trying to corral each step for contributors in hours and cost, which is often in direct contradiction to inspiration and creativity.

Am I against data science? Of course not. Neither am I against process-building and process alignment. But I am a big proponent of allocating time, resources, and opportunity to let the magic happen.

And before the performance marketing jockeys and procurement guys all jump on me: Of course, I want marketing to aid sales and brand performance. I want to grow healthy brands and businesses. But I believe that growth is delivered best when we allow for the wisdom AND the magic. The art AND the science.

That takes a conscious effort. You may need to fight for an extra week and hourly cost in the work process to allow teams to figure stuff out and tease out the magic.

Because next time I am sent that survey, I want to be able to share at least three memorable brand engagements -- and perhaps one that convinced me to buy.

3 comments about "The Dying Art Of Marketing Magic".
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  1. Bill Hague from Magid, September 3, 2021 at 1:56 p.m.

    As someone who works for a research firm, we talk with our local media clients and their advertisers about harnessing both "magic" and "logic". This aligns with exactly what you've highlighted in your piece, Maarten. Not enough of either is being utilized by marketers and agencies these days. Evidence of that is unremarkable and unmemorable advertising that's cluttering the programming content that we consume!


  2. Maarten Albarda from Flock Associates (USA) replied, September 3, 2021 at 3:32 p.m.

    Thanks Bill, and very much agree. I will add "magic & logic" to my array of wishful marketing descriptors. 

  3. Stewart Pearson from Consilient Group, September 3, 2021 at 10:03 p.m.

    Maarten, yes, fewer brands create memorable (i.e. high impact, long term) engagements as Nike, Apple, Dove, Guinnness and American Express once did.  The consequence is that brands have lost almost 50% of their value in the last two decades, a truth the advertising industry prefers not to admitt, and that  marketers do want their boards to measure.  Your are right to call for more time, but not just a week: the creation of advertising and marketing can be measured in months and years not days and weeks, and the value accretion lasted decades.  Let's call out the two fundamental truths here.  First, magic happens when we are surprised by a truth, and also entertained. Second, magic rewards us functionally and emotionally over time.  Both demand new data and metric, like the Character Strengths of Stewart Pearson

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