Marketing a Science?

As a marketing major myself, I have never once considered the world of marketing in anyway synonymous or parallel to the sciences. In fact, part of the reason I planted myself in the marketing realm was for my sheer fear of sciences and my overwhelmingly creative mind that inhibits me from understanding words like “empirical” and prohibits me from understanding the differences between enzymes and proteins (is there a one?). I keep a one hundred foot distance from Gottwald at all times, and my eyes glaze over when reading about the “scientific method” and “epistemological anarchy”.

Therefore, it must come to no surprise that the “Marketing, Scientific Progress, and Scientific Method” reading caught my eye. I will admit, I struggled through reading the elaborate scientific process explanations for logical empiricism and falsificationism, but the last paragraph really struck a note with me, and I immediately thought back to a case study I recently did for my Principles of Marketing Class. It is stated that marketing requires a “greater commitment to theory-driven programmatic research, aimed at solving cognitively and socially significant problems” and I agree to that statement to an extent. Yes, to market a product, there needs to be extensive research behind it. You have to consider the “four P’s“; product, placement, price, and promotion. The product has to be aimed at a target market, and in order to do so effectively, you must understand thoroughly what is is they are looking for, how their generation responds to different advertising methods, what it is they would be looking to achieve from that product, etc.

I think back to Pink, a highly successful brand that Victoria’s Secret launched around 2006, that failed miserably at reaching its target market. Although the Pink brand was able to rake in billions of dollars, it did so overwhelmingly through the “tween” and “mom” markets, when they had developed the brand and invested countless hours and dollars to aiming at college females. In fact, their target market was essentially uninterested in the Pink brand, because they thought of it as something their younger sisters wore. The research done by Victoria’s Secret offered all the correct ways to target college kids, but from the wrong time period. Unlike what Anderson argues, there is no way to have an “exemplary theory” behind marketing, because everything is contextual; constantly changing. There are too many segmentations of markets, too many varying products and services, and countless changes to technology that keep the world of marketing on its toes. The way you target market a one week could change completely 5 weeks later. There may be a consistent way to test markets for most efficient results, however, there will not be any 1+1 formula that will equal success in the marketing realm, and therefore, I don’t think that marketing is a science, because it is not constant, and there is no real rhyme or reason behind the things that work. As my marketing professor says, it really all just boils down to”luck”. 

3 Responses to Marketing a Science?

  1. I think there is an interesting connection between the story of Victoria’s Secret’s Pink line, the scientific method, and Skinner’s essay. The line failed to reach its targeted market but the creators behind the line used a form of the scientific method–their result just failed to confirm their hypothesis. The creators developed the theory and hypothesis about their target market and did the research to create a product that would match their target’s needs. However, when they went to test their product (ie sold the Pink line in stores), they failed to appeal to the college student market. Their results did not support their hypothesis. These results are just as important as if college students had bought the products in the Pink line. Since Victoria’s Secret failed to reach the college age market, they took a page from Skinner’s book, and followed a new path to create a new hypothesis; one in which they marketed to younger girls. As a result, the line was and still is wildly successful. Maybe the success came down to luck but there was definitely a method behind the madness.

  2. I agree, Ann Louise, that although in the case of Victoria’s Secret’s Pink line there may not have been exact adherence to the scientific method, there was certainly still a scientific process involved in the ultimate success of the brand. I don’t think that science and art or “luck” have to be mutually exclusive, especially within the marketing world. It is possible (and perhaps ideal) to utilize both precise scientific methods and creative innovations to increase chances for success. Perhaps it is a matter of collecting data in a scientific manner and then using those black and white facts and figures in a creative way or getting “lucky” by interpreting them in the right way to strike a chord with the targeted audience.

  3. I tend to agree with you, Chelsea, in that connecting marketing (or at least what you’ve described of it here–I have no background knowledge of the subject) and the scientific method is a bit of a stretch. Sure, the Pink creators used a theoretical and research-based approach to determine the best way to sell their product to their intended cosumers, but it seems to me that if testing their hypothesis was selling the Pink clothing to college students and they were wildly unsuccessful in doing so, the whole idea of the scientific method being applicable to the world of marketing is at least partially discounted, because the bottom line is that the scientific approach/study/evidence/however you want to describe it did not work.

    The influence of luck on the process is, at least to me, the least scientific detail of it all. Even Skinner’s writing on the subject as a “principle not formally recognized by scientific methodologists”–this principle being that luck will always play a role in scientific research–is obvious and almost humorously un-scientific. Like you said, Chelsea, it seems to me that luck plays a very large role in any type of marketing, so much so that it is difficult to compare the process to a science, and particularly a reflection of the process of the scientific method.

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