Sides have been taken. Lines are drawn. Who will control the marketing future?
On the one side, we have the numbers people. They wave their "Big Data is the Future!" and "Down with Fluffy Nonsense" placards, comforted by their confidence in data above ideas, thanks to their (rather opaque) algorithms.
Meanwhile, on the other side are creative folk, waving their own more crafted and ironic placards (with better fonts no doubt) such as "Big Ideas are the Future" and "Marketing by Numbers? Go Figure" comforted by their own confidence in ideas above data.
Twas ever thus.
Finance v Marketing; Creative v Media; Procurement v Brand. Is this a battle of ideals, of ideas, or of semantics?
Such a battle leaves many of us bored, frustrated and tired of the posturing.
We need to spend more time understanding what we do not know, rather than entrenching ourselves into pre-determined positions. We need to challenge our own biases. We need to open up and learn how to collaborate more effectively.
From this more open position, we can seek the more elegant solutions to the business and marketing challenges we face.
Above all, we need more people who can straddle that middle ground, and view the world far from the confines of a job title, a discipline or a tunnel.
One such person was Professor Rob Seymour. I never knew him, but came to know of him thanks to his daughter Karin. He was Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at University College London, a pioneering mathematician who applied his brilliance with numbers to help in the fields of evolutionary biology, physiology, ecology as well as economic theory.
He saw Beauty in Numbers and Numbers in Beauty.
He was concerned with the plight of the world's coral reefs and the millions of people who depend on the health of the reefs. For more than 25 years he applied analytics and modelling to predict future outbreaks of natural attacks on the coral, and helped to create programmes for tropical countries to manage their reefs. Big Data meets Big Ideas; who would have thought it possible?
His desire to seek elegant solutions in numbers and in life didn't stop there.
He co-created an innovative research and training centre (CoMPLEX) that brought together a wide range of scientific disciplines (from life scientists to engineers) to tackle the challenges arising from complexity in biology and medicine. It is in place today at University College London. All too often, in our search for more joined-up thinking/doing, rather than do something useful like CoMPLEX, we in the marketing industry put on a nice pithily titled conference instead.
If Professor Seymour worked in the marketing industry today, he would have been labelled a 'numbers man' or the 'Big Data guy'.
Professor Seymour was not defined by his mathematics but by the contribution he made.
He saw Numbers in Beauty and Beauty in Numbers.
The future for marketing will require us to take a step towards a similar path, and help others along that path too.
We need more people like Professor Seymour.