Marketing is built on data, but still takes intuition

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Marketing connects brands with customers. This requires an in-depth understanding of people – their hopes, fears, desires and beliefs. Data science can help us to better understand people. But it also takes intuition.

Intuition is sometimes thought of as impulsive. That may be because, unlike rational thought, intuition is an unconscious process and can therefore seem opaque and mysterious to us. Intuition can also come to us suddenly. But those sudden insights draw from deep domain expertise. Intuition may surprise us in the form of sudden breakthroughs. But these take time to develop.

Great marketers use both the rational and the irrational mind. Making good decisions means making sense of people through the data we collect and use to model them and their behaviors. But it also means consulting our gut, whose instincts we develop over a lifetime of experience. Blending data science with human intuition yields richer insights to inform and influence decision making.

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Fernando Chacon
Banco Itaú

“It’s vital to remember that analytics is a great tool for marketers, but to create true value you must complement analytics with your own knowledge and vision of the business.”


Seth Farbman
Gap, Inc.

“You have to be well-informed and instinctual and come at a situation with a clear point of view. Then you use data to fine-tune or validate that point of view and make adjustments.”


Ray Elias

“I’ve also seen how data and overanalyzing can bog down a department. It’s important never to lose the ability to make quick decisions based on experience.”


Christa Carone

“I’m really concerned that in marketing now we’re becoming overly dependent on data and it’s taking some of the smart gut checks out of the decision-making process.”


David Kirchhoff
Weight Watchers

“Intuition, to make an obvious point, is not pulling stuff out of the air. It develops because you spend a lot of time thinking about a topic…Intuition sounds like it’s almost impulsive. It’s the opposite.”


TMok Oh
Formerly of PayPal

“When I just look at data science, it’s really frigid. It’s all about removing biases and trying to look for evidence of something. But that type of an approach doesn’t build a business…Everything we do should be about the human experience, the buying experience.”

Brett Goldstein
Formerly of the City of Chicago

“One of the techniques we use is to take what we know from data intelligence and marry it with human intelligence. In other words, what do we know from boots on the ground?”


John Miller
NBC Universal Television Group

“You still have to use the wisdom that you have accumulated as a marketer because some things never change.”


Austin Peterson
Ovid Napa Valley

“Even now we’ll look at results and say, “Okay, well, I still need to get out there and either validate those results or find out if the reading’s off.” This isn’t about abandoning anything; it’s really just an additional tool in the toolbox.”


Peter Vesterbacka

“The world is not perfect and no matter how much data you have, you can never have access to everything. You have to be comfortable calling the shots in imperfect conditions.”


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