Published On: Sat, Dec 14th, 2013

The Unstoppable March of the Marketing Mathematicians

MathsEarlier this year I spoke about the rise of the marketing mathematician and how these numerical maestros are fast becoming the movie stars of the digital world. This is in part due to the rise of big data, as well as moneyball marketing and powerful business intelligence (BI) tools which help us pick marketing wins with more precision.

The tools to help us spend budget more wisely are there, but all too often people within marketing and public relations (PR) lack the analytical skills to accompany their expertise. This isn’t a criticism, but it is an issue and we must acknowledgement that as technology enables us to do more, people will need a broader set of skills to fully grasp the opportunity. Numbers, spreadsheets and datasets are not the bread and butter of most people in our industry.

But where did the marketing mathematician come from? Looking back you’ll see that the internet has created many analytical focussed marketing jobs that previously did not exist and redefined others. Just look at pay-per-click (PPC) executives, digital marketing managers and social media analysts or terms such as SEO, display advertising or marketing automation. All of these roles and areas have a strong emphasis on mathematics.

Marketing mathematicians have been on the horizon for a while now and in recent years we’ve heard from industry leaders that ‘data is the new oil’, companies need a Chief Data Officer and ‘math men are the made men’. What this points to is the very real need for people with maths expertise. However, some enlightened businesses are wising up to the reality of big data and hiring a marketing mathematician so they’re not dazzled by the data – and you should too.

For me, the biggest strength of digital marketing is the analytics which enable us to pick the wins with more accuracy than ever before. But this requires people who love numbers. It requires people with a broader skills. While maths, IT and engineering are all subjects not traditionally associated with marketing, the truth is that people with strength in these areas will be the ones that are at the forefront of online innovation and digital disruption in the years to come. Just look at the brains behind Google, Facebook, Twitter, HubSpot or SalesForce. Engineering and math is at the heart of these organisations.

But its not just the web giants that are investing in marketing mathematicians. Earlier this year WPP Founder and CEO Sir Martin Sorrell announced data investment management (previously known as consumer insight or market research) as the cornerstone of its strategy for the next four years. This will, of course require teams of people who just love data and can track, analyse, make recommendations and distill insight from complex, unstructured data.

Charles Handy, the well-known management writer was correct when he said ‘today’s managers, with their dashboards of data, feel more like aircraft pilots or technicians in a power station’. As access to real-time data becomes pervasive, competitive advantage will be gained by those organisations which are equipped to understand big data.

Although the title of marketing mathematician may not stick, the fact is that as we create more data, the potential it has to benefit business increases exponentially, however this opportunity is contrasted by greater difficulty in harnessing it effectively. This is a tricky question to answer and we’re not yet in a position to do so fully, but there’s a more pressing question I’d like to end with and that’s: is your business equipped to let a marketing mathematician begin tackling its challenges?

About the Author

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Marketing Manager with a passion for inbound at HubSpot, Founder of Growth Hack Talks, Blogger at Ben-Cotton.com and Chief Quaffer at CraftySwine.org .

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