Ehrenberg-Bass: Marketing needs to embrace its scientific status or risk a slow death

Unless marketers can embrace marketing as a ‘young science’ that needs to be nourished they will lose their influence at the top table, argues Professor Jenni Romaniuk.

scienceMarketing is a young science that needs to be nurtured and nourished if the industry wants to enter an “age of enlightenment”, according to professor Jenni Romaniuk, associate director of the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute of Marketing Science

Speaking today (10 October) at the Festival of Marketing, Romaniuk urged marketers to embrace marketing as science if they want to ensure the discipline has impact and influence within organisations and among consumers.

“With the changes marketing is facing with the C-suite and getting credibility with the board, can we afford to not take ourselves seriously as a marketing discipline?” asked Romaniuk.

“Can we afford to wait for that or will we just get rendered obsolete by the CFO in the company? We can move now and get there more quickly than if we have to wait for all of the people who don’t think marketing is a science to first die.”

Romaniuk argued that to enter an age of enlightenment, marketers need the humility to realise they can’t know everything about such a new science and some of their thinking may be wrong.

“If you think you know everything about how marketing works, unfortunately you are very misguided,” she stated. “We are, as a science, only in our infancy and have a lot to learn.”

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The Ehrenberg-Bass director called on marketers to stop being seduced by case studies and quibbling over the fundamentals of marketing, asking them instead to demand more robust insight. Romaniuk argued that case studies serve a purpose in terms of illustrating a point, but are not data from which to draw conclusions that can be generalised.

“Every case study has biases in who wrote it, biases in the information you’re given. Even something like the Effies, there’s a lot that’s left out in most cases,” she argued. “Unless you’re able to ask systematic questions you can’t draw proper conclusions and we need to stop assuming that case studies equal generalisable knowledge.”

Romaniuk was also keen to dismiss the idea that science is the enemy of creativity and that if marketing is a science it means people can’t have fun anymore. Rather, she wants marketers to set high expectations for what marketing can achieve as a science and attempt to define their own scientific laws of marketing.