The marketing profession is under siege. We are spellbound by the siren call of data, enamored of newly-discovered portmanteaus like ad tech and martech, and enslaved by impenetrable algorithms. This trend reflects a broader shift. For example, in March of 2018, the University of Wisconsin—Stevens Point announced that it would eliminate a raft of liberal arts majors. English was out, as was philosophy and history. They would be replaced by disciplines like information technology. As a marketer who often writes about technology, this sent a shudder down my spine.
A visionary leader of a great technology business once said that what made the Macintosh great were the musicians, poets and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists. Forrester researched how the human-centricity of Apple has been one of the chief forces propelling the brand from giant-killer to almost-trillion-dollar market cap giant. Steve Jobs never lost sight of the human behind the marketing machine, and what he intuited many decades ago is what our profession has now begun to formalize.
The marketing discipline, long mired in principles of customer funnels and 4-Ps of product, price, place, and promotion, has seen considerable change in the last decade. The hyper-adoption of devices has generated a flood of data, fodder for rapacious intelligent analytics machines. Old marketers have needed new glossaries to make sense of novel concepts like programmatic advertising and neural networks. At the same time, a silent revolution is underway. Building on the works of psychologists and economists, including two Nobel laureates, the marketing community is revisiting the long-held axiom of “if you market it right, they will buy,” instead disaggregating the process of consumer choice. And in these elements of choice we see reflected the spectrum of the liberal arts