The Future Science of Marketing and Mankind

by Dan Walsh

Every science begins with the observation of striking events like thunderstorms or fevers, and soon establishes rough connections between them and other events, such as hot weather or infection. The next stage is a stage of exact observation and measurement, and it is often very difficult to know what we should measure in order best to explain the events we are investigating. In the case of both thunderstorms and fever the clue came from measuring the lengths of mercury columns in glass tubes, but what prophet could have predicted this? Then comes a stage of innumerable graphs and tables of figures, the despair of the student, the laughing-stock of the man in the street. And out of this intellectual mess there suddenly crystallizes a new and easily grasped idea, the idea of a cyclone or an electron, a bacillus or an antitoxin, and everybody wonders why it had not been thought of before.

- J.B.S. Haldane, “The Future of Biology”

Marketing has been solidly in stage two since Google picked up Claude Hopkin’s Scientific Advertising methodology and made it fundamental to their AdWords platform. This effectively spread the doctrine of A/B testing and measurable marketing to amateurs and professionals alike. Anyone with $10 and a little spare time had access to billions of marketable eyeballs. AdWords created more accurate and more granular measurements. It also increased the iterative speed with which marketing experimenters could test their theories. No more waiting for slow print cycles and snail mail.

This accessibility, speed, and accuracy swelled the ranks of what Haldane might call “the students”. And with more experiments – more minds on the challenge – came more data. Big data, in fact. Cloud services, tracking technology, increased connection speeds, and hardware and software advances all coalesced to create the “innumerable graphs and tables of figures”. Data Science developed to make sense of this intellectual mess. This mass of information that no human brain could wrangle on its own.

We’re on the cusp of marketing’s equivalents to cyclones, electrons, and bacillus. And just as those original discoveries gave us a broader view of the world at large – or the world “at small” in the case of electrons and bacillus – the discoveries fueled by marketing inquiries will grant insights into humanity.