All Blog Posts

Becoming Marketing Scientists

Ken Gaebler

At Walker Sands, our values aren’t static. They’re living rules that our staff embodies.

We challenge our employees to go beyond the status quo, and become continuous learners. Specifically, we encourage them to become “marketing scientists.” An unusual term, since marketing has long been thought of as an art rather than a science, but it represents our unique take on PR, search and social and deserves a lot of the credit for our success over the past decade and a half. Here’s why.

What is a marketing scientist?

A marketing scientist is an innovator who is not afraid to try new things and come up with different strategies and tactics. Similar to traditional scientists, they come up with reasoned hypotheses, design pilot projects to test their theories and use data to determine the success or failure of a campaign.

When conducting a scientific experiment, scientists ask questions such as:

  • What if we did this?
  • Would that prevent this cancer cell from propagating?
  • If we add this new resin to the substrate, will it make our product last longer?”

A marketing scientist asks similar questions when trying to determine whether a certain initiative, tactic or approach might increase marketing yields.


Cultivating a Culture for Marketing Scientists

A culture that encourages experimentation must be one where continuously learning and willingness to fail are embraced. Permitting failure may scare some agencies from adopting this value, but it forces people to step out of their comfort zone and try new approaches. Coming up with radical ideas is encouraged here. While there are lessons that can be learned from failures, sometimes an idea fails because of external forces. It’s equally important to evaluate why something failed instead of focusing on the results alone.

It’s important for individuals to try and hone in on their skills, but there is power in numbers. Teamwork is vital because it enables us to throw numbers at marketing challenges and come out with a win. In addition to utilizing people’s different strengths, teamwork enables others to learn from one another to expand and build out ideas.

Teamwork in the office

In addition to fostering a collaborative culture, Walker Sands is an integrated marketing firm in the truest sense of the phrase. We do public relations, digital, social and other things that let us be more creative and more productive than others because we have various disciplines under one roof. We have a broad set of tools in our arsenal, enabling us to tackle problems using different approaches. Think about it: could you create the Sistine Chapel if you only had a hammer in your toolkit? I don’t think so. You have to have a board set of tools to be a competent marketing scientist.

Skills Necessary to be a Marketing Scientist

It’s vital for marketing scientists to be well-read and observant. If you’ve got a narrow worldview, it’s hard to be creative because you won’t have an expansive enough understanding of what’s possible. Assuming you have the knowledge to be a marketing scientist, it’s also important to be creative. You need to be fearless, confident and comfortable with failure. A good understanding of how to structure an experiment and how to measure the success of an experiment is equally important.


Additionally, to be a great marketing scientist, both left and right brains must be utilized – it’s part art, part science. You have to be creative yet embrace structure, rigor, data and metrics. You have to have a broad enough knowledge base to conceptualize new concepts and understand the interplay between cause and effect. Having all those assets present in one brain is a rare combination, which is why teamwork and collaboration are necessary to do great marketing work.

Why does this matter?

The day innovation stops is the day a competitor will blow right past you.

We talk a lot about systematizing things and defining processes to ensure consistent quality in our work, but we can never do that at the expense of creativity and experimentation. People need to fight any organizational complacency and resist the temptation to rest on any laurels.

Marketing is competitive and the window to succeed is tight. When someone invents something with great potential, others build knock-offs in a hurry. This environment requires experimentation because even a small edge on the competition could mean that you’re the one that ends up winning the race.