Marketers Are Brand Architects And Building Brands Takes More Than Math

Fact: When it comes to marketing spending, analog still outstrips digital by a factor of three to one.

Jake Sorofman, an analyst with Gartner, supplied the cold hard fact above in a Harvard Business Review article.

It’s the kind of fact that my friend Bob Hoffman likes, and likes to use to convince CMOs and other innocents, that digital is a good place to experiment but to move metal or sell cheeseburgers, stick to broadcast.

Oddly, TV isn’t all that easy to measure, whereas digital initiatives are all about measurement. From Sorofman’s article:

…with digital techniques, everything is measurable. Feedback loops tighten, segmentation becomes microtargeting, and optimizations can happen on the fly or even in real time. The relationship between investment and impact becomes correlated and causal — and the CMO becomes accountable down to the dime and moment by moment. Light dawns on the marketing spend! This transparency is powerful when quarters are turning into dollars for the business — but potentially perilous when the opposite is the case.

Knowledge is power. Let’s not deny a core principle. But can we entertain that not everything in advertising or the universe is knowable? Can we allow for magic to happen? Is there a line item for magic? There needs to be, because a brand is so much more than a series of A-B tests, performed ad infinitum. A brand is the grand sum of experiences people have with a company. A brand is customer service, product and look and feel.

Sorofman reflects on imagined days gone by. “Like Mad Men’s Don Draper, the CMO became the master of the soft-shoe performance.”


I don’t argue that there are charlatans in every line of work, but I do contest that knowing what works is an act of some kind. Knowing where to put a word, where to place a support beam in a house, or where to make an incision during surgery, are all practical skills that also require intuition and a deft touch.

I have no issue with Quants storming the CMO’s office, or my own office for that matter, but let’s keep some perspective and our eyes on the prize. Brand building is a human enterprise, and humans are observed from every angle, yet continue to surprise.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.