Vulcan Marketing

Star Trek TOS - Spock

Why, why, why create yet another type of marketing?

Well, I’m not. It’s just a metaphor for emotionless marketing without personality, a danger we face in the age of marketing automation.

Vulcan marketing refers tongue in cheek to an over-focus on big data driven algorithms, automated paths, statistical decision making and content decisions.

For those of you not familiar with Star Trek lore, Vulcans do not experience human emotions. The beauty of Spock’s character — half Vulcan and half human — were his struggles to embrace humanity, much like today’s marketers.

Understanding Human Motivation


Harvard Business Review recently published a great blog on the failure brought by over-focusing on data, specifically neglecting to embrace human emotion in marketing:

“Desire and motivation are influenced by psychological, social, and cultural factors that require context and conversation in order to decode,” said authors Lara Lee and Daniel Sobol.

Consider how trust is built and the increasing necessity of peer influence in customer decisions. We need a human element to appeal to stakeholders, even if it’s not our own.

Continuing a human experience was the great breakthrough of conversational social media marketing. Personality infused marketing made brands more accessible, bringing a focus on customers and turning marketers away from stiff over-messaged corporate speak.

Over-focusing on data dehumanizes practitioners, causing them to lose the lessons learned from the social era.

Classic Tension Between Creativity and Data

On creativity

Image by Bohman

It’s not that marketing automation is bad. Automation helps savvy marketers, providing them incredibly powerful tools to deploy campaigns and measure stakeholder behavior.

What it brings to bear is the classic tension between the art and science of marketing, embodied in creativity vs. data. Creatives decry measurement and data, while analysts fail to understand the importance of appealing to the human spirit.

The great misnomer that measurement and automation aren’t necessary cannot be allowed to return to the profession.

Rather, we should embrace balance, allowing strategists to deploy both great marketing automation tools to expand the power of strong creative to engage customers online, and appeal to segmented stakeholders as they move through the sales funnel.

The ability to balance creativity and data within a strategy represents the great opportunity for a marketing strategist in the age of automation.

What do you think?

16 Replies to “Vulcan Marketing”

  1. If you want breakthrough insights and breakthrough creative, the WHY of behavior (emotional motivation) is every bit as important as the WHAT (data).

    Some companies and agencies don’t seem to get that. It drives me nuts.

    1. Spot on. It becomes a game of exploitation by statistical analysis, a complete failure from a loyalty standpoint!

  2. So beautifully said! Over emphasis on data is part of the school of thought that dismisses social media conversations as ” Unicorns and Rainbows” feel good exercises, where, really, the great novelty that social media brings to the picture is the opportunity for human conversation with the public.

    I wrote about this some time ago, I’d be honored if you read it and tell me what you think http://captivetouch.com/online/unicorns-and-rainbow-the-most-unique-aspect-of-social-media/

    1. Well, it’s an interesting post in that most experts dismiss wrong and right, but you encourage the process of learning.

      And you are right here in that overemphasis on data dismisses social media conversation and human engagement. It would be tragic to move backwards, but it seems that is the ebb and flow of humanity over time. :/

      Thank you so much on coming and posting, Sherry.

  3. Ha, Scifi & Marketing Autmation. Fun metaphor. Made me smile.

    I download collateral all the time & get tons of automated follow up emails as a result. I’d say 80% are immediately recognizable as being fully automated. It’s like a telemarketer reading his script to you.

    I wonder who should get more of the blame: Lazy marketers that rushed the copy writing of the templates or lazy sales reps that don’t bother adding a personal touch.

    1. The marketers. I expect most sales people to be lazy, that’s why the winners are so special! Live long and prosper, Daniel!

  4. Agreed that this is a critical balance to strike, especially as marketing automation sucks us into a vortex of more touch points, faster. Touching just for touching sake can be harassment! The challenge for marketers is HOW to strike that balance – with a factory in one hand and an easel in the other. I’m thinking this is an emerging discipline – this balance of automation with the human element. Would you agree?

  5. I agree, and I think at the core of it, most people understand the premise. But they get so bogged down by the “business” of doing business, that they don’t follow through, despite (in some cases) their best intentions. Which is really sad.

    1. Capacity and time allocations are a huge issue in our business. I think it’s probably the least discussed problem in our sector. Instead we just tether people with cell phones!

    1. Well said, Ted. I think probability can’t replace tonality and emotion, and I don’t believe it ever will.

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