IBM Acquisition Heralds Age of Marketing as a Science

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IBM today announced that it is spending $480 million to acquire Unica, a company that specializes in providing software that manages marketing campaigns.

According to Craig Hayman, IBM general manager for industry solutions, the acquisition of Unica represents a milestone moment in the evolution of marketing as a science as IBM moves to assemble a portfolio of technologies that together advance the ability to wrap real metrics around investments in marketing.

The debate over whether marketing is more of a science or art stretches back to the days of the "Mad Men" and beyond. Hayman says that investments in IT have allowed companies to identify the metrics that help companies to identify real returns on investments in marketing activities.

But some types of marketing campaigns are easier to quantify than others. For example, marketing activities designed to generate leads can be measured by the amount of money spent on generating those leads versus the amount of revenue derived from the leads turned into a sale. On the other hand, the bottom line business value of a national television advertising campaign that promotes a brand is much harder to quantify.

Hayman says that IBM, with the acquisition of Unica and other companies in this space, including CoreMetrics, wants to combine its analytics investments in Cognos and SPSS, to create an end-to-end ability to track all relevant marketing metrics.

Whether that's enough to officially make marketing a science is probably going to be a subject of much ongoing debate. But as the saying goes, things measured are things done. So if there is no attempt to measure the value of marketing, chances are very little of it will actually be done.