What do physics and marketing have in common? If your answer is “nothing” I have news for you! Physicists are the ultimate problem solvers. Isaac Newton and his Laws of Motion, Michael Faraday and work in electromagnetism, Albert Einstein and his Theory of Relativity, Edwin Hubble and the expanding universe… the list goes on. But what does any of this have to do with marketing in the 21st century?
Over the last decade marketing has experienced two major revolutions. The first is the rise of digital marketing. Major platforms like Google and Facebook have created global networks made up of billions of users that marketers have access to and can build strategies around. Not only do we have the platforms to seamlessly reach audiences, we also have a lot of information about who they are and what their habits are. Unlike traditional marketing channels which cast a wide net over a large audience, digital marketing provides an opportunity to narrow in on very specific audiences, assuming marketers know who/when/where to look.
The second revolution (and arguably the most overused buzzword) is “big data”. Corporations are constantly collecting data like website visits, transactions, demographics and shopping habits. Mobile devices add another opportunity for companies to collect location level data. This information is then leveraged to micro target audiences with extreme precision. In the past this data may have been left in the basement server of an IT department. But now the demand is greater than ever for this data to be organized and mined for insights that can increase profitability. As marketers we operate in a space where there are numbers in front of us at all times. But what do they mean and how can we make sense of them?
Enter the need for a physicist. From my very first college physics class, to my graduate thesis I’ve been solving one problem to the next. And I’ve been fortunate that along the way I’ve faced challenges that sharpened my research and problem-solving skills. At the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia I worked on processing radio telescope signals from the 100m telescope, the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. At Pennsylvania State University I spent a summer in the Department of Astrophysics simulating stellar galaxy populations. After that I spent the next two summers at the University of Alaska Anchorage tracking classic novae binary stars in the Andromeda Galaxy. My graduate research at Miami University focused heavily on computational astrophysics simulating the life of a dwarf spheroidal galaxy.
It was during this time that I learned a couple things. One is that I love solving problems with computers. The other is a realization that I had spent enough time in academic research. As I began exploring different career opportunities for people with skills and backgrounds like mine, one that consistently stuck out was data science. I was fortunate to receive a great opportunity at Brunner here in our Data Science and Data Analytics department that met my interests and allows me to expand on my leanings gained from a physics background.
At Brunner, our data science team comes from diverse but deep-rooted STEM backgrounds. We are composed of engineers, statisticians and scientists. Our day-to-day work involves a lot of data analysis and programming in addition to more theoretical components like modeling and whiteboard algorithm development. I’d consider data science to be, in many ways, the application of scientific inquiry to meet pragmatic business demands.
My takeaway in both astrophysics and data science is that learning never stops. Both fields are far from fully understood and constantly evolving. To stay in front you need to be both passionate about the subject and hungry for knowledge. There is an often sought-after, and somewhat romantic, moment in scientific research that every so often you will discover something about our universe no other person knows. It’s a powerful feeling to be able to share those findings. The same is true in marketing as we seek to bridge the unknowns between our clients and their consumers.