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Which Comes First, Marketing Or UX?

The marketing / UX overlap

The overlap between marketing and UX is a hotly debated subject! As recognition for the importance of the users’ experience has steadily grown and gained momentum over the last decade, so too has the need to differentiate your offering and get creative with marketing efforts when most channels are increasingly saturated.

It’s quite common for the crossover to be the source of a rift between departments or staff within a business where there may not be a clear differentiation or assignment of tasks. This results in people stepping on each others toes or even worse, the opposite – where no one tackles what needs to be done for fear of overstepping their bounds and ruffling someone else’s feathers.

Then there’s the issue in cases of a disagreement of who actually gets the final say?! If the marketing department want to implement some form of pop up to capture prospect data but the people over in UX say that’s a no go from their perspective… what happens then?


The marketing / UX conflict

There’ll always be those that say that UX and marketing serve completely different purposes, are totally separate entities and represent stand alone disciplines. Marketing’s purpose is to sell and UX is about how to serve the user and meet their needs… So let’s delve a little deeper into that because admittedly, at first glance, that view makes them sound pretty rigidly incompatible!

There’s a well worn quote you may have come across before: “Marketing is a question of persuading, seducing and attempting to manipulate people into buying products and services.” – Wally Olins who was an expert in the field of branding and corporate identity. If this is true, (and let’s face it, it’s how a lot of people see it!) you could say that marketing is about triggering people into taking action.

It’s about getting people to buy your share product or subscribe to your mailing list etc and not at all about creating a better more streamlined and pleasurable experiences.

Marketing in this context serves the needs of a company in generating more business, revenue or hype – and this undeniably serves a very important purpose.

So why is UX important? UX is about creating seamless, pleasing and memorable experiences for the user. How a user interacts with a product or service is crucial, craft that wrong and even if the product, service or marketing is great, poor experience when encountering it will put people off big time.

Users want and (quite rightfully!) have come to expect that experiences should benefit them, not overload or confuse them, but instead ease them into something that returns them value.


But one’s more important than the other right?!

This is the less than diplomatic take on the marketing and UX overlap – that one is ‘obviously” more important than the other! Throw that one out there at a team meeting and sit back and watch the fireworks!

It’s just not that black and white! Oftentimes, marketing being a more long established part of business gets more investment and backing. Sure, marketing can provide some great short term sales and meet short term milestones, but when you think about it, actually curating a product or service that is needed and a joy to use to use will generate a stable revenue stream for years to come! Great UX markets itself!

Also, you can make your marketing much more user friendly utilising UX principles and you can make it a hell of a lot more effective and financially efficient! Win win!

With such advertising and marketing saturation, there’s been a marked move towards generating inbound marketing streams as opposed to using the traditional outbound ‘cast the net wide’ and should loud approach. This means you have to differentiate yourself and there’s no doubting it is a buyers market. You need your customers to want you, you need them to need you! And the key to that is ensuring that, is making absolutely sure that the experience that you provide is better than anyone else’s out there!

I find it really interesting that both disciplines promote the creation of personas. Although marketing buyer personas and user personas for the purpose of building of better user experiences do differ, they are both incredibly valuable and combining Marketing and UX is powerful. Marketing can benefit from and lean on data regarding what users want, need and what their goals are.

User experience can utilise marketing insight such as what a certain demographics likes, dislikes and habits might be. Marketing can be made more potent and user experience improved upon by continued simultaneous working towards a better understanding of human behaviours… Seriously, you need this combo in your arsenal!


So should one ever take precedence?

I really strongly feel that people need to realise that UX and marketing need to work together for the best shot at success, and a large part of that is having equal time, manpower and equal budget dedicated to each.

There’s no denying that marketing works, so we have to find a way of it working in the best, most seamless and usable way we can, through employing UX principles. In fact, some of the biggest gains can be made by UX’ers and marketers working together and the combined invaluable bank of knowledge that can provide – empathy, questioning nature, open mindedness and brand and industry knowledge all working together as one!

Good marketing sneaks on past us under the radar, very much like how great UX does. It’s simple, smooth, useful and facilitates an action that both the business and the user benefit from. So it seems to me that both marketing and UX combined can drive businesses forward in a hopefully more harmonious way.

So, having established that both UX and marketing carry a great deal of importance…

Which comes first?!

I like to feel that having worked closely with those in the field of design and UX for many years, I have come somewhere near to mastering impartiality through combating bias, and whilst there’s no way set in stone to guarantee success, my take on this is that the user always has to come first. I say this because there’s no point heavily investing in marketing until you’ve tested your offering with your target audience and validated it.

We all know marketing an in depth, lengthy and often expensive process, you need to make sure that you lay strong foundations and know your users first.

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