What is it about the marketing mindset that makes it feel so familiar and so unfamiliar at the same time to my designer’s view of the world? Why do designers and marketers talk past one another if they aren’t very careful?
This is an important question. Marketing is close to design, and addresses many of the same problems. Along with engineering, marketing is design’s closest neighbor, with the large stretches of contested boundary lands, including the choicest turf, coveted by many disciplines, product management.
I think it comes down to the fact that ultimately design is about individuals and marketing is about aggregates. Design thinks in terms of each; marketing thinks in terms of all.
When design thinks about groups, it still thinks of these groups as constituted of individuals experiencing and responding to designed artifacts. The aggregates are just collections of many individuals with certain similarities that allow the designer to design something for them that each might potentially choose and use. The data a designer needs to work effectively is everything that affects how an individual (or constellation of individuals) encounters a thing (or system of things).
When marketing thinks about aggregates it is in its true element. Its basic unit is a segment that hopefully will produce some aggregate outcome. When it thinks about individuals, those individuals are samples from a mass that might give indications of mass perceptions and behaviors — what percentage of a cohort of what size can be expected to perform some desired behavior?