The last two Leader columns in Marketing Week have left my blood boiling. For a creative industry, why do marketers seem so completely unable to leading business?
In the current era of cutbacks, most people have at least half a concern for their jobs. And I’m one of them – employed by local government to run communications for a Partnership seeking to talk to several million people, my job is far from secure. But it seems that across ad- and marketingland, individuals are suddenly panicking about proving themselves and the function of marketing within a business.
It could be, as Mark Choueke suggests in today’s Leader Column and last week’s extended online version (well worth a read), that marketing “has [historically] never proved itself worthy of leading business from the centre”. Perhaps this is the case – in which case the wrong people have been in marketing.
(And don’t start about how marketing is full of lovely fluffy creative types who couldn’t look at a set of figures or even calculate a tip because they are so ‘out there’. For everyone of those, there’s at least one level headed planner or account exec guiding the creative gondola in the right direction or ensuring that the creative results are applied in the right way for the market segment)
What concerns me even more, makes my blood boil, is that Mark implies that a number of the people contacting him after last week’s column suggested that the situation is “part of a wider and older problem that was unsolvable” (he also goes on to say that there are “too many poor marketers about” – so true; there’s quite a lot of dead wood floating about. But that’s the same in most industries).
Nothing is unsolvable. Or if it is unsolvable today, it’s probably going to be solvable tomorrow. Fermat’s Last Theorem was unsolvable for nearly 360 years. Until someone solved it. So to say that the historical problem is still unsolvable is pretty much wrong.
I would venture to suggest that anyone who says that the problem is unsolvable probably should leave the industry. OK, that’s going to make me unpopular, but I don’t care. I’m passionate about marketing. I’m passionate about advertising. I’m passionate about communications. And I can’t stand it when someone shrugs their shoulders and says that something can’t be done.
‘Where’s your fire gone?’ I found myself yelling at the magazine over lunch. Rather unfairly, because the magazine couldn’t defend itself or answer back.
And just because something wasn’t right yesterday doesn’t mean that it can’t be made right tomorrow (it takes today to realise that you’ve made a cock-up and to put a plan together to fix it).
So balls to history, frankly. I don’t care what happened yesterday in terms of marketing’s historic position within a business. I won’t get made redundant yesterday. I’ll get made redundant tomorrow. So let’s work on stuff today and tomorrow morning before the axe falls in the afternoon. (For the record, I’m not actively expecting my axe to fall just yet…)
Marketing departments and individuals SHOULD be in the very centre of the business. Who has audience demographic data? Who is monitoring world-wide trends? Who has their finger on the pulse of what the market wants and how best to talk to them? Who has the vision to find new ways to connect consumers to product and open up dialogue?
Take away the marketing department, or the advertising function, and how are companies going to get their messages out to the right people, at the right time, in the right way? I agree that there isn’t a magic formula for creating the perfect campaign but – let’s face it – you can have the best creative in the world, but if you put it in front of the wrong people or in the wrong way (scratch and sniff billboard on the side of the M25 anyone?), it’ll bomb no matter how brilliant it is.
Let’s ask how companies would put new products out to market. How they would tell their consumers that the product exists and why they should read it? How would Mr/s Chairman sitting at the head of the board, driving a car that probably costs more than the average house, talk to Mr and Mrs Average in the street, persuading them to buy his product? Would s/he even know where to start?
An inference that I take from the article is that marketers don’t evaluate their campaigns. Dangerous. Very dangerous. And OK, I admit that I can’t evaluate everything that I do as well as I would like as I have a very small team, a very limited amount of time and several million people to talk to. So I’m not perfect and am not holding myself up as such. But we do some evaluation to find out if people have heard of our stuff, and to see if it’s had any effect on behaviour…
Marketing should be one department that can prove how much value it adds to a business – whether through increasing sales, increasing propensity to buy or retaining customers. Maybe marketers have been so busy marketing product that they’ve forgotten that they themselves are a product…
Perhaps the entire marketing model is broken. I certainly think that it needs some work – see this post to read my thoughts.
If it is broken, fix it. Don’t bleat about what’s wrong without coming up with new solutions. Don’t assume that yesterday’s bargain-basement-marketing-department can’t sit at the head of the corporate table.
Get out there. Fight. Or lie down, die off, and clear the way for someone with that fire.