I’m not sure why, but it really ticks me off when smart people make stupid comments. Maybe I expect better of them, I don’t know.
But when a bunch of smart people make the same stupid comment, I’m ready to throw a chair through the window. That’s probably why my home office is in the basement.
There is a comment that seems to increasingly rear its ugly head, in which the otherwise smart people claim: Marketing Is Dead.
If not marketing, then it’s advertising, PR, direct mail, or fill-in-the-blank with your favorite whipping boy.
A recent claim comes from a self-described “TEDx/Keynote speaker, and inspiring Harvard Business Review columnist” who writes on her blog:
“My key thesis is that Marketing is Dead. In many ways, old news. And, the more helpful and less theatrical lesson: Marketing in the 21st century is always about the product and the purpose it service. You can no longer expect to have a so-so or weak product and then marketing your way to winning the market.”
(Note to HBR: You should really consider publishing columnists who passed their third-grade grammar class)
But the blog post does go on to say:
So, what replaces marketing is shared purpose.
As our HBR columnist (oh, and TEDx Keynote speaker) explains, “To make this real, let’s talk about five ways to do that: 1) Have a bigger goal; 2) Participate in conventions already in play; 3) Focus on pleasure; 4) Go to the tribe; and 5) Manifest the purpose fully.”
My take: We don’t let just anyone dispense medical or legal advice, so why do we let anyone with access to the Internet dispense marketing advice?
Can you imagine a CMO walking into the CEO’s office to explain this?
CMO: “Look, let me get right down to it — the way we do marketing around here isn’t working out. I propose we replace it with shared purpose.”
CEO: WTF does that mean?
CMO: Well, to make it real for you, it means focusing on pleasure, going to the tribe, and manifesting our shared purpose fully.
CEO: WTF does that mean?
CMO: It means…
CEO: Never mind. STFU, pack up your stuff, and get the hell out of here. And I suggest you go straight to a drug rehab clinic which we will pay for as part of your severance package.
The Death of Marketing Madness
There is so much wrong with the “marketing is dead” claims that it’s hard to know where to start. I’ll start by addressing one of the HBR columnist’s statements that “Marketing in the 21st century is always about the product and the purpose it service.” (Assuming, of course, that she meant “the purpose it serves”).
The reason for starting here is that this statement reflects the misunderstanding that many of the marketing-is-dead prophets have: Reducing Marketing to some simplistic statement about what it is and isn’t is lunacy.
(You know those people who say “customer service is the new marketing“? They’re the folks twiddling their thumbs on the other side of the same loony bin)
Marketing is a complex business function that comprises a number of disciplines including advertising, market research, public relations, and more. Is it changing due to changes in technology and society? Of course.
Is it correct to think that everything about how we performed marketing in the past is “dead” because of these changes? Only if you’re an moron, or more concerned with selling a book you wrote or securing a keynote speaking slot at a conference.
In an excellent blog post titled Inter-Galactic Worldwide Experientiator Predicts End Of Advertising, The Ad Contrarian cites George Tannenbaum, who describes these morons, book hawkers, and faux speakers as:
“…the great un-accountables who produce nothing but hot air, nothing that lives and breathes, nothing that has an impact in the market. Nothing you can pin down.”
What we really need is the (figurative) death of these marketing un-accountables, and an end to this marketing madness.