The Myth That Is Marketing

ROBERT CRAVEN takes a swipe at modern marketing and argues for a return to basics 

Stood in front of the esteemed audience of worthy marketing luminaries, teachers, consultants and directors, the penny finally dropped. It’s all a load of b*******! End of. Fed with a diet of post-war theories and frameworks created by old school consultants and academics examining the mid-20th century corporate monoliths, the whole ‘marketing’ myth gets perpetuated.

Religiously, the marketers apply their ‘marketing toolkit’, a selection of irrelevant, inappropriate, anachronistic techniques to a world that no longer follows the imaginary rules that the triple-segmented, double-qualified, sub-divided and over-researched consumer is meant to adhere to.

It will never be 1950 again. Or 1960. Or 1970. So why pretend all that old school stuff still works?

In a world where you get sacked for ‘thinking outside the box’, everyone keeps applying the ‘inside the box’, safe, redundant theories. The classrooms are full of pretty SWOT analyses, BCG matrices, product portfolio analyses, Porter’s Five Forces and case studies of ‘the successful’ global brands. All abstract, intellectually fascinating and irrelevant.

The high growth years of obsessive consumerism have gone forever. And what people won’t admit is that the ‘pile it high, sell it cheap’, ‘do the numbers’, ‘measure the ROI’, ‘advertise-the-life-out-of-it’ approach isn’t working.

This is lazy marketing and it’s broken.

It’s time for marketers to reclaim their role in businesses, especially in big businesses. Marketing is all about getting more customers to buy more, more often and ideally at higher prices. But hiding behind your broken CRM systems (does yours work, really?) sending your broken emails to improve your broken customer transactions is not the way forward.

It’s time to throw away the old obsessions with measuring metrics and models and get back to basics.

And the basics are summed up in simple questions such as: ‘Why should people bother to buy from your business when they can buy from the competition?’and ‘What makes you different from the rest?’. 

It isn’t about the messenger (the endless debates: Twitter vs email, TV vs radio, etc.); it’s about the message.

More importantly, it’s about the customer and what they think of you and your product.

  • Are you giving them what they want today?
  • And what will they want tomorrow?

Sometime in the last 20 years marketing went from being at the interface between the company and the consumer (the relationship) to being a mere business function, a cost centre with its own internal rhetoric and logic for analysing the ‘customer journey’ (the transaction). On the side of the customer? No. Responsible for pricing? No.

Marketing’s role at the centre of the business became redundant.

Too many marketers are taking money from bosses and clients under false pretences. Getting paid for ‘doing marketing’ has come to mean something to do with media, communications, PR and product placement.

But marketing should be all about the customers and consumers; about their experience; about what they feel and think and how we might fit into that map of the world; about how to increase revenue by understanding what the customer really wants — by anticipating what they will want.

Right now I just see more and more fancy techniques and fancy theoretical models — and interruption marketing shouting louder about lower prices.

Meanwhile, you, as a customer, turn the volume off on the TV commercials, ignore the full-page ads and get driven mad by endless cold calling. So why do you think your potential customers behave any differently when you bludgeon them with your own ‘cunning, innovative and carefully designed’ high volume campaign? They too are bored, fed up, overstimulated and under-whelmed by product promises they don’t believe or that don’t actually apply to them.

To answer the question, ‘How are we doing?’ ask your customers and not your accountant or your marketing director.

Engage, talk, listen, ask, relate, think the unthinkable and say the unsayable. Marketing is not, and never has been, about measuring transactions. The whole industry is hiding behind ‘doing the numbers’ when they should be ‘doing the thinking’.

It’s time to get out of the box.