Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
May 19, 201010:20 PM

Kill All Marketers

Where does Marketing land in terms of professions that are perceived to be honourable by the mass public?

Something tells me, Marketing sits well below both lawyers and used-car salespeople, and maybe even slightly beneath scumbags and charlatans (but I can't be certain). I'm proud to say that I am a Marketing Professional, but even as I write those words, I can smell the oxymoron-ness of it all. It's a sad state of affairs. One of the primary reasons why I put my body through the rigors of intense travel is to be an evangelist of marketing (wow, using those words might smack me right back to the charlatans and scumbags). It's not evangelism as you think it to be, and it's not Social Media evangelism either. It's about getting people excited about how new and different Marketing is (and, it's about getting new and exciting clients to work with my agency, Twist Image).

Real interactions between real human beings.

It's one of the many reasons I decided to take on Marketing as a career. When I first started tinkering with the Internet (back in the late 80s, when it was nothing more than online bulletin board services and sporadic connectivity), I realized (like many others) that this was the game-changer. That the ways in which we were doing Marketing, Advertising and Communications was going to change (forever and drastically). Slowly, over the years, we've begun to see this come to fruition. Some like to call it "Social Media" others "Web 2.0", but the nomenclature means nothing next to the function it serves and the disruption to the traditional ways it has caused:

  1. Our ability to publish our thoughts out in text, images, audio and video instantly, free and for everyone to consume/take part in.
  2. Our ability to share and collaborate with that content (or any other form of content).
  3. Our ability to connect at the local level or at our points on interest.
  4. Our ability to build a network, community or group of people who care about our shared values.

When people say "you marketers are all the same" it really wrinkles my britches (I'm not even from Europe).

Yesterday, Bill Dumphy, posted to the comments section of the Blog post, The Fuss About Facebook, "I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that a marketer would stand shoulder to shoulder with Facebook on these issues, but I refuse to believe ALL marketers are amoral. Sadly, your piece runs contrary to my optimistic outlook." Let's just kill all of the Marketers, why don't we? Sure, there are some Marketers who don't believe the hype (or the changes) that the Internet has brought forth, and then there are the "other" kinds of Marketers who are involved in the black hat side of things (spammers, unsolicited telemarketers, sketchy infomercial-types), but every industry has it's own fair share of bottom-feeders.

Maybe Marketing has more bottom-feeders than the average profession?

It's not an unfair/unjust argument, and the truth of it is that I would not know. So, as someone who spends their days trying to shift perceptions, trying to build community and trying to give abundantly to help this industry elevate itself, it can be sorely annoying to be lumped into a generalization like that (welcome to the world, sadly). For Marketing to thrive, we're all going to have to do our part. From product innovation and customer care to really getting down to the nuts and bolts of thanking our customers. We need to be spending the right amount of time building those relationships and the loyalty that comes with it. We need to be ensuring that what we're communicating and marketing lives up to what the product, brand or service can actually do. Nothing less will do.

I think Marketers are up to the challenge. What do you think?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Ian M Rountree
    Mitch Joel

    My marketing sensei reminds me constantly - "My client is not me."

    So I'll offer you "My industry is not me."

    I can't speak to the ratios of marketing douchebags versus sleezy car salesmen, but I'd argue marketers are trained, bred and brought up to be loud in public places. The loud bloc, majority or minority, always gets the credit - and the blame.

    We'll all do fine.

    Reply
  • Posted by Just a reader
    Just a reader

    Part of the problem with the marketing profession is that it's not, technically speaking, a profession. There's no regulation, there's no professional accreditation - unlike, say, medicine or law or engineering. There's nothing to stop the bottom-feeders from calling themselves marketers and giving the whole field a bad name - and, since it's not a profession, they can't be thrown out. Unfortunately, far too few marketers feel that sense of professional integrity that would require them to uphold a certain standard regardless of where they are working or what they are doing. Maybe it's time to seriously think about some sort of professional accreditation in the marketing field?

    Reply
  • Posted by Carole Mahoney
    Mitch Joel

    Do you hear me shouting Amen in the back? I remember sitting in my first communications class in college in 1993 (a few yard behind you) and the teacher bring the world wide web up. Whenhe said that this could change the way we communicate- I can still hear the bells going off in my head. That's when I switched from journalism to marketing. The notion of the Internet did not make me think impersonal, but even more personal. After. The dot com bubble, I found a love numbers and analytics as a way to measure the human interaction. Then came the detective work! What can those numbers tell us about behavior and motivations? How can we use that to improve our communications and relationships?

    Great post- love it. I think that in order for new marketing to dis spell the perception of marketers being liars (enter the Mad Men) we need to rely more on the numbers to speak for us. Numbers don't lie.

    Reply
  • Posted by mose
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, have you noticed that recently folks are increasingly misusing the term marketing and marketer? Seems to me, they are thinking sales and selling? Or worse? PR?

    Selling is of course a dirty word, that is why folks like to be called goofy titles like Business Development. PR, well it is what it is.

    Marketing is a science. It is neither bad, nor good. It is necessary. Great companies do live and breath by it.

    What has drawn the ire of folks is the hucksterism. The low cost of entry to certain areas of alleged expertise. And the Net has accelerated that, just like it has accelerated a lot of things.

    One smallish prickle if I will, PR folks have increasingly either been calling themselves marketers and/or commenting heavily on marketing subjects. Not really their area of expertise is it?

    Also if you are a marketer, perhaps getting training of some sort - God-forbid a degree - would help in turning the marketing discipline back on its feet, as opposed to its head where it seems to be currently.

    Reply
  • Posted by Carole again
    Mitch Joel

    Man, have to love how the iPhone "corrects" your spelling. In repsonse to Just A reader- there are accrediations for marketers. for example, I am studying for my WAA certs (web analytics association). But you are right, I have met the sleazy marketers and they are indeed usually the loudest in the room and it frustrates me to know that some will judge our profession by them. Still, I think this happens to lawyers and doctors as well. They just have to go to a lot more structured college classes and exams.

    Reply
  • Marketing is noble. Zig Ziglar said people don't know what they want because they don't know what's available. As marketers, we show the possibilities and create new ones.

    For instance, life insurance has many powerful and overlooked tax advantages for the wealthy (especially small business owners). Yet people are stuck in the "buy term and invest the difference" rut and lose out on the possibilities. That's a marketing challenge.

    Speaking of oxymorons, I call myself a "Marketing Actuary".

    Reply
  • Posted by Metin G.
    Mitch Joel

    Intresting article .. I agree that "We need to be ensuring that what we're communicating and marketing lives up to what the product, brand or service can actually do. Nothing less will do." as well .. I don't agree that all marketers are scumbags .. Somewhere in that article I got lost a bit Maybe Marketing has more bottom-feeders than the average profession? It's not an unfair/unjust argument, and the truth of it is that I would not know. I think it is hard to find good marketers like Mitch .. Not everyone who claims that they are marketers are real marketers. Just as in my profession not everyone who claims they are web designer or developer are up to date with what they are doing or the way they practice it is completly wrong.

    Reply
  • Posted by Patrick Hudd
    Mitch Joel

    Hello

    It is a good point you make and one that applies to journalists too. I had a "mini" career in trade journalism and one of the things I did not like was the way a story, any relevant story, was a relief for me as it enabled me to fill my precious page quota.

    It is funny though, because one of the strengths of Web2.0 is its Achilles' Heel. The ability of anyone to publish anything, can also mean everyone publishes everything.You allude to this with your "content is everything" vs "everything is content" comment in your book. From this we get the quasi-spam that we have to wade through, or the dilution of significant points - not all human readers are using news / blog aggregators or filters yet.

    News is handled exactly the same, citizen journalists. The biggest problem (IMHO) for news outlets now is not getting pictures or testimony, it is making sure the leemings do not rush over the cliff in their desire to provide commentary and then sue when they get hurt.

    P.S. I'd recast your thoughts myself on how you should get people used to how different marketing is, I think it is how different everything is!

    Reply
  • Posted by Mitch Gallant
    Mitch Joel

    Take on perceptions when you're not only a marketer but mainly focused on marketing used cars.

    I don't think I'm so backwoods but my perception of marketers has certainly never been below or even comparable to lawyers and used car salesmen. To this day I'm still proud to go to work and always hold my head high among my peers when discussing careers. After beginning in the car business selling cars I'll admit I have a thick hyde but I see marketing as a hell of a tough science to thoughtfully experiment with.

    Who knew I was taking a step backwards on the respectability food chain! I love the close, which is a fundamental for any good business... under promise and over deliver... great post!

    Reply
  • Posted by stefano oldrati
    Mitch Joel

    To me it's not a question of being proud, head high or numbers
    it is a simple question of honesty and sincerity

    An under 40 colleague of mine was recently telling me "don't worry if it is not true, in my previous company, a worldwide leader, we make them believe what we wanted..."
    Nothing at all against that company, I'll be happy to join their strategic marketing division, but a lot against this mentality of THE manipulative marketers, and from a relatively young guy - very disappointing!

    it's people beliefs and what people teach to other people that makes, or not, the marketers be loved or not... in fact all marketers are liars still hang as an up-to-date book to read
    "...Every marketer tells a story. And if they do it right, we believe them. We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche Cayenne is vastly superior to a $36,000 VW Touareg, which is virtually the same car. We believe that $225 Pumas will make our feet feel better-and look cooler-than $20 no-names . . . and believing it makes it true."
    "...But beware: If your stories are inauthentic, you cross the line from fib to fraud. Marketers fail when they are selfish and scurrilous, when they abuse the tools of their trade and make the world worse."
    Another essential reading should be Authencity the book of j. Pine

    There is space for honest and sincere marketing (beautiful and honest stories to be told) as the best conversation and relationship to establish with people ... or the opposite as for everything in this world. See Nestlé case this March.

    My thought is "people are brand owners not the industry" so respect them.

    Reply
  • Posted by Caroline
    Mitch Joel

    Great topic and interesting views in the comments above.

    Isn't the marketing profession really bad at marketing itself? Maybe that is due to the fact that it is a very complex one, involving human, numbers, creativity and forward thinking. All of that measured with techniques that are inadequate to truly grab the impact of an initiative.

    To that sentence "Maybe marketers have more bottom-feeders" I'd say there are as many of them in lots of other professions like finance and accounting, which, by the way, have caused a major financial crisis last year.

    I agree marketers are up to the challenge and should seise the opportunity created by web 2.0 to reinforce their positioning.

    Reply
  • Posted by Claire Mills
    Mitch Joel

    The Power of Attraction would suggest we focus on the merits of marketing if we want these to prevail and be followed. Just lead by example, especially when you're an icon. If we give pages and pages of attention to how marketing can be done badly, it does the profession a disservice. In any organization and in life, focusing on the negative breeds bitterness instead of creativity. Hope I haven't upset anyone and I still know Mitch Joel is a rock star!

    Reply
  • Posted by Patrick Garmoe
    Mitch Joel

    I spent 10 years in journalism, and 1 so far in marketing. I love both, despite perhaps not being in an upper tier profession. Here's my take: marketers on their best days get you to think and talk about certain ideas or products you often need. Journalists on their best days help you clean up society, by exposing the rotten parts of it. People don't like being reminded of stuff they need or may want, nor do they like to hear about corruption at city hall. That's why we're not liked. Doctors, engineers etc. fix problems. We in essence fix problems too, but only in the long run. That's why we're not respected. Don't over think it.

    Reply
  • Posted by Steve Dodd
    Mitch Joel

    Every profession has its "good ones" and "not so good ones". Unfortunately, its the "not so good ones" that get all the attention and slant opinion. Also, the term "Marketing" means something different to many. So it's really hard to classify exactly what it is in the minds of most people.

    Reply
  • Posted by Warren Whitlock
    Mitch Joel

    I know marketers who are good people, and a few that aren't. Same as any profession. Do evil people market? yes. That doesn't make us all evitl

    Reply
  • Posted by Chris Parente
    Mitch Joel

    This post strikes me a bit as navel gazing. If you're not proud of what you do, get another profession. Does some bad actor affect my self-esteem -- no way.

    Just be transparent, and proud of what you do. We help get our clients' message out, and we use social media to go around the media filter in many cases. When we participate in socmed we say exactly who we are. And BTW, we do it not just for conversation or an extension of media relations, we do it to help our clients sell stuff.

    To reply to the comment above -- yes, PR IS increasingly becoming more like digital marketing, and with social media how could it not? PR is a subset of marketing after all. I wrote about this last year, if a link is allowed:

    http://cparente.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/when-does-pr-become-digital-marketing/

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Good post, and yes there are bottom feeders in every industry. The internet has also brought together some amazing folks who people (first) and marketers (second). That's one of the reasons i'm in the linkedin group, great marketing great men, it's men trying to do both. just a little example.
    cheers

    Reply
  • Posted by cazlab
    Mitch Joel

    I agree with the sentiment "kill all marketers."

    At the end of the day, not matter what your outlook or intentions are you are still distracting people, implanting desires in there heads that weren't there before, and let us not forget stalking and harassing folks. So you are an annoyance, a mind controller (or attempted,) and a stalker.

    That is all the industry amounts to, and that is why is it is reviled; because it deserves to be.

    Sorry, thems the breaks.

    Reply
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    Mitch Joel

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    Reply
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    Mitch Joel

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    Mitch Joel

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