I’ve sat on the other side of the desk. The one with you on one end and an outside marketing group at the other. And believe me, I’ve done a lot of internal eye rolling.
Because for a long time, I was a marketing skeptic. The things I was being pitched simply didn’t resonate for a variety of reasons. I still contend that there is nothing worse than sitting there and hearing someone discuss what you need to do marketing-wise to help your business… only to realize that they have no real understanding of said business.
Maybe they didn’t understand what makes your organization unique, or didn’t quite get your audience, or just threw out hokey, buzzword marketing terms in an attempt to sound official. But they all rang hollow.
What I wanted was someone who asked questions, who thought in creative ways and who came up with unique solutions to our problems. Not someone who recommended sending emails at particular times of the day, or came in suggesting… hashtags.
For me, as a content person, I wanted someone who really understood the story I was trying to tell and could help me shift that narrative to better connect with my audience.
With that being said, it took some time for me to see the value in some marketing techniques. I refer to my past self as a “marketing skeptic,” for a reason, after all.
If you also suffer from a skeptical reaction to marketing, it could be due to the reasons listed below. Let’s try to diagnose the cause with four different marketing illnesses that I know definitely affected me.
Sometimes marketing can just be poorly done. You know it when you see it. An ad that you watch but can’t remember what product was being sold… language that insults you and is totally off base… or just advertisements in the completely wrong place.
If the camera panned to the left and you saw a giant billboard, would you really be surprised?
Like jersey ads in sports. Yeah, I get it, that's valuable real estate there on a jersey, but man is it visually unappealing.
The sad thing is It’s more of a given to see a whole mess of bad marketing every day than see maybe one good, effective piece of marketing.
Social Media Vomit
Oh boy. I’m not even sure where to begin here. As Facebook continues to tip their preference to paid ads and messaging, the organic sharing nature of social continues to drop. Which makes sense.
Remember posting statuses? Or, like, talking with people on Facebook? For me at least, my timeline is now filled with news articles, maybe a political rant from a far off uncle and then ads (if ad blocker isn’t turned off). Surprisingly, my desire to frequent the site is not at an all time high.
With these posts popping up more and more on Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, marketing is seeping into places that used to provide shelter from the spin. Nothing feels authentic, and though social media ads can be useful when done appropriately and when targeting the right audience, this is seldomly seen. Instead, one bad apple tends to ruin the whole bunch.
I dream of one day opening my Gmail, clicking through my promotions and social tabs, and slowly deleting the mass of unread messages. Then there's a moment where the inbox is clear, and I sigh in relief.
But the dream turns, the sky darkens, and suddenly, in an ever increasing wave, the emails begin to pile back up again. Emails from things I don’t remember subscribing to or businesses I’m pretty sure I’ve never purchased from.
And I wake up in a cold sweat, my alarm ringing in the background, and my phone dings, reminding me that, yes, more emails I will never look at await.
Culture (always blame culture)
Marketing and marketing related efforts are not always portrayed in the best light culturally, nor should they be, to be honest. A few years ago there was this show called Mad Men. Sexism, alcoholism and the reinforcement of social inequalities in the marketing developed on the show didn’t exactly provide a ringing endorsement for the field.
And the characters just all had to suffer through it, because...
Obviously this is an extreme example, but I’d argue that due to popular culture and the other reasons listed above, marketing is, at best, seen as a necessary evil.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Messaging That Matters
It’s very easy to fall in this trap of skeptical thinking and put off marketing entirely or keep it at an arm’s distance. I’ve done that in the past, and it did not work out so well.
In a fairy tale world, I’d embrace the “if you build it, they will come,” maxim. And nothing I ever made would ever be seen by anyone ever.
That attitude just places too much emphasis and importance on the product, completely devaluing the message. Which is a shame, because sometimes the message can be the more powerful tool.
I like to think of the following Android ad.
Now, the root of this ad, the reason Android made it in the first place, is strictly about their product. Basically, the initial goal of this ad, why it exists in the first place, is to get across the follow points: Android devices are fully customizable; Apple devices are not. Therefore, Android is good, Apple is bad.
In a vacuum, this is just another marketing slant. Nothing unique here. But Android used this to add new meaning to their ad. Different animal species coming together in an incredibly cute fashion. It’s happy. It’s hopeful. And it speaks to something uniquely human – the desire to connect with one another.
I’m sure in 20 years, once I have the latest smart chip implanted into my head, I won’t remember what it was like to use a smartphone or that we ever called these things “phones.” But I will remember that orangutan falling backwards with a big orangutan smile on it’s face.
That's the power of great marketing and messaging.
There’s an excellent opportunity for anyone doing marketing to cut through the noise, to come up with something new and positively impact the lives of others. Why be skeptical about that?
When you’re sitting on the other side of that table, hearing terms like automation, conversions and etc., you don’t have to roll your eyes. These are merely tools to help maximize the impact of your message. And really, it all lies in the crafting of the message. It’s an art – a whole other level of developing your services and offers.
Don’t run from marketing or view it as a necessary evil. Embrace it, and craft messages that might move someone to do something great or positive. It will make a difference.