Making Marketing Matter

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Marketers are just scumbags. Sound familiar? Do you think that’s a fair assessment?

Let’s be honest, the art of marketing started with a bunch of people in a room trying to figure out how to say something great about a product or service that was probably just mediocre (or even sub-par). As the industry evolved, grew and adapted to newer forms of media and advertising, that whole process seemed to have magnified.

Because of this, it should come as no surprise that everyday people simply don’t trust Marketers.

And, if they don’t trust Marketers, why would anyone want to become a professional Marketer? In fact, could you even give Marketers a professional designation if this is the way people feel about them? If you looked at some of the more popular professions, Marketing sits right at the bottom of the list, alongside used car salesperson, lawyers and other “undesirables.” Things have changed over the years.

Things have to change for Marketing right now.

I love Marketing. I love being a Marketer. I am proud to be a Marketer. The truth of the matter is that Social Media has changed business, and in changing business it has changed marketing. Products and services have to be good in today’s world. If they’re not, they get called out. If they get called out (and enough people listen), these brands get buried. Marketing is no longer about just shilling wares. It’s a true challenge to figure out what the story is? Why consumers care for a brand? Why they share their passion with everyone they know? It’s become a serious business challenge. It’s become a real (and important) function of business. Marketing touches almost every aspect of business and how it runs.

Be proud to be a Marketer.

We are finally in a day and age where it’s not simply about creating a message and pushing it out to four channels ad nauseam until you submit the viewers into buying whatever it is that you are selling. Real Marketing (and yes, Marketing is real) is about how the product is created, why it matters, how to price it and how to service it. It’s also about how to make these stories spread, how to get people to really care, and how to keep them loyal.

Marketing matters.

I spend a lot of professional and personal time talking about Marketing. I don’t do this because I simply want brands to put more money into the Digital Marketing channels, I do this because I want Marketing to be taken seriously. I want young people in university to see Marketing as a viable and proud profession to pursue. I want more and more people to feel what I feel about this amazing industry.

What can we do together to make Marketing matter more?


  1. Companies that ignore disciplines like marketing and human resources (notably functions that are often hard to measure their impact) do so at their own peril.
    I can’t think of a successful widget that wasn’t backed up by great marketing and a great team of people. The roadside is littered with companies that believe ‘If the technology is good enough we’ll succeed.’
    Unfortunately many people equate ‘marketing’ to ‘manipulation’ (and Mad Men hasn’t helped). I see marketing as framing a product or solution in a way that makes the value most apparent & taps in the human need to feel positive about their decisions.

  2. The way I look at it is that social media sheds light on marketers who are authentic and marketers who are fakin it. If you look at people like @ambercadabra and @unmarketing for example, they aren’t just tooting their own horn (…most of the time. I kid!) but actually providing value.
    Marketers must to shift their paradigm and engage with more people on a personal level. When marketers truly know how a person thinks, behaves and reacts, they will be on another level professionally.
    What do you think?

  3. Marketing certainly matters. Commerce begins and ends with marketing; whether the product is good or not is often irrelevant.
    Your initial point about perceptions of a Marketer are true but that says more about people’s understanding of what marketing actually is—be it the dictionary definition of exchange of goods or the idea of all actions that lead to sales and growth. Many people think Marketers are tricksters, liars, crooks and manipulators while all the time responding, reacting and allowing their lives to be shaped by Marketing.
    I love marketing I love reading, learning and doing marketing.

  4. 1) We can do it better. Practice what we preach until consumers see that the new marketing is taking care of them long after we’ve won their business.
    2) We can do good. Promote examples like the (RED) campaign or simply educate people that the best product or service – one that truly helps mankind – cannot effectively contribute without spreading the word, and that means marketing.
    3) We can lead by example. Technology, especially in the Internet space, is tied more and more to marketing. We are pushing adoption of where the Internet will be in 5-10 years more than most realize.
    4) We can get off our high-horse and accept the fact that 80% of the time we have to market our clients’ mediocre wares to pay the bills for the other 20%. And let’s make sure that doesn’t slip to 5% while we’re partying at SXSW.

  5. Marketers absolutely have to change. But that is nothing new. The big issue right now is the Internet and there is still a feeling out process for many around how much to put towards online marketing.
    As someone who has worked in social marketing (anti-smoking, drug prevention, etc) it is easy to hold my head high knowing that the marketing we are involved with allows people to make decisions and changes that will positively affect their families, friends and themselves.
    Social media is the future and embracing it with that realisation is the only option. I personally look forward to seeing how social media morphs in the coming years.

  6. I completely agree with Adrian that marketing does frame a product/solution in a way that adds tremendous value to our everyday lives. Marketers connect the brand to the people.. The people make the brand and the marketers are their to listen and to connect the dots..
    I believe that digital marketers have forever changed the way advertising/marketing is done and will be done from this point forward and I believe that we are still evolving!
    Great article!!

  7. Marketing isn’t about pushing your product to the whole public anymore, it’s about helping people find the right product for them. Marketing is the link between business and people. I don’t think people hate on marketers, they just hate on people not doing their job. If you’d ask anybody, people still enjoy creative publicity on television or billboards. They want to be amazed and they want to be taken seriously. That’s why social medias can help, if they are used well, if companies work with ethics and if they really care about the people they sell products to, people will know, they will respect and endorse your brand. That’s the best that can happen.

  8. How we talk about things affects how they’re perceived – this much we know. But how much do the people we talk to write off our statements based on our attitudes?
    I spent the last five years in retail before recently becoming an online marketer. It’s been my job to get excited about things for years, but now that I have to focus more on strategy, composition, and detail than up-front emotion, I’m noticing that people who are accustomed to my speaking a certain way are having trouble adjusting to keep pace.
    I’m sure you’ve seen this, haven’t you? You go into a conversation and, even though the subject is new, you get a predictable response from someone because they’ve trained you to think a certain way about whatever they say, no matter the subject.
    I think it’s the same for industries. We expect violence of sports, glasses and cardigans of book stores, and a certain coating of hair spray (for some of us) and snake oil for marketing. How do you possibly approach an entire industry you’re trained to distrust, when they all start talking about transparency and trust?
    Buzz is part of the trouble. Even with the very encouraging marketers (CC Chapman, for example, yourself sometimes, and others) there’s an automatic focus on the exciting, the new, the shiny. When you spend decades training people to believe that’s what you’re about, how else can people be expected to adjust to a sudden shift toward practicality and pragmatic, human connection?
    You can’t. At least, not yet. The common language is still developing. Personal branding was an attempt for people (singular) to understand how big, powerful entities like corporations and institutions interact with The People (plural). Now that enough of us have that idea out of our collective systems, the real work can begin.
    As Dori says in Finding Nemo: Just keep swimming.

  9. Here’s the thing. To sell in today’s targeted age, you are finding the people (audience segments) who want, and hopefully care about, your product. If you, as a marketer, have integrity, and if the product you are marketing has itegrity (you wouldn’t represent it if you did not have integrity), then how you ‘sell’ it can’t possibly be a bad thing.
    No scumbag about it.

  10. I have officially lost count of the number of business owners who say “we’re not ready for marketing” or “we don’t have money for marketing”.
    Marketing is not a tactic or a function, it is the fabric of business.

  11. Yea I think marketing matters and it’s at an extremely exciting life stage right now where it’s being absolutely redefined. Professionals like yourself are leading the way in ensuring marketing gets redefined in the way it should have been in the first place. Which is making sure businesses are adding value to consumers lives. No more cheating the customers. If you follow through on your promise as a business, and your promise doesn’t suck – you’ll thrive. If you don’t, you’ll die.
    This new world is bringing back trust, relationships, transparency and reputations. There are more opportunities out there than ever before for businesses and I think enormous amounts of people are coming to realize this daily. It’s great for marketing and great for us as consumers as well.
    Great conversation here Mitch

  12. The most powerful statement in this post is “Products and services have to be good in today’s world. If they’re not, they get called out.” The reason this is so important isn’t because it makes businesses and corporate entities fearful of their every move, rather it’s important because it empowers marketers to focus on their craft thus elevating the industry.

  13. Marketing matters and it’ll definitely start to progress once you and I and all others in the field stop selling and start believing (the latter will create a mix of emotions and strategies effective enough for the first).
    Thanks Mitch for another great wake-up call.

  14. Elaborating further on Adrian’s comment. It’s so true that companies who ignore it, do so at their own peril. One of the things that intrigues me, is just being real with people in the social media channels, showing your personality, and engaging them because it comes naturally. Because you want to. Not just only trying to market or sell them something, but having fun with it. As a young person I don’t have a negative perception of marketing or marketers. It’s so vital to business.

  15. There have been countless products in my lifetime that have actually changed my life for the better because of *the way they worked*. And that is the promise of this new age of marketing, social media and technology — products will work better, and when they do change peoples lives for the better, those products will get talked about. If that is what marketing is all about, I am SO there.

  16. Mitch
    Good timely article.
    I’m not a qualified marketer as we are all marketers in a sense to get ahead in life, just like we all need to be able to sell to an extent. But let’s focus on the profession of marketing.
    I’ve experienced great, good and poor marketers over a 20+ year Corporate career with some major brands including Virgin. The key difference in my opinion is the great and good ones listen to the customer (not the one paying their bill). It amazes me how many marketers don’t spend time watching, listening and talking to the people whose will consume their media, content or whatever they are producing. Humility and acknowledgment that the Ivory Tower produces a distorted view of reality is important in being a top marketer.
    The wonderful thing about social media is we’re all forced to watch, listen and learn – there is now no excuse not too.

  17. Mitch,
    Thanks for sharing this. Maybe if we all subscribed to the idea of permission marketing as a guiding principal, our marketing would matter more.
    In the end though, that’s exactly what you’re saying here, as Social Media also brings with it the ability to unfollow and unfriend and basically ignore. If your story isn’t a real one, you won’t have anyone’s permission to market TO, let alone WITH them. Is that how we might grow marketing in the future? Together? Where everyone is an important, even integral part of any successful marketing plan?

  18. Isn’t it ironic that marketers in general have failed to effectively “market” themselves and their profession?

  19. Mitch,
    I am proud to be in marketing, for the reasons you list – because now it’s about telling the story and providing the customer value. The market is becoming so saturated that for the most part, if a product or service is mediocre, people will find out. No amount of marketing can save a business that doesn’t connect to its customers.
    To answer your question, I think we can not just listen to our customers, but use what we learn through listening and actually show them the true value in products and services. Can’t find the value? Then we need to make better products.

  20. I think that if you genuinely like people, like most marketers do, this internet era proves to be quite interesting. At least it makes the work more interesting.
    I love the way social media provides almost instant feedback on what you do, what a blessing that is for a marketer.
    It also forces marketers to better themselves because those who don’t will be eliminated naturally. Unfollow and ignore are probably the two words that have changed marketing the most…
    Marketing also becomes more organic. More and more, the enterprise itself becomes the message. It less and less what you say and more and more what you do that counts…and that is so exiting…
    It is a wonderful field to be in…

  21. I find it somewhat curious that most people commenting on this post are focusing on communications. I think something big is being missed, and a part of the importance is being skimmed over. Brian Riggs highlighted Mitch’s point that, “products and services have to be good in today’s world.” So many marketers forget the importance of the Product and Services as an element in the grand scheme of marketing.
    As much as social media is a way to reach people, it’s also a way for people to reach you. Your customers can tell you what they like and dislike about your product, your service, your company or anything else. This allows you to find out what your customers want, and make the necessary changes to give it to them exactly that way.
    When marketing truly embraces the notion that communication is a two-way stream, and starts to make changes to the underlying product or service based on feedback from customers, then marketing will be able to change its image on a broad scale. If the focus stays on “framing a product or solution in a way that makes the value most apparent” (Adrian Bashford), then it’s just spin and manipulation in a new medium.
    When the focus on product or service offering is evident, you don’t need to talk about your product nearly as much, because your customers will do that for you. If your product isn’t good, and you get called out over it, don’t try to reframe it, spin it to highlight benefits, or try to generate buzz. Instead, fix the problem that led to you being called out. I can’t think of anything more authentic and transparent than that.

  22. Marketing is incredibly important in commerce. In order to be completely successful, it’s important to have marketers who know their stuff in your corner.
    On the flip side, as marketers it’s incredibly important that we promote transparency, honesty, and trust between our company and our customers. We not only need to know everything about everything, we need to communicate it in a way that reflects favorably on the brand we promote.
    Marketing isn’t an easy job, but it certainly is an important one.
    Tessa Carroll

  23. Hi Mitch,
    Excellent post today, and I really enjoyed your last submission of thought – To move students minds to think that marketing is a excellent career path.
    I to at one point of my life, thought of marketers as well -“car sales men, who just don’t sell cars.” After now being a marketing professional, I know this is way of mark.
    But how can we change the minds of the youth?
    Personal, I do feel social media and the ability to network socially through them has grown the industry by leaps. However, many now are going into marketing because of the latest YouTube viral hit, not because philosophically they understand what marketing is all about (as you elegantly put it in your post)
    What we need to do is a number of things – One, show them success in the industry, both young and old. Show these students that if you do choose a career in marketing, you can make something of yourself, and if you do it well, effect change that might change the world.
    In addition, we need to better support the development of these students. Offer better co-ops (if available) offer better incentives, and events that they can attend/afford.
    Maybe a cool academic event that invites grade 12 students and top thinking markets.
    Have an inspired day,

  24. I was a bit surprised to see that people think of Marketers as scumbags – that hasn’t been my perception of my career (maybe people are saying it behind backs?!)
    I have DEFINITELY found it a constant struggle to justify Marketing roles to many organizations I have worked with, but I am in Oil and Gas and they are notoriously behind in the Marketing arena.

  25. Everything you do in business is marketing: location, how and when you bill, how you answer your phone, your email sig, every time you speak to a customer or potential customer. Not being aware and strategic is being short-sighted.

  26. I agree that marketers matter, but we become less credible when we market a product that isn’t actually a good product. We need to maintain our professionalism, and market in the correct ways.

  27. Having a good product is one thing. If people don’t know about it, you will end your trip pretty fast.
    Marketing is all about communication.

  28. Provocative post and interesting thread. Thanks Mitch
    I work in Professional Services (Big 4) where marketing is viewed as a staff function and a vehicle to deliver key messages into chosen markets (one way) rather than as a mechanism for continuously shaping the relevancy of our business to our clients (interactive). It is my mission to shift this mindset, even if it is by one interpersonal connection at a time.
    The recent fiasco at Toyota demonstrates the error of viewing marketing as an afterthought or a way to package and sell products and services into specific market channels. Had marketing professionals with accountability for preserving the core brand values and protecting the brand equity been part of the team working on new designs and components, their decisions may have been different. And if they were part of those teams – shame on them for not questioning these choices harder.
    The reason the uninitiated don’t view marketing as a viable career enhancing profession is because many marketers don’t take up the challenge to lead and demonstrate their strategic potential. Instead they live down to the expectations that others have of them. If the product is truly bad – what would make it better and more relevant? How could a change to this service really improve the customer’s life? How can we make it easier for our clients to let us know how we’re doing?
    We need more marketing role models who demonstrate how to help organisations engage more effectively with their audiences and remain relevant and responsive to changing needs.

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