Marketing Critic

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In looking at a newspaper or even more of the headier magazines, isn’t it always fascinating to see some of the titles they give to the writers?

Recently, I came across some media titles that made me smile: “Architecture Critic,” “Drama Critic,” “Wall Street Correspondent.” Granted, it is titles just like these that make John Stewart’s The Daily Show as funny as it is (make sure to listen for the titles Stewart gives his reporters), but a title can be as meaningless or as creative/inventive as you want it to be and many would argue that in a world like ours, we need many more cooler and smarter titles.

Marketing Critic.

While perusing those publications, I wondered what it would be like to ultimately be labeled a “Marketing Critic.” And when I say “labeled” I mean in my inevitable obituary or something for the tombstone (don’t worry, there are no plans to expedite that process that I am aware of). I am probably the furthest thing there is from being a “critic” as we have known the role to date, but I am highly critical of the Marketing, Advertising and Communication industry.

Without calling brands out, we can all be doing a whole lot more to build trust with customers.

Why do I not call brands out to task (unlike other Bloggers)? In a very simplistic way: you never know who you are going to run into, who you are going to need as an ally, and who you are going to be working with. I do much more than just Blog. I run (with my three business partners) a 100-plus-person Digital Marketing agency (Twist Image), I sit on the board for many non-profit organizations (including the Canadian Marketing Association), I speak to roughly 70 different types of audiences every single year, and I believe that I will (or have) run into so many brands that it would be to my professional detriment to spend my time ragging on those who I feel may not truly understand the merits of Marketing in 2010.

That doesn’t mean that brands get a free pass to keep on doing what they’re doing.

In fact, it’s the polar opposite. By being critical of the industry (or even an act from within the industry) it gives all of us Marketing professionals an opportunity to look at ourselves more objectively, and wonder how we can get better at improving the relationships that people have with our brands. Doing the whole “tsk tsk tsk” to other brands simply continues the cycle of repulsion that the masses generally have for the Marketing profession (we like to eat our own).


Elevating the conversation by looking at the issues and attempting to create a semblance of guidelines and better strategies is the route that works best (for me). It’s also one of the missing links in the toolbox of some of the best Bloggers and Journalists with the cooler titles. Most (and yes, that is an unfounded generalization based on my own, very myopic perspective) are easy to criticize and inject how they would do it, few spend the time to also analyze the entire landscape and dig beyond a bunch of tactics that could have (or should have) been used.

Think about Facebook.

Regardless of where you sit on Facebook and their constant struggle with privacy (more on that here: The Fuss About Facebook), elevate the conversation beyond what they should be doing about privacy to the core issue: this company probably never anticipated the growth, size and care that the users are expressing, so they are rapidly attempting to evolve from a company that was created in a college dorm so people could hook up to what resembles a mirror image of our society and how we are all connected. This is about more than privacy settings as this monstrous company tries to redefine it’s overall corporate culture.

Just wondering: wouldn’t it be a better industry if people became "Marketing Critical" instead of "Marketing Critics"?


  1. Good post! Regardless if anyone is new in the marketing industry or a veteran, we all need to be critical of how well we represent ourselves. In the last two years, I have stopped following marketing veterans who, unfortunately, don’t walk the talk. They criticize their competitors, instead of evaluating themselves. Matter of fact, some of no longer active on the web. Hmmm! Wonder why?

  2. To answer your question directly: yes. We can all benefit from imagining the whole of the situation rather than poking at tactics we think are stupid. Hindsight is easy. To be a true visionary, you have to look far and wide, and you have to stay above the fray.
    Which isn’t always easy. Staying above the fray and working in the trenches at the same time can be tough.

  3. Hi Mitch…
    I really like your notion of trust and elevation as tenets that go beyond brands or even the channels themselves. As critics, we tend to focus on systems of delivery as opposed to what content or communications can mean in a new context; we orient ourselves around finding flaws instead of transforming our challenges into actionable solutions.
    I also agree with you completely on this whole media charade over privacy – not only are we ignoring the origins of the Internet itself, but we are forgetting that compromises must be made in order live and network openly. Facebook is going through a transition that is really no different than what the likes of Google and Twitter have undergone (and continue to). We need to be willing to sacrifice a part of ourselves for any collective gain, and that includes being able to measure our progress.
    Elevating conversation, to your point, will allow us to build new frameworks – not so much new models – that will transform culture and business.

  4. Interesting post. I blogged about a similar topic recently. Not so much marketing related, but I had a horrible experience at a local burger joint. I wanted to write about my experience online (for all the nasty reasons – you know venting, getting back, etc.). I hesitated for fear of harming his business (I do have a big heart) and fear of him retaliating by spreading fabricated rumors about my firm.
    Then I started to wonder – what if I had written about my experience? What if that blog got shared, passed on, gossiped about? What if then, the owner of the business got present to the real impact that his behaviours have on his business and his overall financial security?
    My big question is this – what if by naming names, the recipients can actually know where they went astray with some poor decision? Wouldn’t that make all the difference in some cases to them correcting behaviours and improve the outlook of their business?
    If not us, then who?

  5. Mitch,
    I really like your concept of elevation. I work with engineers all day and I hear them discussing root cause analysis quite often. I might compare your concept to a root cause analysis of the company/brand’s pains. As opposed to treating the symptoms it is best to find a solution for the cause. As you elude to this takes much more work with delayed gratification. It is easy for a consultant of any kind (marketing, IT, risk, etc.) to come in and fix a symptom. Symptoms are easy to identify, most of the time the customer has already done this, and are usually abundant. The consultant could fix everything but the only problem, for the customer, is symptoms will keep surfacing because the root cause is still there. The best consultants do the work to find the cause.
    Thank you for the insight.

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