What Kind Of Marketer Are You?

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Are you a marketing professional or an advertising professional?

The majority of marketing professionals that I meet aren’t really marketing professionals at all. The majority of them are advertising professionals. While it’s easy to confuse the two, the systematic ghettoization of Social Media and how Digital Marketing gets rolled into the more general advertising initiatives are clear indications that we’re not taking the opportunity to do something truly unique all that seriously at all. In the end, we’re still being asked about the ROI of Digital Media like it’s an advertising campaign. And, the only reason we’re being asked about it is because there needs to be some sort of CYA (cover your a**) move on the brand side in case someone higher up in the brand food chain wants to know why the television advertising spend was cut on an Excel chart.

This is a dis-service to Digital Marketing.

We’re not only doing a dis-service to Digital Marketing at this point, we’re lumping it in with the advertising budget. Marketing professionals need to wake up and realize that this is a marketing platform unto itself, and not just another space to toss ads at. Yes, you can do some great kinds of advertising in the digital channels (display advertising, search engine marketing, etc…). No, I’m not diminishing the power, growth and importance of online advertising (it truly is something to behold), but the real opportunity here (and now) is to leverage this amazing platform as an engine of marketing that compliments the advertising campaigns and helps to tell a better brand narrative. 

Don’t confuse Marketing and Advertising.

We tend to get lost in the values of yesterday and then measure it against a new channel and platform as if it’s the same thing. Yes, a TV show that you can run an ad on is similar to a Facebook page where you can run an ad on. That is advertising and that can be done in the digital marketing channels, but we’re hurting our brands if we don’t start thinking about new ways to engage and connect.

Brands need to ask themselves these professional questions:

  • If we’re already advertising, what else can we do with digital channels?
  • How do we build loyalty?
  • How different is the Web from mobile and tablets? (hint they’re all very different!)
  • How do we get more people talking about what we sell?
  • How do we connect to the people who may be looking to buy what we’re selling?
  • How do we open up our brand to make the things we sell more shareable and more findable?
  • How can we make the people from within our organization the true champions of our brand?
  • Can these digital channels make us smarter internally?
  • Can we use these channels as a business-to-business function as well?
  • How do we celebrate the customers who really are our true brand champions?
  • What would our world look like if we started thinking more about marketing instead of focusing only on advertising solution?
  • Are there partnerships for our brand to make with other brands?

Social is as social does.

There is a need for a constant reality check. Brands need to take a serious look in the mirror and ask themselves if their digital media efforts are being used as a form of advertising or – worse – marketing that is really just thinly veiled advertising. To this day, we have too many marketing professionals who think that the online channels best serve a younger more connected crowd or that it’s a much cheaper way to blast a message anywhere and everywhere. Again, this isn’t a marketing professional, this is an advertising professional way of thinking and doing.

Don’t diminish what you do not fully understand.

Not only is this diminishing the marketing opportunities that are bountiful, it’s actually diminishing the overall credibility of the brand. I like the idea of being a Marketing Reformer or a Marketing Theorist (and, they’re fancy titles to boot!), but I’d much prefer to see more brands looking at these digital channels as the new frontier for marketing opportunities, instead of another channel for advertising.

What’s your take?


  1. I agree with you, Mitch. Using the often referenced romantic relationship analog, are you a matchmaker or are you a counselor? A matchmaker helps with the introduction. A counselor helps develop and maintain the relationship.
    Marketing is about relationships. It’s about connecting value creators with value consumers. If you want to do this one time or care just about a single transaction, then be a matchmaker, an advertiser, or an “interrupter.” But, long term marketing is about relationships: counseling, permission, and communication.

  2. Mitch, you’ve pretty much covered it all. We need evangelists like you (and there are few) to educate the people in our industry, especially the more senior ones…Keep doing what you do!

  3. Mitch .. I could not agree with you more on this post. I love your line, “..we have too many marketing professionals who think that the online channels best serve a younger more connected crowd or that it’s a much cheaper way to blast a message anywhere and everywhere.”
    I too see this ‘advertising based approach’ again and again. I think the issue is that building relationships (online or off) with customers is hard work. It takes a lot of time and effort. And let’s face it, today marketers are under more and more pressure to get results. Often short term results to make executives and shareholders happy .. not customers.
    Therefore they fall back into the old way of doing things .. run a contest in Facebook to ramp up likes, blast deals and promos via Twitter, Facebook, etc.. We ran a study this past summer and found that in a one month period 37% of Canadian consumers that are engaged in social media are un-liking or un-following branded social media sites/feeds as fast as they are following them. Why? Too many messages that are not providing any real value and/or connecting the brand and the customer in a meaning full way.
    I believe we need to start thinking about marketing differently .. for example: ‘Marketing as a Service’ .. meaning that brands/marketers need to create content and services that help customers in their daily lives. Nike+ is a great and successful example of this. I hear again and again marketers complaining about the fact that there are too many marketing vehicles and media is too fragmented. I think this is the greatest opportunity ever for marketers!
    Think smart, be creative and work hard, but above all .. please, please don’t fall back to your old tactics for short term results.

  4. I can’t speak for the brand managers you think are just covering their a**** because I am clearly not one of them but you’re surely overstating this affliction Mitch? How can you hammer someone for wanting to know what their return will be in a very new medium? I take it the frustration is that you can’t give them an answer (no one can) but they keep asking?
    It may be time to change your pitch? And, too bad for them if they don’t believe you ( I would take this disbelief to be a business danger sign ) because all the clues are there, at least for the clear headed, that you know what you are talking about.

  5. This is a terrific post. What you’ve said makes total sense – you have a way of cutting through to the heart of the matter that I really enjoy. Thanks!

  6. I disagree with some of the sentiment. You mentioned that you were not diminishing the importance of online advertising, but your “tone” does. Actually that is a very important part of advertising, and an important part of other strategies we use to connect with out target market. It is the “tone” of your message…it is not just what you say, but your “tone”. Your tone sounds a bit “elitist” and “talks down to” people who may just need a little more education to understand that they confuse advertising with marketing. You were speaking about the “ghettoization” of social media..yet another negative “tone” that you added to your message.
    What I have found is that there are some pretty successful advertising professionals, who may have mistaken it for the full marketing definition, and just needed a bit more education to learn not to mix up to two definitions. That is a common problem, but some of those same people you talk about are the ones doing a better job than you, me and others in getting results and profit for their work.
    Advertising is part of marketing..it is a marketing tool. It is a very useful and successful marketing tool. The “democratization” of Social Media, which is a better word to say instead of “ghettoizing”, has allowed more people to have a chance at becoming advertising or marketing professionals. Some have done very well at it. To be honest, the democratization of Social Media is a good thing..it gives more people a chance to pursue a business and it gives more competition. There is nothing “ghetto” about that.
    Due to the economic period we are having now, using online channels that are cheaper is a very strong way to go to meet budget constraints and still reach your audience. My demographic is in the 24 – 43, very well connected age group and often affluent young entrepreneurs. My company connects and build relationships with them using social media. So you are wrong in that it is not the best way, the proof is in my own company. Online channels may not be the only way, but it is still a very strong way to connect with them. I have heard and seen very good success stories with companies using Facebook. One of my friends spoke to me about how Facebook has allowed him to connect very well with his clients.
    Although I hear you when you say that there needs to be a distinction between advertising and marketing, you are wrong in what works and what doesn’t..as I have seen with my own company, what other business owners have told me, and what all of us have witnessed with a very “democratized” Social Media.

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