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The State of Marketing Today

Aug 17, 2007
Marketing is hard work. Now, I know what many are thinking. Outside of the marketing end of the building, who's going to believe that?

To many people, marketing is either something that "anybody can do'', or it's the department that enjoys a free ride on the hard work of the rest of an organization.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

It takes a high level of nimble creativity to effectively create trust of and demand for any product. And it's getting increasingly more difficult.

In study after study, consumers have stressed that, regardless of the communication medium, they'd rather not see ads. For example, a 2004 study by Forrester found that when people watch pre-recorded television shows, they skip an average of 92 percent of the commercials.

And, love them or hate them, advertisements are a key method of getting the message out to the buying public.

Confronting an ad-averse audience is difficult, and poses a series of questions. Not the least of which is how to break through the aversion somehow.

We in the advertising industry have responded in a variety of ways, ranging from moving more heavily to online advertising, to using more intrusive (I might suggest underhanded) tactics?

As marketers, we all face the same concern: how do we make an impression? Where do you go, what do you do, when the audience, everywhere, starts tuning us out?

Unfortunately, many ad agencies and "creative" types are turning to shock, a marketing strategy that includes running a shocking advertisement or communication stunt at a moment of maximum exposure, attempting to cajole (often through threats) a presumably impartial media, and then arguing that it's in all the service of branding.

Does anyone else think this is ethically suspect? How can marketers justify disrespectful, manipulative strategies and tactics? Advertising is strategic, and the audience is constantly evolving. But there are certain limits. Sometimes, these strategies just seem so manipulative.

That's not to say "disruptive" marketing is bad. Rather, marketing is currently standing at edge.

Marketing, to a large degree, is why people have an increasingly tough time trusting corporations. Broken promises, exaggerated claims, poor excuses. All of these contribute to a lack of faith on the part of the public.

It is possible, though, to break through the clutter and still be respectful. It comes down to motivation and mediums. "Motivation" means that professional marketers must choose to be honest with their audience. "Mediums" refers to the methods and tools we use.

It's not too late for marketing to overcome this challenge of trust. But we do need to be proactive, to select methods that don't undermine our word. And we must take the time to encourage fellow marketers to be respectful of the buying public.

When we get down to it, the "buzz" is important. And generating immediate sales is also of vital importance. But it's important, also, to not lose site of the long term effects of our marketing and communication decisions. If we're selling aggressively now, and laying the groundwork for a mistrustful public, we might eventually make it impossible for our companies to survive.

That would eventually undermine all marketing.

And that would be a truly unfortunate loss.
About the Author
Michael Lee-Smith has been offering business consulting services for over a decade, and in that time he's learned real-world strategies for success in sales and marketing. Learn more about how you can succeed in business at http://www.advicebuylet.info/ .
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