The Dumbing Down of Marketing

Here’s the dirty little secret that’s not being talked about in public:  Marketing is dumbing itself down.

I’m sure you’ve all noticed.  LinkedIn is becoming overwhelmed with “discussions” about issues that were either settled decades ago (e.g, “Can Women Manage as Well as Men?”  Really?  This is what we need to spend our time discussing?).  Or discussions that should embarrass a freshman marketing student (e.g., “How Can I Get Ideas for My Blog?”).  Blogs and articles abound on the minutiae of techniques and mechanisms or ponder the very profound questions of whether this element or that of marketing should be elevated to C Suite status.  (Do we need a Chief Social Media Officer? Do we need a Chief Marketing Technology Officer?)

There is a mania for grasping each new mechanism, tool, or customer outreach approach as if it represents the answers to all revenue prayers.  And with each new, unthinking, rush to embrace each new area, to make it a marketing specialty, marketing actually gets further away from understanding the whole marketplace, the real world context in which customers make choices.

This is a disaster for business.

The marketplace has become more complex, more diverse, no longer geographically circumscribed, with customers able to access and exchange information in real-time.  Yet, simultaneously, we are entering an age in which increasing numbers of marketers know more and more about less and less.

The developing sub-specialties are supposed to be the means of understanding and reaching people in this new era.  But the “specialists” – and the pundits and the press – are so focused on their new toys, key elements in the equation all, that they forget that you can’t solve an equation by concentrating only on parts of it.

Okay, fine.  So we have minions studying minutiae.  This is all brought together at the VP-Marketing or CMO level.  Right?

Well, not really.

As CEOs allow – in many cases, encourage – the ultra-specialization and increasingly narrow drill-down approach to marketing hiring, they also encourage a “cost-saving” approach to higher level hiring.  We’ve all seen it.  More and more, job descriptions for what would seem to be important functions, with significant responsibilities, include the phrase “3-5 years experience required.”

Yup.  3-5 years in a specialized area, without any additional, general marketing experience.  That certainly is the way to recruit seasoned, senior level staff who can understand what is important and what isn’t, who can manage the ever-growing piece-parts of how businesses try to understand and interact with their marketplace.

And what is the result?  The dumbing down of marketing.  The reduction of what purports to be a profession and a critical participant in an organization’s success to an army of limited vision, spasmodically chasing the latest trends and fashions in methodology and communications modes.

For good or for ill, the marketplace is getting more complex and the customers more well-informed, and smarter.  Is this the time to dumb down marketing?

6 thoughts on “The Dumbing Down of Marketing

  1. I totally agree – it’s like we have stepped back in time – thank you GURUS and wanna-bees for your negative influence on Marketing! I see it creeping into Data Science as well, now if you are right out of college or just got a job working with data you are the new Twitter expert! Good luck playing with the wanna-bees…. but if you want expertise call Emily R. Coleman!

    Thanks and have a great day!

  2. Hi Emily,

    Thank you for putting it so well. I think the statement “…we are entering an age in which increasing numbers of marketers know more and more about less and less” is an apt description of where we find ourselves today. Specialization is a problem. Unless you understand the different tactics and techniques used to deliver the overall marketing message, you will fail to even use the one or two tools at your command in the fullest capacity. Marketing silos are a waste of time and money. But give a marketer a new shiny toy and they get all giddy about it. I’m a marketing genius – I can use a #.

    • I agree with you, Craig. But I think we really need to blame the CMO and CEO who lets this happen. It is the CMO’s responsibility to run the shop. Letting (or even encouraging) his/her people to chase shiny new toys is, in my mind, a dereliction of duty. Group think has never been an effective marketing strategy.

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