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?