Marketing is a Proper Mess. This is Good.

I’ve spent over 20 years marketing, the past 17 employing the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) hybrid model. For public and private companies around much of the world. Today, marketing as a profession has become much more sophisticated, largely thanks to the internet and technology. Universities are struggling to keep up and many a marketing practitioner has to self-educate post graduation to remain relevant in their skills. It was a blog post by Proposify CEO Kyle Racki that got me to pondering on the state of affairs in marketing.
Measurement: The Deadly Blackhole
About 17 years ago, technology was just creeping into the marketing best practices realm in a serious way. Marketers were developing complex spreadsheets to incorporate CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost) with CRC (Customer Retention Cost) along with field sales data, survey results and website data. That was about all you really had. Then along same SEO and SEM. Then social media and the (still) raging battle on measuring “likes” and sentiment.
Now we have a complete sub-sector of marketing called MarTech or marketing automation. Tools that enable you to digitally push your message 24/7 via social media, websites, email and in other digital channels.
Measurement. Every step of the way. This is good. It’s a boon to marketing that struggled, not as badly as public relations, to justify departmental spend. Now we talk about A/B testing, cohort analysis, personas and engagement data etc.
All of which is good, but with many of the CEO’s and CFO’s I speak with when we discuss the marketing component of their corporate digital strategy, they are left more confused than ever. Startup CEO’s live and breathe much of these metrics via new approaches to marketing and fare much better. Right now, however, marketing has become an increasingly complicated practice. Some may say marketing has become less creative just when it needs to be more creative.
Why This is Good
All of this mess, this extreme quantification of a practice that remains largely about human behaviours and psyche that will always be qualitative, is a good thing. Marketers are starting to figure out what works. Leaders like HubSpot and SimplyCast are improving their tools. The application of behavioural economics and ethnography through digital anthropology are starting to bear fruit.
As with most any profession, marketing has gone to the extreme in attempts to quantify almost everything. Now it will begin to pull back, like an elastic and the tools will get better. It is a fascinating time to be a marketer and developing marketing tools. Marketing needed to be shaken up. It has been. Now it’s time to turn this mess into something more comprehensible. But it will be messy for a while yet.

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