“When the revolution comes, marketers will be the first against the wall. Closely followed by lawyers.”
It’s a pretty strong statement to be throw-away, but it was thrown away in my direction a couple of weeks ago and, to be honest, I was in a quandary as to how to respond.
I was at a cast party held to celebrate the end of the run for a play that my wife had starred in, hosted at the theater owner’s home, when my wife mentioned that I worked in marketing. Out of the blue, or maybe red, the significant other of one of the actresses decided that it was perfectly okay to inform me, someone he’d never met, of my rank in the revolutionary firing squad.
Despite having only a short tenure in the world of marketing, I felt the urgent need to defend myself and attack him. I wanted to tell him that his choice of jeans was the result of that manufacturer marketing the brand as the ‘western” jean and that he fell for it. I wanted to point out that his “skate” shoes were a statement he’d made because of of the way the shoes were marketed to hipster skate-y type people and not over-aged teenagers eager to hold on to fading youth. I really wanted to point out the huge marketing that went into his choice of a Dickies shirt and how, despite his feelings about marketing, he’d entirely bought into it with his money and earnings and mixed-up image.
But I didn’t.
I didn’t even point out that the smartphone he was flipping through, browsing his iRebel app, was demonstrated him buying in to the millions of dollars of marketing that put his phone in his hands. I didn’t even mention his stupid greasy haircut with some hyper-marketed hair product in it that, even when brushed forward, still didn’t hide his receding hairline.
I did nothing. I just ignored him.
And it’s still eating at me.
What I did was to ignore him and continued talking with the theater owner about why the shows suffer from (sometimes) low attendance, what efforts are made with connecting with a larger audience and letting them in on the fun, and why the local chamber of commerce seems to be ineffective in better demonstrating the town’s charm and appeal.
I ignored the statement in part because I didn’t want to cause a scene or create an argument in someone else’s house. That’s poor behavior regardless of almost any provocation. The larger reason for not responding, however, was that I was conflicted.
You see, for a long time I may have said the same thing. “Come the revolution, advertisers will be the first against the wall.”
Notice I said “advertisers.”
It’s a common belief that advertising and marketing are the same thing and, probably due to my relative inexperience in marketing, it’s not easy to see the dividing line. It took me a while to really come to some sort of idea about why I am in marketing.
So, why am I in marketing? It wasn’t a path I decided upon when I was a kid, that’s for sure. When all the other kids wanted to be train drivers and firemen, I didn’t stand up and declare my intention to be a marketer. I kinda fell into it.
But that’s not to say I’m not fully invested in it. I am. And the reason I am is because I believe in the things I market.
I market a couple of things for two distinctly different products, for want of a better word. One of them I am paid to market and one of them I do on my own time. But the one common theme is that I absolutely, 100-percent, believe that by marketing these two very different products I am fighting for the rights of the consumer to be absolutely aware of and educated about their choice and to provide them with the best possible product that gives them the best available outcomes.
Both of the things I market are, to a degree, misunderstood and/or not well-received because there has been a vested interest in keeping the status quo. But I’m driven by a core belief that I’ve always had the rights of the consumer, the underdog, the individual are more important than the profit motives of the big corporations. In doing what I do, I believe I am fighting for the rights of the individual by showing them what they are not seeing, illuminating their choices, showing a better, more empowering way of doing things and forcing industries that hitherto ignored those consumer rights to recognize them and do things differently.
And if I can show the consumer to the corporations, and the corporations to the consumer, and make that mutually beneficial connection, or build that collaborative relationship, then the market will improve. Consumers will be better served and the service providers will prosper by it, not despite it.
That’s why I am in marketing.
So why am I not in advertising?
Funnily enough, or maybe not if you’re in advertising, I’m probably about to piss a whole lot of you off because the only real ethical differentiation I can make is that, apart from the advertising segment of a whole marketing campaign, I perceive advertisers, certainly agency advertisers, as money-driven mercenaries unafraid to push a poor product for the cost of a cup of coffee or a new BMW. Perhaps advertising needs a pr campaign?
I’m not saying that advertisers necessarily disbelieve any product they advertise, but I can’t really see that there’s a relationship-building element behind the campaigns. It’s a monetary rush to create an unnecessary market or exploit an existing one without an ethical belief in the mutual advantage to producer and consumer or a regard for the consumer beyond the necessary handing over of large amounts of cash.
I’ve just painted a whole lot of you with the same broad brush, haven’t I? Sorry, but I saw this definition that describes the difference between the motivations of advertisers and marketers:
Advertising: The paid, public, non-personal announcement of a persuasive message by an identified sponsor; the non-personal presentation or promotion by a firm of its products to its existing and potential customers.
Marketing: The systematic planning, implementation and control of a mix of business activities intended to bring together buyers and sellers for the mutually advantageous exchange or transfer of products.
It’s the bit in bold that’s really the clincher for me. I could never do what I do for a product or service that I don’t believe is mutually advantageous. Please correct me where I am wrong.
Meanwhile, when the revolution comes, middle-aged Brand Che teenagers grasping feebly onto a rapidly diminishing youth by shopping the grunge brands and combing and gelling their hair forward while being flippantly unenlightened about their own choices and in denial of their susceptibility to advertising will be the first against the wall.