Have you ever had that Groundhog Day feeling at the office? You know the one, where life seems to repeat itself over and over again?

groundhog day

Well I seem to be having more and more Groundhog Days. Maybe it’s because I’m not as young as I once was, so not much is new anymore? Or maybe I’m working with so many fresh-faced marketers, it’s just new to them but not me.

Mostly my Groundhog experiences occur in marketing meetings. The meetings seem to involve the same issues and problems discussed more than 25 years ago. I’m hearing the same arguments and opinions, the same bitching and moaning, the same attempts to impress with vacuous new buzzwords – it’s déjà vu all over again, again.

Even worse are conference call meetings. It seems most people spend more time on their smart phones, tablets or laptops working on their emails, than contributing to the call. The productivity is disastrous.

marketing meeting

In 2003, in sheer frustration, I created Marketing Buzzwords Bingo to keep people awake in marketing meetings. I’ll have to reload it in my blog for you, so you can use it to keep your sanity in these tedious time-wasters.

But this is the curious bit – we have now had over 50 years of university marketing degrees, 40 years of TAFE advertising certificates, 31 years of direct marketing certificates and 14 years of online/digital marketing courses – and yet we are still making the same mistakes day-in, day-out, year-in and year-out.

We don’t seem to be learning from our past . There is no collective corporate knowledge passed along to young marketers. Instead of learning from the mistakes and successes of others as part of their induction, new recruits are left to fend for themselves and repeat the mistakes of their predecessors. And we all know that definition of insanity about doing the same thing over and over?

Part of the problem is the quality of the tertiary education. It seems that every time a marketing graduate is hired they require remedial education so they have a semblance of usefulness. Our universities are not providing the skills necessary to work in current marketing departments or advertising agencies. So you can’t blame the graduates.

Another part is the lack of interest in further professional development – people believe that because they work in the industry they don’t need to study or feed their brains. Particularly as there is no requirement for them to study, like there is in professions such as medicine, law and the like. “I have my degree, therefore I am…“

marketign graduate

One common mistake that still exists is with those who confuse ways of marketing with media channels. For example calling “direct marketing” a medium, or “digital marketing” a way of marketing. Or assuming DM is limited to mail. Even worse when there is acronym confusion. “This meeting is about CRM” says one. “Yes I know” says another, “Customer Relationship Management“. “What are you talking about, it’s Cause Related Marketing” – whoops.

As any marketer worth their salt knows, there are only two ways of marketing. One is mass marketing and the other is direct marketing.

Here’s another example that stunned me, though it’s not uncommon. Recently I consulted to a BIG DATA company. They make their money flogging data to companies from SME’s to major financial institutions and government departments. They are busying themselves with distractions such as “the pursuit of likes”, yet their own data is so abominable. They cannot personalise email messages to their own clients because they don’t have their names on file.

That’s right folks – imagine the body language of the messages from a data company, when those messages cannot be personalised? Talk about damaging your brand’s credibility. Instead of trying to come up with new offers, repackaging old products, or posting on social sites, they would be more profitable if they just got to know their customers better.

Dear whatsyaname?

As the old saying goes, “if your customers don’t make you rich, who will?”

Marketing is not complicated

But marketers do their best to confuse – using buzzwords with over-emphasis on ‘strategic‘ or ‘engagement‘, etc. In simple terms, marketing creates the need, while sales fulfills the need. Though much direct response advertising does both. Everything you do must contribute to either acquiring or keeping a customer profitably.

And there is an argument that marketing is not technically vocational

Vocational training emphasizes skills and knowledge required for a particular job function (such as typing or data entry) or a trade (such as carpentry or welding). Marketing does have qualifications and there are many rules to follow if you want to succeed. But the craft often involves a very broad measure of opinion, rather than specifics – unless of course you are working with data.

Professions such as law and accounting have rules and laws that practitioners need to abide by. And there’s generally only one way to fix a leaking tap, or electrical fault – rules and vocational skills apply. There is a specific way to draw up a set of accounts for example, but not to spend money in media, create an advertisement, or even publish content in the digi-world. Yet there are a million opinions on how to do so.

And that’s the rub – these marketing meetings seem to occur to solve matters of opinion rather than fact, which is why they are so dull and go round and round in circles.

I once removed the visitor chairs from my office so people wouldn’t waste my time sitting in them and deciding when they would leave. It upset a few, but it meant conversations were quick and to the point. Much better productivity.

Maybe if all marketing meetings were held standing up, the attendees would focus more on the facts and issues, not the opinions?

standing in meeting room

Well that’s my opinion anyway!

Malcolm Auld is Principal at Malcolm Auld Direct and a Legends & Leaders mentor in the Agency/Account Management, Future Focus, DM/Data and both Relationships modules.

Leave a Reply