Marketing is a Scam

There are a lot of scams out there. One of the largest, yet least talked-about scam of them all is the entire field of marketing.

Marketers are all scammers, greedy folks out to convince people to spend money on things they don’t need for reasons they don’t understand, all to increase the revenues of their respective companies, and, in turn, line their own pockets.

It’s a dirty, dirty business. We spend billions of dollars every year to reach consumers like you – on your television, phone, computer, commute, newspaper, magazines. We pay other people to promote our products so that it sounds like you’re just getting a recommendation from a friend. We pay for your personal information so we can learn more about you and find new, sneakier ways to get our message across.

If our products were any good, you would hear about them or find them yourself. You don’t need us to tell you about them. We have no incentive to tell you the truth. Our only incentive is to get you to buy, to give us your money.

Marketing is a scam. Right?

Here’s the part where I tell you I’m just having a little fun. That I’m just kidding and marketers are all honest, thoughtful people. Unfortunately, I can’t do that. Most of what I said above has some truth to it.

This isn’t a manifesto. This isn’t me blowing the whistle on my field. This is a call to arms.

It’s time for marketers and companies the world over to put in a little more effort. Make your products great. Treat your customers well. Sell in an honest way.

And it’s time for consumers to reward those companies with your business, and to punish the ones who don’t evolve by leaving them behind.

Not all companies can be great companies. Not all marketers can be great marketers. But we must, all of us, strive to be better.

Marketing is not a scam. But it’s seen that way by a lot of people, both inside and outside the profession. It is in our power to change that.

Why Marketers Should Care About Privacy

People the world over are up in arms over the lack of privacy individuals have in the digital age. And while some of what they are saying gets lost in translation, it ultimately boils down to the fact that it seems that no matter what we do, someone is watching us – whether that be the government, the banks, or advertisers.

What ever happened to privacy, anyway?

As marketers, we want data. To get that data, we take advantage of new technologies that collect that data from consumers, sometimes safely and other times a little less so.

We might say we care about privacy, but we’ll do almost anything to get data if we think it will help improve our numbers. And so we easily cross that moral line in the name of personal success.

Should we care more than we do?

I think the answer is yes. We should care because we are in the business of trust. If consumers can’t trust us, can’t trust what we’re telling and selling them, then we have no chance of success. And collecting data we have no right to is a surefire way to lose their trust.

How do we keep the trust?

I don’t mean to say we should stop collecting and using the data available to us. That would be a far greater sacrifice than is necessary. But we should be clear with people what data we collect and why. There are benefits for consumers when we collect their data. And they should know what they’re getting out of the deal as well, so that they can make the right decision about whether to share that information or not.

What’s Next in Personalization?

Personalization is an interesting topic in the marketing world. Strategies and techniques for personalizing products and messaging have been around for what seems now like forever. But still, it’s new enough that many consumers are not fully comfortable with the amount that businesses seem to know about them.

We personalize emails, direct mail pieces, display ads, and even websites. We use customer’s name, age, gender, physical location, and explicit preferences to dynamically show them different words, phrases, images, and offers.

The more we personalize a marketing message to an individual, instead of treating everyone the same, the more effective our marketing becomes. That’s what we’ve been told for the last five or ten years.

But is that always true? And will it continue to be true in the future?

Already, new technology can and will allow us to target new ads in new ways. Outdoor advertising will be able to change based on who is looking at it. Minority Report predicted that one. Television commercials will be directed at the person watching the TV.

We can imagine a limitless ability to personalize our messaging to every single person in the world. An infinite number of variables, an infinite number of messages, and even more sales for the companies that get it right.

But there has to be some diminishing return in these efforts. At some point, the money and time it will cost companies to become even more personalized will not be worth the number of new sales it creates.

The tech-savvy marketers out there are already experimenting to give us an answer, show us the way. Now it’s on you and your company to sit down and outline how you will use personalization to become better at marketing your products.

Because the overall truth still holds, some personalization works better than no personalization.

On Christmas (and holiday marketing)

Have we reached peak Christmas yet?

It’s an interesting question to ponder for marketers out there. The onslaught consumers receive from companies begging for a greater share of their holiday shopping money has grown steadily in the digital era. Companies in a wide variety of industries – from auto to consumer electronics to toys – devote almost their entire year’s marketing budget toward the holidays.

It has grown and grown, pushing its way into new channels, and new months (August was the first mention I saw this year). But there is a limit. Isn’t there?

At what point are we pushing people away? At what point is there just not enough attention to go around?

I think we’ve hit it. Sure, some companies may see greater marketing ROIs this year than last. But on the whole, if you look at the total ROI from all the holiday marketing in the United States this year, do you think we’d see an increase over last year? I’d be surprised.

So what’s next? Convince consumers there are other times (maybe better times) to spend their money? The smart companies are probably already on top of it.

Merry Christmas everybody!

The Key to Never Failing

Fear of failing is natural. It’s human.

Most of us are told over and over again not to fail. We are driven to succeed. And for that reason, we learn to fear the fail.

Because we fear failing, we take steps that we think will help us fail less. Our goal becomes never failing.

One logical step to avoid failing is to eliminate risk. Only do things you know you will succeed at. Don’t take chances. Don’t do anything new.

Can you see the problem there?

If we never take risks, we never grow. No one ever achieved great success by never failing. You have to be willing to fail in order to succeed.

So the key to never failing is to play it safe. But if your goal is never to fail, you will never truly succeed.

So my advice to you, change your goal. Eliminate your fear of failing. Fail well and fail often. Learn to learn from your failures and work through them.