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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Is Marketing Dead?

Back when I was in high school, the Christian world was rocked for a brief moment by a movement dubbed “Is God Dead?”  It was probably started by a theologian name William Hamilton who horrified by the evil and suffering in the world wrote, “We needed to redefine Christianity as a possibility without the presence of God.” Others said that Christian principles were great but as our society was growing more secular the concept of an active God was not necessary.

It never got big but on April 8, 1966 Time Magazine put “Is God Dead” on the cover instead of its usual portrait of a leading political, entertainment or business figure. Such publicity caused the subject to be debated all over the country and gave TIME more notoriety than the newsweekly likely wanted. After a few months, the issue quietly dropped from the scene.

Why do I bring this up? Well, this past week I received an unusual e-mail from a young reader.  With his permission, I quote—“I really do enjoy your blog but don’t your realize that traditional marketing is dead. I don’t care if you are talking advertising as you often do, or public relations or branding or even corporate communications, they are all dead. Buyers today don’t pay attention to marketing efforts—we use the Internet, examine reviews by users, and depend heavily on word of mouth by friends. You raise good points sometimes but Don you are really showing your age.”


My young friend went on to quote some statistics from a Fournaise Marketing Group whose survey of hundreds of CEO’s essentially said that they are hopping mad. Some 73% say that their Chief Marketing Officers (CMO’s) lack business credibility and cannot grow their business significantly. Over 70% resent being asked to spend money without explaining how it will actually increase sales or profits. Also, close to 80% don’t want to hear about the certainty of enhanced brand equity without some financial metric being tied to a marketing program.

Is this new? For my whole career, clients have asked for accountability. We never guaranteed sales increases but could show metrics of increased awareness. CMO’s are short lived these days (usually under two years) so they may be gun shy and timid about forecasts and promises. The questions he raises from Fournaise are identical to those most of us greybeards have heard over the last 40 years.

Is marketing dead? I say no but I do agree that it is much harder to execute plans today. TV does not work as well as it did a decade ago but, all things being equal, it still works better than anything else most of the time. Commercial avoidance will only grow stronger. Mobile, in my opinion, is the next big thing, but players as illustrious as Facebook are having a hard time monetizing it. Can we find a way for creative to work well on mobile? Newspapers will go digital as will many magazine titles if they are to survive. Radio can still be a viable player locally in the right hands. Cable will have cross platform possibilities soon that would have been unheard of a decade ago. And, your “mobile wallet” will change shopping forever.

So, is marketing dead? No, but it is evolving and the pace of the evolution is much greater than we have ever seen to date. I do not agree with my young friend that conventional marketing avenues are all dead but I love his passion and his interest.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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