THE DECAYING STANDARD OF MARKETING KNOW-HOW
I recently attended a Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) conference to hear a national market research company speaker, with the title “Director of Marketing”, a leader of a division responsible for advising their clients “how to do it better”, speak.
I must admit I had high hopes of insights and knowledge that could help me grow as a marketing strategist, that I could pass onto clients and followers, and even publish in my next book.
Instead, I was appalled, shocked, horrified and dismayed… He actually knew so little – and what he said was ignorantly (albeit it, innocently) and blatantly wrong… the beliefs and assumptions that true professional and knowledgeable academics actually try and teach people OUT of believing!
Is this really how abhorrently low the industry, responsible for marketing leadership, has sunk?
Shell-shocked at the content, I couldn’t help but ask the speaker about his educational background… suspecting he might be from the arts, accounting, or engineering… which could explain his incapacity to understand basic building blocks of marketing and strategy.
I must admit to being shocked he had a degree in advertising and marketing… My immediate thought, “How could anyone finish a degree in marketing, and know absolutely so little?”
Politely, I thanked him for his presentation and went on my way…
THE DUMBING-DOWN OF MARKETING EXECUTIVES
For years, my peers and I have observed “dumbing-down” in Marketing. With procedures controlling actions of operational marketing functions, instructional manuals to obey, and processes to follow, staff don’t necessarily NEED a degree, and years of experience, to implement their marketing activities & tasks. As proven by McDonalds, school kids corralled by processes can be paid less than free-thinking adults, as long as the tasks are repetitive and there is no need for initiative or room for common sense.
Further, the cost-saving trend, for middle management roles in Advertising through to Product Management, and now clearly in Market Research, has been, “If you can’t pay them, just give them a fancy title”.
Simultaneously, Universities have been pumping out graduates and MBA’s on a quota system where “90% must pass”. While this has angered old-school academics and commercially minded observers (like me), this failing has been growing since the 90’s in the wake of HECS and overseas student placement… which makes degrees mean less year-by-year, exacerbated when pure academics (with an absence of commercial exposure) are the teachers.
THE DAMAGE AND THE DANGER
What rocked me after the presentation was the implied credibility of the presenter’s title, his Company’s brand and the impressive graphics (obviously professionally produced) actually duped a significant proportion of the audience!
These perceptual clues influenced listeners so that the ludicrous, wrong, inaccurate, misleading advice and direction was actually taken on board by some of the delegates at the conference.
The dis-information was, in some places, what properly educated marketers have to un-teach executives to PREVENT managerial mistakes.
Armed with incorrect direction and misleading beliefs, some delegates in the audience may literally now make managerial decisions with disastrous results.
Is it a sign of the decay of Marketing know-how that no one stood up and spoke out?
With no complaint to the event organiser, suggesting anyone claiming to understand or offering big companies advice in, “Marketing” should be able to define the word?
It appeared the audience was comfortable when our friend frequently used the word “Marketing” as a synonym for advertising or promotion… while claiming he was promoting “scientific marketing”!
Not a soul interjected that the speaker might NOT understand that “Marketing” is the holistic “management of exchange”. When he offered, as if it was a new-found insight, that “Marketing requires analysis”… no one reminded him that this has been locked in and taught in Marketing 101 since the 60’s… and is hardly new.
He remained unchallenged when, in complete seriousness, he stood up in front of industry folk and suggested markets can have “4000 segments” and that “a group of 75 is 75 different segments”! Is it a sign that the audience failed to respond by laughing out loud?
Completely victim of the demographic trap, the professional irresponsibility of someone in his position, offered by his Company as a mentor and advisor to marketers, is (in my opinion) criminally irresponsible.
This individual expressed misleading and caustic, if not cancerous perceptions, in a negligently incompetent capacity… While his company has a large Professional Indemnity cover, the truth is the damage done is one the kind that never gets exposed.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
As thought leaders, world authorities, or simply as dedicated professionals, it is important that we stand up and be heard when public speakers get it wrong… not by embarrassing or insulting the presenter, but by making it known to the event organisers, the presenter’s Company, and fellow attendees, the objective reasons why the content is sub-standard.
Given the circumstances of the failure of the silent majority to stand up to current world events, it might be that people and communities around the world are reticent to speak out… but without more vocal dialogue, our standards, and our communal well-being, might be at stake.