Traditional Marketing Is Dying: Why Is It Taught In School?

I declared the major of marketing in 2010, with the idea of being involved in advertising, much like Donald Draper from Mad Men, but without the mass consumption of whisky, or cigarettes. During our orientation, the chair of the marketing department told the class that 95% of marketing positions available to fresh graduates would be in sales. All of a sudden I felt as if my dreams of media advertising for major corporations were crushed, and that I was doomed to a life of sales.

This is the reality of many newly graduated marketing majors. The majority of the class I graduated with ended up in some type of sales role, but then again, that is the nature of most marketing jobs, right? This was my thought, until I took on my current role, working with inbound marketing — a term I had never been exposed to until I had my first phone interview with my current employer.

A career in sales was never an avenue I wished to take, although it can be a rewarding path. I wanted to create change, and meaning in my organization by nurturing leads, and prospects who wanted to be called on. I never wanted to just sell widgets to organizations, I wanted to create an experience, and establish lasting relationships to aid clients towards their company’s mission. I wanted to do this by building awareness to our brand, and communicate why our company exists to aid organizations, how we can do it, and what we have to offer. In short, inbound marketing is what I wanted to do, I just didn’t know it yet.

What is the Value of MY Marketing Degree?

I was trained in traditional marketing techniques. I was shown how to sell academically to prepare me for the “95%” of the available marketing jobs. In addition, we learned direct selling techniques through email, direct mail, cold calling, TV and radio advertising, and much more. Briefly, we were exposed to market research techniques, but it was never a focus in the major. Not once have I mentioned being exposed to digital marketing.

The gap in traditional studies is digital marketing. All digital marketing courses were offered to me as electives, and not enforced as the core curriculum. I didn’t take advantage of these courses, because I did not know the true value, or practically of digital marketing. Of the courses offered, they still only scratched the surface of what inbound marketing has evolved into. This leads me to question, will digital marketing as a major replace the traditional marketing major? If so, what would this outcome lead to?

The most important impact during my undergraduate studies did not come from college, but instead an internship opportunity. For the first time, I became involved in grant writing, advertising through various media, event marketing, promotions, and so much more. I was taken back, because this position did not involve sales as a primary function. In fact, it was everything that I wanted in a marketing career, yet was never exposed to in school. The foundation was instilled, but the focus was never in these areas. We were never taught how to effectively engage an audience, or how to successfully create an experience at an event to make people want more. The theory was instilled, but application of the theory was not.

Digital Marketing vs. Traditional Marketing

Traditional marketing is dying. The current established marketing method everyone is scrambling to understand is inbound marketing. Companies have begun to shift their efforts towards this style, as it has proven success rates in generating leads, and converting these leads into buyers without the high capital investment of direct advertising. However, there are outliers which can afford a $1 billion budget for advertising campaigns.

Geico, for example, spends this amount annually on TV and radio commercials, trade shows, fliers, posters, bill boards, and much more. You can tell they do just by observing your surroundings. Geico does this in order to sustain their already established brand, and remind people of their presence. Their call center generates leads not by cold calling, but through warm calling. Individuals either call into Geico requesting information, or have submitted information online and await a call. Not everyone has $1 billion to dedicate to advertising, and not every company has an established brand, so how else can these companies generate awareness? Easily, through smart digital marketing. Traditional methods are far too expensive, and do not generate the ROI which digital marketing can.

Moving Forward

The organization I work for, OSIbeyond, has challenged everything I know about marketing. My job involves the shift towards inbound marketing, which I have very little formal training in. I have spent the majority of my time learning through outside sources the best practices and techniques, in order to be successful. Fortunately, we have begun to work with HubSpot, an inbound marketing platform, which offers endless content, training, videos, slides, active forums, and much more. This content has proven to be vital in creating successful digital campaigns.

If you stay within the lines of a traditional marketing curriculum, you will not reach your full potential, or what is expected of you with current marketing trends. You have to get out, become involved with every opportunity you can, and learn though experiential learning. It was these outside experiences, and challenges I accepted, which allows me the ability to become a digital marketer.

My formal training in marketing taught me the foundation, but by no means gave me the keys to be successful in my field. Traditional marketing techniques should be offered as an introduction to the field, and not part of the core curriculum. Marketing has changed, and so should schools which offer a marketing major.

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