I think a lot about the sorry state of marketing. And I came from marketing. I ran marketing departments in high-tech before I started my own company to create storytelling that was human, fun, sometimes funny, and real. That last one is huge.
Back in tech, sadly, we could have bottled a lot of “content” we created and sold it to the CIA for its advanced interrogation techniques. It was that bad. It was torture. Not because I or my employees wanted it to be. It was bad because that’s what management insisted on, no matter how much I protested.
Marketing needs to do better. The current state of marketing — especially in tech — stinks. Which is part of the reason I hope marketers don’t get to Heaven. They’d really f@%k things up. The worst thing to happen to marketing — marketers.
Here are three reasons marketing stinks (yes, there are more) and where I see an opportunity to do better.
Jargon-monoxide is one of the biggest problems in marketing. It’s a symptom of the bigger issue: that marketing lacks a bigger story. If you have a clear story that rocks, you don’t hide behind jargon. It only highlights a lack of a compelling story. It’s a tell-tale sign.
If I have a great story, I sure won’t be hiding behind nonsense. I would shout my story from the Swiss Alps, Julie Andrews-style. Damn straight.
2. Guilt-Based Tactics
Every day I see crap in my inbox (Inbox Zero please come with a detonator!) that I wish I didn’t. For example, just today I saw a slew of guilt-based headlines.
If you use guilt-based marketing tactics, you are cheating your long-term game. A few of the headlines from today: “Your last chance or you’ll regret it.” Wow. Really? Will I?
Another one: “This is Sally. She didn’t sign up for Conference X and, because of that, her sales plummeted and now she’s sad (replete with a silhouette pic of Sally crying).” Wow. OK, so now her life is spinning out of control because she didn’t attend your conference? Ugh.
And, the coup d’ grace headline: “Do you hate being successful that much that you can’t respond?” Seriously? If I had known you would solve all my problems, I would have responded earlier. No, wait. I wouldn’t have. Because it’s ridiculous. And these are just a few of the many bad emails and solicitations I get on a daily basis. When I see a headline like “You need me,” I think it’s either porn or crappy marketing. Then, I think, “Dear God, given the choice, let it be porn.”
This is exactly why I believe and I’ve said this many times: the fifth horseman of the apocalypse is a marketer.
Marketing and marketers: do better. This is pure nonsense! And I love fun nonsense. This stuff is not fun. It’s base-level frontal cortex masturbation. I want your hands out of my wallet and my marketing (and cranial!) pants.
All this does is create scarcity and fear and buyer’s remorse. You’re not interested in building a relationship with me; you are just looking to score in the short-run. It’s pandering at its worst.
I have written in other posts that there is one rags-to-riches story that is going around the internet. It’s bullshit when it comes to authenticity. Your story doesn’t need a bow; its needs a real ending. When I see a video, a boosted post or ad that shows (usually a dude) someone opening up the door of their “mansion” and their fancy car, I bolt. Literally. I am out of there. Yes, some of these stories are real; most, however, follow a manipulative template designed to pull at your emotions.
Emotions are important in marketing. Really. I get it. Yet, false promises, hype, template stories that lack authenticity, guilt and deficit-based tactics, and jargon focus on the worst parts of who we are.
People want hope, not predatory nonsense.
Instead, focus on inspiring people — giving them hope and making them feel that your company can help them somehow. No, it’s not about rags-to-riches; it’s about making promises that are commensurate with reality.
The rest is bullshit and marketers need to stop it. Do better marketers. I’m playing my mom card and ordering you to a time-out! You just got “mom-ed.”
What do you think?
I am a speaker, author (“Stop Boring Me!”- on Amazon), storyteller, improv comic, and creative excavator. I help organizations solve problems creatively and collaboratively with idea orgasms. Getting rid of jargon-monoxide and boring storytelling and content, I also help companies create powerful cultures from the inside-out.
I am a fan of good nonsense in the name of creativity. My 8-yr-old thinks I am hilarious. I know that window is closing soon. My company is Keepingithuman.com. Join the community! Follow Kathy on Twitter. Kathy speaks on humor, improvisation, and organizational storytelling and how to generate new ideas. I do also like to write occasionally about serious stuff too. Her livestream show is #yesandbrand and you can catch that on her FB page every Friday at 10AM PDT.