Yes, you can be a marketer and not a fraud

Mo Dezyanian
Aug 27, 2018 · 4 min read

It’s hard to be a marketer and not feel like you’re lying sometimes.

We promise sophisticated targeting and big data modeling to identify that one person who is (subconsciously) thinking about buying our stuff, 5.8 milliseconds before they actually do. Then we promise to serve this perfectly receptive audience the right ad with the right product and right price without interrupting what they are already doing.

But those of us on the inside know that digital advertising does not work quite like that. Ad blockers are everywhere; consumers don’t trust ads; tech platforms are plagued with data scandals.

So what’s our answer to that, as marketers?

Every day we come up with a new one — or at least, every month or two. And a whole lot of bandwagon jumping goes on, both by marketers and clients. There’s always an example of where a new idea works perfectly, and many who think it will make them rich.

Influencer marketing

Some marketers promise to tap into the psyche of consumers through influencers, because that’s who can … well … influence decision making. But as Avinash Kaushik points out influencer marketing should be last on your list of tactics. It doesn’t scale. Unless and until your brand can afford an influencer at the level of, say, George Clooney, it just doesn’t work.

“If you have spent to the point of diminishing margins of return and extracted the full profitable opportunity from every other marketing activity and you still have some money left, then and only then should you consider Influencer Marketing.” — Avinash Kaushik

Brand purpose

Some choose brand purpose as the new holy grail. If your brand could have a voice for world peace, gender equality, and alternative energy, you’re told, customers will trample each other on the way to buy your duct tape, or boxer briefs.

Right? Wrong. What customers say they care about and what they pull out their credit cards for are two very different animals.

Mark Ritson riffs on the inherent weakness and outright bullshit of brand purpose in this post (which includes an excellent ad Oasis ad designed to mock brand purpose, do check it out, but not until you’ve finished this article).

“Do customers want purpose-filled brands? Sometimes. In some categories. Depending on how it is done. A lot of the time they don’t give a fuck. And usually most segments will not pay more.” — Mark Ritson

So … what’s a marketer to do?

Following, the three strategies I use to help me stick to the real and align my actions with my client’s strategic goals.

1. Focus

Forget about all the new shiny tools and focus on what your goals are and what you need to do to achieve them. Focus on defining your business goal this year and your organizational vision in the next 3 years.

Then focus on KPIs #1 and #2, the ones that signify success for your brand. Every other data point is just an indicator that you are or are not headed in the right direction.

Focus on what resources you have and what you are good at doing. Do that well to achieve your goals.

Sure, try new things. Experiment with the latest and greatest. But do that outside of the assembly line, and with restraint. Mainly, focus on being incrementally better at what you, your brand, and your resources are already good at.

2. Be real

Be unapologetically real about who you are and where you are.

For example, your brand or company might be purpose-driven. Some companies are purposeful by design (like Patagonia). But more than likely your product is either a utility (duct tape/soap) or maybe a value-based brand (Walmart) or possibly an emotive one (Apple). It is extremely rare that your product solves a grander world purpose.

It’s also not likely that your consumers care. People don’t want to change the world all the time. Sometimes we just want breakfast.

Be real about your goals as well. Your media investment will not produce a 5x revenue growth in year one. Your media investment is not going to fix the fact that your customer service is broken or your employee morale is low or that your product is … let’ say flawed.

Can you be objective? If not, hire someone smart from the outside who can (*ahem — cough cough*).

3. Be a business leader

As marketers we have a tendency to look at business with our marketing headset firmly screwed on. 24/7. We drone on about brand, media, technology and creativity.

But we often lack knowledge of other business disciplines. Or even interest.

Sometimes it feels like we don’t even speak the same language as our customer. Who, for some reason, endlessly focuses on costs and profitability (booo-ring!).


Don’t be like that. Get a handle on finance, HR, accounting, all of it. Stop being a marketer (or worse a digital-only marketer). Start being a business leader, with your business goals running on endless loop in the back of your marketing mind.

Do these three things and, while you’re at it, make learning and growing as a marketer a priority.

And there you have it: solid marketing vs fraudery.

Hey, is fraudery a word? Have I started a new trend?

Empathy Inc. — Occasional Insights

Thought leadership about business, marketing, and media

Mo Dezyanian

Written by

Marketer. Climber. Dada. President of Empathy Inc.

Empathy Inc. — Occasional Insights

Thought leadership about business, marketing, and media

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade