Is marketing dead?

AC de Fombelle
Nov 1, 2016 · 5 min read

Book marketing. The black sheep of independent authors and publishers. Accepting that your creation, your work of art, your jewel (=your book) is actually also a product you have to market is hard. It doesn’t have to be. You believe in your book. You believe some readers will enjoy reading your book and thus be glad to purchase it. (Yes, readers have been known to buy books). Marketing is what you do according to this belief. Marketing is the sum of actions you need to do for potential readers to actually get a chance to read your book. It makes no sense believing your book should be read and then just waiting for it to happen.

Is marketing dying or just having a personality crisis?

I often hear my dear CEO say he doesn’t like marketing or even that marketing doesn’t exist anymore. Well, don’t tell him that but not only do I think marketing is alive but I also really like it. As I know we usually think alike on these kind of topics I’m guessing it’s only because we define marketing differently.

Instead of just guessing, I ended up asking Antonio Tombolini straight up (I think what I said was something like “I’m writing something on marketing, I recall you saying you didn’t like it, can you tell me why? — not so I can align, but to have different views of it”) His answer was thorough and quite interesting and confirmed my hunch: we end up having the same point of view, just not naming things the same way. Antonio took every definition people generally put behind the word “marketing” and gave me his thoughts on each.

Marketing, one shouldn’t forget, is an extension of “market” which — as a noun — is defined as such “an occasion when people buy and sell goods” and as a verb englobes all the actions needed to “sell”. So yes, it may mean “communicate about goods”, “advertise goods”, “sell goods”…

This is why, I believe, marketing is an alien in companies, the same way it can be for independent people: it is often divided between corporate communication, sales, advertising, community management (who often make the mistake of not working together). Creating a specific “marketing department” apart from all this is a mistake. However, if someone is doing all those things, this person is doing marketing.

Should marketing die?

I read recently a Medium post from The Startup Grind Team stating the differences between Sales and marketing, saying you should never mix both. It is a great article that confirmed I’m really a marketing person. However, I think the article is really seeing differences in personalities and ways to achieve the same goal, I’m not sure it’s defining two different jobs.

Marketing has the bad reputation of being a tool to shove ideas and products down the throats of innocent consumers, and maybe it’s what is was at one point. If I understood my boss’ answer properly, he’s saying either we call marketing something that is not marketing (advertising, corporate communication, etc.) or we refer to this bad process of forcing products on people, and this is dead. I agree on this last part but I think only this bad habit (or bad reputation) is dying, not marketing itself.

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I wish I was Don Draper, maybe I’ll just buy his sunglasses instead. #MarketingMasterMind

Marketing is very much alive but it’s turning into a more human and sensible action. Is marketing still trying to convince consumers to buy? Yes. Is it a bad thing? No. Once again, the only logical process:

Object you believe in > will to share it with people who need it > need to market it.

Make marketing what you want it to be

“To buy and sell was a matter of conversation, of telling the story of your travel through the silk road etc…” Antonio Tombolini, referring to the original “market” word: the place where merchant come to sell.

I would say I’m the epitome of what a marketing person does: my job label may say “copy manager” or “international communication”, what I really do is all the tasks that can market my company’s platform to the world. I happen to believe (and I think there my boss will agree) that the best way to market something is to show how it can answer people’s needs and believe in the word of mouth: your loyal users are your best sales representatives. I truly believe in our platform and, when there is something I have doubts about, I first have my colleagues convince me (or change it) before I start talking about it to others. This really annoys my colleagues sometimes I think but, what can I say, I can’t sell something I don’t believe in. In the other hand, I won’t try to tell you I’m not selling something. Of course I’m trying to convince you to use StreetLib, but that’s only because I kow StreetLib is great and could be a great solution for you!

So yes, my job entails a lot of corporate communications but also making sure users will get the great services I’m selling them, making sure the right message is conveyed when they get to our website and services, taking care of our community of users, share our expertise on the publishing market with the world, etc.

Am I doing just corporate communication? Just UX? Just customer care and relation? No, I do anything to market our platform: that’s what I believe is marketing.

Antonio is saying marketing is what we did when we had products lying in warehouses that we needed to get rid of: we’d use any devious strategy to convince consumers to buy them.

“[now that] We don’t have goods in excess in our warehouse. With the internet (a global place, containing also several global “Marktplatz”, market-place, we should no more “market” our goods. We should go to the market and participate to the conversation”

Why marketing would have to be only the “devious strategies” to sell? Any strategy to sell is marketing and yes, participating to a conversation to find people’s need and tell them about the solution is also a strategy. Only, it’s an honest and logical one.

Marketing your book shouldn’t have to be about selling out and betraying your artistic and creative mind to devote yourself to soulless corporate selling methods. It should, on the contrary, be about using your creativity and art to share with people what your book is about, why you value it and believe they would enjoy reading it.

Never do something you don’t believe in but don’t do nothing either.


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