I’m Not Sure Marketing Exists Anymore

Influencers, Tik-Tok, Grammers, pop-ups, car crash lawyers, those awful pharma ads…

Feb 27 · 5 min read
Photo by Andre Benz on Unsplash

Years ago they predicted marketing and advertising overkill. There was a phrase, ‘banner blindness’, that referred to our ability to ignore banner ads on websites. It seems so quaint to me now, that people hated a static banner on a page. Because marketers doubled down and doubled down again with every annoying intrusion into our attention span imaginable.

B2B gets it, B2C? Not so much

I don’t think anyone is blind to this deluge of crap, but frankly I don’t think they care. There are so many things vying for our attention that it becomes a fog without definition. I’ve been a B2B marketing person for years and now only do content for others. In the B2B world, content is all that is left of marketing (yes, I know, what about SEO? Um, don’t you think Google is miles ahead of you?). But consumer marketing hasn’t got the message.

I don’t care about any of it

Consumer marketers seem to think we are all children who must have the newest bright shiny object. Meanwhile, bankers and economists will tell you that the Americans that have money are not spending it if they don’t have to. For those who are employed, savings have gone up like crazy since the pandemic.

We are tired. We don’t care about new cars, fads, or miracle drugs with insane lists of horrible side effects. When I say ‘we’, I mean your target market, the people with disposable income who are disposing of it. If I want something, I just go to Amazon. But even Amazon has succumbed to this sickness.

Sometime in the last year Amazon destroyed their search function

Amazon used to have amazing search. It nearly always landed you on your desired destination. If you were browsing, you had this great faceted search in the left hand column that allowed you to zero in by brand, price range, style, etc. It worked really well, so they broke it.

Now when I search for a specific item, I do not get to that item. I get to sponsored competitors, listings without prices, junky knock-offs, and endless scrolling. Reviews, the single most valuable thing on Amazon, are relegated to the very bottom of the page.

This is ‘the milk in the grocery store’ strategy. An unprofitable staple item that brings someone in is placed as far from the entry as possible to encourage impulse shopping. In Amazon’s strategy, to read reviews, once you actually find an item, you have to see literally dozens of ads, ads that are paid for and very profitable.

I’m not sure irritating prospective customers is a long term strategy

In B2B, irritating your customers is a big no-no. You want their business for as long as you can keep it. That’s why content became such a valuable tactic. It gave buyers the information they needed to make an informed choice, without alienating them.

B2C marketers do not seem to get this. We get three minute tv spots for deadly drugs that show happy people in animations while a voiceover recites lists of awful symptoms and side effects. Or the same ad shown multiple times in the same break. Frankly, buying stuff these days sucks.

There is something that works

In consumer marketing there is something that I’m thrilled to see when I can find it: actual content (hey, just like B2B!). Content that is balanced without pitches. Example: I am a coffee nut and wanted to spend some serious bucks on an espresso machine and grinder. Amazon confused the hell out of me with their conflicting barrage of ads, information, and sellers.

I left and went to a company called Seattle Coffee Gear. Absolutely great marketing. Faceted search that works. Pro and Con assessments. Reviews. Fantastic videos. I figured out what I wanted, then for some reason went to Amazon and bought it. Old habits die hard.

The great information at Seattle Coffee Gear sold me but the behemoth got the business. Or did they? When the equipment ordered from Amazon arrived it was shipped from…Seattle Coffee Gear. After Amazon extracted their cut. At least the coffee people got something for their efforts.

You want answers? I don’t got no friggn’ answers.

By now you know this is a rant. In my view, consumer marketers have absolutely no idea what works. Giant agencies create campaigns based on advertising models that date back a hundred years and pretend they are super creative, serious marketing pros. They promote this myth to both clients and employees.

Meanwhile, the people selling the really big ticket items to businesses and governments operate a lot more like Seattle Coffee Gear. There must be some middle ground.

In B2B marketing there are seldom reviews

Over the years I’ve helped write and build dozens of B2B websites and create large content campaigns. The only thing there resembling reviews are testimonials and they are highly valued, if they are positive and have an actual name and company associated with them. If they don’t we ignore them.

But these companies fiercely protect their buying habits, which is why even happy customers won’t let you use their names. It’s called ‘vetting by legal’, which means the legal department will reflexively say no. Often they will say ‘this implies an endorsement’, which it does. Craziness.

I wish I could say ‘buy local’

But I can’t because local consumer merchandise just isn’t there like it used to be, other than your local farm market. But even at the ‘farm market’ if you look behind a lot of vendors you’ll see packaging from big growers that they have emptied into folksy cardboard containers that imply mom and pop grew this.

The other problem with buying local is there is a premium associated with this, a price premium that often takes a segment of the population out of it.

My lame answer to all this

Don’t buy stuff you don’t absolutely need. You probably don’t need it and will forget about it as soon as that opening the box gratification wears off. Businesses don’t impulse buy. They weigh their options. I’ve worked for CEOs who spent valuable hours making purchasing decisions because they know they will affect the bottom line or employee satisfaction for years to come.

Remember, Jeff Bezos famously first built Amazon’s desks out of plywood and 2x4s, for years. Now he builds futuristic buildings and million square foot fully automated warehouses. His world changed and he changed with it. But I think what he built has the potential to hurt itself with marketing. Unnecessary marketing.

But then, most of it is unnecessary. I think, in the B2C world at least, that marketing is dead by unintended suicide. Remember, if something is working well, don’t break it for the sake of ‘innovation’ or to do something new for its own sake.

Marketers do not seem to get this.

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Written by

Novelist, Tech Marketing Writer, Growth Consultant. I have been a professional writer for over 20 years- 8 non-fiction books and 1 novel, many articles, etc.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +785K followers.


Written by

Novelist, Tech Marketing Writer, Growth Consultant. I have been a professional writer for over 20 years- 8 non-fiction books and 1 novel, many articles, etc.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +785K followers.

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