Marketers Aren’t in Control

If marketing had a hall of heroes, the columns would be vacant, the plinths would hold no busts and blank tomes would lay upon lonely lecterns, with no inscriptions to account for the feats of marketers past. There’s a reason marketers don’t cultivate the same reverence as, say, copywriters and advertisers. Ogilvy and Halbert are gospel names, but the names of so-called marketing gurus are soon blotted out once their self-published Amazon titles fall from the top seller lists, or freefall into utter anonymity when their ‘absolute theory’ to marketing is debunked by the next.

Marketing isn’t like other fields. Its transient landscape means the names of channel champions are lost to capricious winds.  It’s not like there aren’t experts, but the lack of go-to marketing mentorship serves to illuminate a single irrefutable fact: marketers aren’t in control, not really. The steadfast expert of today is the foolhardy amateur of tomorrow – wisdom blossoms into madness and experience into ‘oh, is he still here?’

Everything that was true and essential in 2010 has already grown a thick layer of dust. Marketers reach out to grab at the winning formula only to see it change, vying against a flux over which they have no control. The true gods of marketing are those with the power to alter the rules overnight: Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Marketers only contribute to the need for change. Every digital marketing channel is facing attrition, squeezed and suffocated by marketers in their earnest attempts to put them into play and make hay. Just like undiscovered picturesque villages, no exciting new channel can stay precious – it’s not long until the masses follow the first pioneers into these new spaces, and trample over the once neatly cut lawns.

Believe it or not, email wasn’t always a pit of suspicion and deception. It was cutting-edge; emails were personal messages, and any email received had an assumed level of trust attached. Then a million or so marketers adopted email as their primary marketing tool, and trust was rapidly eroded. Similarly, content marketing was pretty damn revolutionary when it first emerged. It was non-disruptive and sought to help the customer, rather than peppering their email boxes and web pages with loud, over-played adverts.

But soon after, SEO-driven content marketing arrived in a tidal wave of low-quality articles. Marketers scrambled to cram long-tail keywords into their content to cut through the noise and flag every possible keyword variation. It wasn’t all bad, but it did mean that marketers were writing for their companies and not for the customer. Quantity far preceded quality.

Google reinvented the game in 2012 with revised search algorithms, which incorporated context (i.e. the reason behind the search) into the search results. Overnight, it stopped being about keyword variations; the SEO hysteria cooled and a junkyard of forgettable content dripped away from public view.

Marketers aren’t the instigators of change, but they’re probably the catalysts of it. Consumers will always desire a new, safe space that focuses on their need over the need of the marketer to hoodwink. Google’s changes in 2012 nullified the expertise of many marketers, effectively nuking the mire of half-baked content they’d created (and yet so widely evoked was this wisdom at the time that even now managers tout the importance of SEO and keywords in content, like an immutable echo from a lost age).

Marketers turn channels into veritable cluster … piles. There’s a common thread that survives marketing’s evolution, and that’s the awareness of consumer psychology and the skill to pander to it. All other knowledge, even that which is posited by the world’s best courses, suffers such atrophy that to proclaim brilliance today is to be brutally humbled tomorrow.