Marketing is dead. Long live marketing!

Here’s how to get a few extra hits on your blog or website: Declare something that is obviously not dead (yet) “dead,” as in: “The Internet is dead. TV is dead. Print is dead. Blogging is dead.” Then write a post that, in fact, demonstrates what you’ve declared “dead” is really alive and kicking but just in a new and different way.

Is traditional marketing really dead?

A couple of weeks ago, Bill Lee, writing on the Harvard Business Review Blog, announced that “Marketing is Dead.” Over 500 people left comments on his post, and rebuttals (or variations on the theme of “deadness”) cropped up all over the blogosphere. What got my goat is that not only did Lee proclaim that traditional marketing is dead but all of the other things I do for a living as well—public relations, corporate communications, advertising, etc.

Interestingly, one of my clients is in the process of hiring a new marketing director. Should I tell him to stop? I think not.

I have no problem with commentators making points about how traditional disciplines have radically changed (or need to change) in the digital age. After all, I no longer bang out copy on an IBM Selectric typewriter. And it would be laughable to “snail-mail” hard-copy press releases to reporters as was once common practice.

But…has the life of the PR or marketing professional really changed THAT much? Not if your objective is to engage your reader, viewer, customer or stakeholder. What’s changed, of course, are the tools and techniques, perhaps the methodology, but not so much the purpose.

A marketer’s goal is still to move products off the shelves and into the consumer’s hands. The last time I checked, companies still sell goods and services. Traditional marketing, which Lee and others say is “dead,” can still do that pretty effectively most of the time. Radio still works, as does TV, postcards and even billboards. Heck, I still see airplanes at the beach with banners telling me to check out the specials at Grotto Pizza.

Announcing the death of marketing is not new. In January, Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts also proclaimed traditional marketing dead. He said that marketing is now about creating movements and ROI should be known as “return on involvement.”

Marketing gurus talk about “disrupting” markets, “interacting with” vs. “interrupting” customers, creating brand advocates and building cultural movements (see Scott Goodson’s post at Forbes: “Marketing is dead. Now what?”). All big talk, but the clients I’ve been fortunate to work for don’t care about creating a movement as much as just getting more business or recognition for their cause.

To paraphrase one commenter in response to Roberts: “It’s easy to exploit basic ad ideas that younger generations never new existed…throw them on the web, add some CRM, Twitter and Google+ tracking and call it something different. Then viola, I’m a genius!”

I’m always more fascinated by examples of organizations that are walking the walk instead of just talking the talk.

One good marketing case study comes to us courtesy of an Aug. 15 Forbes interview with Eddie Combs, the CMO of Sears Appliances. He’s the one who is responsible for “The Beach” ad that aired during the Olympics and has been injecting new life into a 125-year-old brand that many had nearly written off a few years ago.

As the Forbes post notes, Combs and his team have helped boost market share in a down economy for four consecutive quarters. What’s refreshing is that Combs’ comments are remarkably free of jargon and doomsday pronouncements. I guess he didn’t get the memo that marketing is dead.

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