If you have a Twitter account you may well see the occasional tweet in your feed that goes something like this:
Traditional marketing is dead. It’s all about content bit.ly/ 54vf83 #contentmarketing
If you can be bothered to click through to the article, you will find a poorly disguised retread of some very traditional ideas, dressed up in the emperor’s new clothes of whatever lingo the author favours.
To claim that “traditional” marketing is dead and the only marketing now is content marketing, as one soi disant marketing guru held recently, is as risible as it is ignorant.
One might as well claim that “traditional” writing is dead and the only writing now is iPads.
My favourite recent example of this noisome flatulence was a tweet reading:
Why David Ogilvy was wrong about headlines. The new science of attention revealed.
Or some such rubbish.
The linked article was, in fact, a recapitulation of a whole bunch of David Ogilvy’s ideas, as was the originating tweet itself.
What would Ogilvy say?
In my well-thumbed copy of Ogilvy on Advertising, I came across the following quote:
He would smile grimly if he were alive today.
The idiots who peddle this twaddle betray themselves in a couple of different, though equally amusing, ways.
First, the purveyors of whichever fad is the latest “marketing”, currently content marketing, mistake a mere publicity approach for the whole discipline of marketing itself. They make what philosophers call a category error.
Incidentally, they also lack any historical awareness, or they would pipe down lest they wake the slumbering bit-players in this drama, customer relationship marketing, permission marketing (remember that?) or even data-driven marketing.
As is traditional in this sort of article, let’s pause to find a definition of marketing.
The Chartered Institute of Marketing has it thus:
“Marketing is the management process responsible for identifying, anticipating and satisfying customer requirements profitably.”
Leaving aside the prolixity for a moment, what is clear is that at its heart marketing is a) a process b) focused on customer needs and c) profit-centred.
It is not clear how the endless spewing out of infographics or blog posts could in any way replace this.
What the proponents of content, permission, data or any of the other “marketings” are really talking about is publicity.
But even here, they are wrong, this time in fact, rather than in definition.
Why? Because ALL the forms of publicity that have ever existed STILL exist. Even fax marketing. Press ads? TV? Half-hour infomercials? Direct mail? Free recipe books? Yes. None of them are dead. All of them are still making profitable customer relationships happen.
I suspect that the key to understanding the thinking behind the “X is dead” tweet is the psychology of the author.
He has no experience of marketing or sales outside of the digital arena, or if he does it was unsuccessful. His disdain for what he calls “traditional” marketing is driven by aesthetic concerns rather than commercial ones. After all, if Procter & Gamble, Nike, Virgin, Facebook, Google and Netflix are advertising, it can’t be dead.
Perhaps he finds advertising distasteful.
Perhaps he would rather be making his living writing novels or making feature films, but finds, though lack of talent or opportunity, that these careers are closed to him and only shilling for a software company or a firm of management consultants remains.
Perhaps he subscribes to the widespread but mistaken view that advertising somehow tricks people into buying things they don’t want.
It matters not.
What matters, what has always mattered, is what works.
And it’s a fact of life that long-form direct mail letters work.
Infomercials delivered by cheesy salespeople work.
TV commercials work.
They may not be pretty. They may not be “useful” (although that criterion would also exclude the crap foisted on an unwilling public by 99% of content marketers too).
But nobody said marketing had anything to do with either of those laudable qualities.
They said it was about identifying and meeting customer needs profitably.
If you’re in business, THAT should be your main concern. And IF, for the moment, producing infographics or blog posts brings in leads for an acceptable return on investment, fantastic!
But remember, just because it’s unfashionable, doesn’t mean it’s unprofitable.
PS (these still work too) For a conversation with two people who really get the role content can play in an integrated marketing strategy, have a chat with Sonja Jefferson and Sharon Tanton at Valuable Content.