Forget Marketing Buzzword Bingo, Let’s Get Back to Basics

The tools, tech and channels of marketing change, but the song remains the same

There is nothing new in marketing. There, I have said it. Oher than changes in technology and channels (with the channels often  created by technology), little has really changed. The biggest problem with marketing in today’s digital, buzzword-dominated environment is that those proclaiming to be marketers don’t know the basics about marketing.

The marketing profession has responded to today’s digital-driven world by coining new terms for existing concepts to make them seem new and different. We fall prey to the shiny objects that we are told to use despite their short lifespans.

There was a marketing world before the internet, you know. Indeed, the origins of what we now know as product management go back 80 years to Procter & Gamble, when Neil McElroy wrote a memo outlining some of the tasks of a brand manager. He recommended that there be a team of people devoted to thinking about every aspect of marketing the brand and succinctly summarised the formula for P&G’s success: “Find out what the consumers want and give it to them.”

Maybe I am about to commit marketing heresy by writing this, but it is what I believe: the tools and channels of marketing change, but the basic marketing processes of strategy, targeting, positioning, crafting a message, communicating and selling have to remain the same. Nowadays, ideas that have been around forever are re-packaged, re-labelled and re-gurgitated, using new jargon, like ‘value propositions’, instead of, you know, ‘features and benefits

Whenever you hear that everything has changed or that traditional marketing – including branding, advertising, PR etc – is dead, ask yourself: is it really?

What is social media marketing other than the insertion and relaying of a brand message via a channel in order to get a targeted customer to buy something? And if you want to be seen on social media by your target audience, you will have to pay. Is this really anything other than just pure advertising?

We should get back to basics as marketers and speak within the context of the four Ps of product, price, place and promotion, and specifically within the main frameworks of the promotion mix: direct marketing, advertising, personal selling, sales promotion and publicity. Why not admit that our fancy plans for making viral content are PR in new clothes?

Let’s become better marketers. Read the great marketing classics by Ries, Trout and Kotler. Read research-driven journals. Ignore the endless discussion on innovation or creativity. Remember we are in this business to sell. David Ogilvy said: “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information. When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative’. I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.” Amen to that.


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