The One Thing I Would Change About Marketing


You have the power to change the status quo in marketing. It’s true. Even if you’re not in a position to direct much change today, you will be soon enough. Which leads me to wonder about your answer to this question.

“What if you could change one thing about our industry. What would it be?”

What would I change? I often wonder why marketers and media don’t wield our powers for good more often. Don’t get me wrong. Most agencies take on a few pro-bono clients and our ranks our chock full of good-hearted people who make the world a better place. But there are times when I see work across every marketing channel that makes me feel like we as an industry are playing a major role in the growth of our hyper-selfish, imperfection-obsessed, fear-charged society. And, to be honest, I don’t always know what to do with that thought.

Sorry if that’s a bit heavy. There are other things I’d change that would not make me sound like a Debbie Downer. (Really, I’m not!) But I’m interested in your thoughts.

If you could change anything about our industry as a whole or your day-to-day work, what would it be? After you get it off your chest, let’s start working toward changing it.

*Image by Indy Kethdy.

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17 responses to “The One Thing I Would Change About Marketing

  1. What a thought provoking post!

    I have this half baked idea that the way agencies pursue new business needs to change, but it’s still in the oven so I’ll hold on to that for a bit.

    I’m intrigued by your “marketing for good” thoughts. Really, to many of us, that can be translated into, “I wish I did more work for nonprofits but, alas, it’s very hard to afford that.”

  2. I wouldn’t call you a Debbie Downer (wouldn’t you be a David Downer, anyway?). Sounds to me like you’re talking about Americans or people in general. Selfishness and fear are staples of our society, so it’s no surprise that you see it in the marketing industry. You see it in ALL industries. We, as people, not just marketers, could sit back and reflect a bit more often.

  3. I would encourage marketers to not be so afraid of numbers and technology. There seems to be this chip on our shoulders as marketers that we are not going to interact with the rest of the corporation on the same metrics they are judged on — net contribution to assets and/or net contribution to revenue.

    We just need to get better at translating the things that we care about, like engagement, into how it contributes to the corporations’ assets via brand equity, and we need to work to be a part of closed-loop analytics that prove our impact on brand revenues.

    I know there is still further to go on the metrics side (i.e., we still have trouble with linking key data), but we’re at a unique moment in time to really take charge of the direction and management of brands … if we put the right pieces in place to be accountable back to our peers — in finance, operations, engineering, etc. — in the rest of the corporation.

  4. I agree, David.

    When we give ourselves the freedom to work with clients we believe in, then when we do good things for our clients, we are doing good things.

    I would like to see more of us concentrate on the good of getting results for clients and less on awards. I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive, but we all have to check our egos at the door and decide it’s the client who matters.

    Doing what you promise to do for your clients is a really good thing to do.

  5. What an awesome question! One that has also been weighing heavily on my mind for ’09. I’ve been marketing management for many years, and the one thing I’ve encountered over and over is resistance. Resistance to change, try new things, be innovative, and embrace the latest technologies. I know a lot of times, it’s because those around me don’t know enough about marketing to feel comfortable.

    So being a B2B/B2C marketer today, it’s still a huge challenge to get people to put away their fears and try new things that ultimately will bring good results.

    How do we get over this? Education, Collaboration of like minds, and good solid energy. I’m ready!

  6. I’d love for all the shady marketers to be exposed. There are so many out there that it makes the legit ones have to work harder on things that aren’t as important.

  7. Great thoughts so far!

    @adam – you could write a book on the great things you brought up. I’m going to have to chew on your comment for a while because there’s a lot of meat there.

    @anna – we are some risk adverse people, aren’t we? it would be interesting to see the result if we stepped out of our comfort zones more often.

    @dan – would *love* for shady marketers to be exposed.

  8. One thing about the industry? As a whole, I think we (consultants) need to be better listeners, partners and collaborators with our clients. I think sometimes we get hung up on telling our clients so much about ourselves, our knowledge and what they should do, we forget to need to listen and learn first. Before we can provide meaningful counsel and advice, we need to be able to thoroughly understand our clients’ business and their challenges, needs and goals, right? We can’t do that by talking “at” our clients now, can we? Good post, David. You’ve got me all fired up now!

  9. David, at my blog, Marketing Muse (, this morning I wrote about the huge marketing impact of a simple card that came in the holiday mail. The card noted that to thank me for my business my vendor had made a donation in my name to a woman shelter. This personalized bit of marketing made a huge impact. It also strikes me as connected to your comments today about the shifting impact and emphasis marketing efforts can have. Score one for the good guys, perhaps? And file that little card under a great example of the right kind of impact that is worth emulating.

  10. I had to think about this one.

    But I think if I could change one thing, it would be to get more marketers to learn more about the business that surrounds them. Outside their silo.

    I think so many marketers get complacent about their roles as the “representatives” of brands that they neglect to gather and solicit valuable insight from other areas of the company that can make their job easier. Most often, I find that many marketers either haven’t bothered or haven’t been given the opportunity to ever talk to the people that matter the most in their equation: the clients and customers.

    Gone are the days where the departments in business can operate autonomously. If businesses are going to thrive in our hyperconnected and fast moving world, we’d best get to work collaborating instead of working in our bubbles.

  11. I’m with Anna. The resistance to change by the stalwarts can be frustrating to those of us who want to push forward — albeit carefully.

  12. Wow…
    I have found that many agencies operate under veil. Rarely do I find the lead dog at firms spending time to truly get to know the client, and, in turn as Amber said, get to know the company culture of the client. These tasks are largely passed off to a new/less-seasoned individual, who in turns reports back to the boss with recommendations.

    The transparency SM looks to bring to the corporate world needs to be present at the agency level. FWIW, agencies with a focus on SM do practice what they preach 🙂



  13. I’d stop them from agreeing with a client’s idea just to get the dollar, even though the client is so obviously wrong. How can that possibly be beneficial to either client or agency?

    The client loses money (twice) and the agency looks unprofessional and clueless. Is that really the way to do business in 2009?

    Of course, this pretty much applies to all service-led industries, but you asked for marketing so there you go 😉

  14. Great thought catalyzing today David! If I change anything it would be encouraging all businesses to be more authentic and let go of the fear to be open and honest. The marketers of the future that do wield their powers for good are the ones that are still going to be around, helping people and making their lives truly better. We are going through a big shift in the way we do business with each other. I think there’s a huge opportunity in all this change. How about you?

  15. Thanks for the thought provoking post, David.

    If I could change one thing it would be that marketers stop thinking that they know exactly what marketing is. The attempt to reduce marketing into one thing or another over the years has left some of us without the ability to see beyond our job descriptions.

    So in 2009, start by forgetting what you think you know.

  16. Your more recent post about Monday morning quarterbacking inspired my comment here. Marketing, like football, is a subject everyone professes to be an expert at. I’ve never played a down of organized football in my life, and yet it often seems clear to me what play should have been called instead.

    Most experienced marketing professionals I know are smart, insightful, strategic people. What I would change about our industry is that their recommendations be held in the same high regard as those of doctors, attorneys and accountants. Rarely do I second-guess them on Monday morning.

  17. Time. I would love to have more time on things. More time to plan. More time to think. So often we do things so fast and almost as a reaction that the reasoning behind them is lost. I just commented on another blog about how everyone wants social media right now. They have to have a blog, a Twitter account and a Facebook page. It is a reaction. Stop, think — Do you really need this?

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