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Scary, risky or just plain evil?

Modo Modo Agency

April 30, 2009

I had lunch with a CFO I know recently. We were discussing how marketing is measured in his organization. He said it isn’t, because they don’t really do much of it. He said, “It’s a necessary evil, but we don’t focus on it much.” After 21 years in marketing, these words still sting.

Marketing is the process of understanding the customer, ensuring their value and your offering come together to create revenue (if you’re a for profit outfit) or a meaningful relationship (if you’re not for profit). What’s evil about that?

Every line function costs money, so why is marketing pegged as the evil one? People say that:
•    Marketing is fluffy
•    Marketing is out of touch with the real selling situation
•    Marketing is creative indulgence
•    Marketing can’t be measured

I think the real truth about why marketing is pegged as evil is because:
•    It is not black and white
•    It is not always safe
•    Its effects and influence are often unknown until tried
•    It is most impactful when it anchors on emotion
(which doesn’t appeal to the logical side of logic-driven people)

Those things don’t make something evil, they make something scary. Things that are scary, tinged with risk, have a possibility to deliver rewards. That’s why people buy stock. It’s why people play the lottery. It’s why people go on blind dates.

So the next time you’re crunching your numbers, justifying your existence and projecting your angelic best to your co-workers, remind them what you do to make a would-be scary situation, calm and productive. You talk to your customers. You monitor your competitors. You learn what people recall and keep. You know the most cost-effective channels for getting to who matters. You know the best firms for producing the best types of messages. You know how to prioritize effort to create response for the highest volume and highest margin products. You know that wasted words on the wrong people don’t do anyone any good. You know this because you’re a trained marketer.

So the next time tells you marketing is a necessary evil, just smile and move ahead open-mindedly as Mae West would, “Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before.”

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