Fashions change. 

This cliché doesn’t apply just to hemlines and jeans, but to business as well.  Anyone who claims that business is all about logic and data needs to get a reality-check; Marketers are perhaps the worst offenders here, much to their detriment.  Of late, Marketers have suffered from a deep alienation from the real essences of their profession and we hope that 2018 will usher in a return to sanity.

This alienation – or departure from sanity in Marketing- stems from the over-indexing on Data and Measurement.  While this sounds strange, even counterintuitive and heretical, it stands the test of logic and does not require a deep knowledge of Marketing to understand.  Data and Measurement are no doubt valuable but they can also be the refuge of scoundrels.

The key in the above paragraph is the term “over-indexing.”  In other areas of life, the tendency to over-index is called zealotry.  In Marketing, the zealotry of measurement has created an untenable situation in which Marketing is asked to be as resilient as Physics or Mathematics; So too are Marketers, who feel forced to conform to the fashions of the day.  For the past decade or so, the fashion has been “Performance Marketing” or, in a wild conflation of strategy and channel, “Digital Marketing.” 

The genesis story here is a good one.  Marketing for a long time appeared to be a cocktail of guesses mixed with a dose of manipulation.  Organizations started to get frustrated with the lack of predictability and rising costs associated with Marketing and the ecosystem of agencies and media companies that had to be invoked when even considering bringing a product, service, or brand to market.  Theories of consumer reception abounded, but the overall logic of Marketing appeared to be something akin to “do it and it will work.”  Since no company could afford to shut off all Marketing, they continued in an inertial frame for decades.

Then came the Internet.  Almost overnight- or so it seemed- behavior patterns changed.  In addition, the almost infinite real estate and low cost of replication on the Internet, allowed for a completely different cost structure for Marketing. Completing the hat-trick was the fact that digitized Marketing can be “revved” quickly and tests of efficacy can be run in record time.  A heady mix indeed!

And for a while it seemed great.  Marketers could “go to market” quickly and bypass the usual middle-men.

Soon, however, the false “quants” took over and started writing how Marketing was both a “Science” and “Predictive.”  Tomes could be written about the false attribution that plagued the marketing scene with the eminent measurability of Digital Marketing.  We neglected Pater Semper Incertus Est

Marketers new to the profession became one-channel ponies. They only knew Digital Marketing. They also grew up under the totalitarianism of measurement.  They believed in the falsity of attribution and hewed only to the channels that provided an easy story for attribution.

Lo and behold, pundits declared the demise of “traditional” marketing.  Some said TV was dead. Others eulogized radio.  Still others print and outdoor.  Digital Marketing was ROI Marketing and ROI Marketing was King (forgive the pun!)

The zealotry created real problems for real Marketers.  First, they were subjected to Wall Street-type time-frames. What would in a sane world take a year, had to be measured in weeks or months.  Second, the need to show ROI created a channel bias in which they were forced to market in only those channels which were eminently measurable.  Third, they lost the Art which defined Marketing and chose, instead, to genuflect at the altar of a false science.  CMOs lost their jobs in 18 months because they could not prove the ROI they agreed to.  Marketing lost its way.

Fast forward to now. 

Are Marketers ready to reclaim their profession?  Are they ready to bring back that Evergreen-yet-needs-to-be-green-again concept that defined their art?  Yes, you know what we mean- The Marketing Mix. 

We predict that 2018 will be the year in which Marketers re-embrace the notion of managing a portfolio of bets, of which some are measurable and others are not.  The rush to measurement restricts the channels Marketers pick to engage with, not unlike a Chef with an infinitude of ingredients but only one ladle and one pan with which to create a gourmet meal.  

The portfolio will no doubt contain elements of Digital Marketing but will also likely concentrate on what the current and future audience really needs and could, thus, index on physical marketing, TV, Radio, Outdoor, even Print.  Who knows.  Why discount ideas and channels a priori

Ironically, the zealotry around measurability and ROI lands Marketers in an ironic soup- they restrict themselves from generating real ROI by thinking of it as an input and not as an outcome.

All fashions have their arc.  It’s high time we reclaim Marketing from the ROI zealots and re-engage with the world as it is and as it could be.

Guest post by:
Romi Mahajan, Blueprint Consulting
Steven Salta, Agilysys

Written by Paul Dunay
Paul Dunay is an award-winning B2B marketing expert with more than 20 years’ success in generating demand and creating awareness for leading technology, consumer products, financial services and professional services organizations. Paul is the global vice president of marketing for Maxymiser a leading web optimization firm, and author of four “Dummies” books: Facebook Marketing for Dummies (Wiley 2009), Social Media and the Contact Center for Dummies (Wiley Custom Publishing 2010), Facebook Advertising for Dummies (Wiley 2010) and Facebook Marketing for Dummies 2nd Edition (Wiley 2011). His unique approach to marketing has led to recognition of Paul as a BtoB Magazine Top 25 B2B Marketer of the Year for 2010 and 2009 and winner of the DemandGen Award for Utilizing Marketing Automation to Fuel Corporate Growth in 2008. He is also a finalist for the last six years in a row in the Marketing Excellence Awards competition of the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA), and is a 2010 and 2005 gold award winner in Driving Demand. Buzz Marketing for Technology, Paul’s blog, has been recognized as a Top 20 Marketing Blog for 2009 and 2008, a Top Blog to Watch for 2009 and 2008, and an Advertising Age Power 150 blog in the “Daily Ranking of Marketing Blogs.” Paul has shared his marketing thought leadership as a featured speaker for the American Marketing Association, BtoB Magazine, CMO Club, MarketingProfs, Marketing Sherpa, Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG), and ITSMA. He has appeared on Fox News, and his articles have been featured in BusinessWeek, The New York Times, BtoB Magazine, MarketingProfs and MarketingSherpa. Paul holds an Executive Certificate in Strategy and Innovation from MIT’s Sloan School of Management and a bachelor’s degree in Marketing and Computer Science from Ithaca College.