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Marketing is Nearly Dead and It’s Partly Hubspot’s Fault but Mostly Ours

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When did you trade your Marketing birthright for a bag of worthless social-and-infographic beans?

I thought about this a while back when Hubspot published a cutesy infographic about infographics that failed to meet its own definition of an infographic.

The definition it failed to meet? “An image containing graphics and text including statistics about a certain subject.” There are seven numbered steps in the failed infographic..those are numbers, not statistics (there is a difference). There are no other numbers beyond an illustration of 30-60-90% in a picture of what an infographic might look like. If you’re going to claim that those are statistics and save Hubspot’s meta-infographic from being a miserable failure, you’re so biased as to be beyond hope. The infographic said statistics were a requirement, than didn’t contain any. #failfailfailbeyondwords

Marketers are famous for being snarky, so I’m sure this #hubspotfail was mocked all over Twitter, right? Sadly, no. Why not? Because the near-death experience the once-noble discipline of Marketing is currently undergoing isn’t Hubspot’s fault. It’s ours. As Marketers, we’re asleep at the switch like an old man snoring in his recliner while burglars carry off his television. When we should have been all over this, we were off checking our Klout scores or something.

I shouldn’t be surprised you snoozed through it. After all, most of Marketing was asleep when three of our four Ps were being stolen. Remember Product, Price, Promotion and Placement? Hey, what happened to them?

When no one was looking, engineers who got tired of writing code had themselves anointed Product Managers and created a myth of Product Management as a separate discipline, “CEO of the Product.” You’re not the CEO of the Product. You know who is? The CEO of the company. Because without the products, there is no company. Calling yourself CEO of the Product is like calling yourself Grand Admiral of your cubicle…no one will dispute you over such a sad empty title.

Similar story with Pricing. Most marketers now view it as too quantitative and un-creative (like those pesky numbers, or statistics, or whatever). Even where they don’t, Finance is likely to own Pricing in many companies. Those few marketers who still own Pricing are increasingly specialized quants. Most modern marketers don’t want anything do do with Pricing (or anything else that requires math). In business school, I took a Pricing class and it was a complete blow-off for most of the students in the class. Admittedly this was because the professor sounded strikingly similar to Elmer Fudd and had a habit of saying “Pricing is a very complex problem.” Say that in an Elmer Fudd voice and try to avoid snickering.

Placement? Call the channel sales guy. Marketing, channel sales needs a training for the channel and some one-sheets for enablement, and we need them like snappy. If that’s ownership, Smithers runs the Springfield nuclear power plant.

Oooh, but wait…somebody sold you a shiny new P right? Wasn’t it People, or Participation, or Productivity, or Premium Shopper Experience? You got sold a bag of magic beans, kid. Go plant them outside your window and water them with your tears, but they won’t grow a Klout score or beanstalk up into the clouds.

That leaves us with what laypeople always think of as Marketing: Promotion. A Harvard Business Review article thinks that’s going away too, claiming that “Marketing is Dead.” But c’mon, HBR, saying that “Marketing is dead because consumers now find information on the Web” paints you as not much brighter than Hubspot’s infographic creators. Who do you think puts that information on the Web? The Content Fairies? That’s one of the few things us Marketers have left, unless we join Lean Startups and call ourselves Growth Hackers.

I may hack growth like Paul Bunyan hacks down trees, but I won’t call myself a Growth Hacker. I’m a marketer. That word used to mean something great. It meant someone who drove a business, who took fizzy sugar water that no one would buy and made it the greatest brand in the world. I believe it still can mean that. Because even if they’re trying to leave us with nothing but Promotion, let’s remember that Promotion is a mic. If you have a mic, you have an obligation to rock the mic like Hamell on Trial until your dying day.

So if you’re a marketer, rock the mic like it’s the only thing you have left. Because it just may be.

  • I agree with quite a bit of this, Russ. Marketing is (should be?) an actual profession in which skills and experience make a difference. Seeing it as the oft fallback when other career paths seem too hard is discouraging.

    You’ve hit something real with your analysis of the selling of the 4 Ps. Specialization has hit the Org chart in a way that makes people think about “marketing” in the context of promotion, and built silos around the other areas as different departments have absorbed them. I don’t have a solution for this, other than to encourage marketers to network within their own companies and try to get some back-channels to at least be informed of these other areas. Maybe with concentrated efforts we can take them back.

    I do feel that I should come to the defense of HubSpot. Their products aren’t really for marketers. They make microphones (to take your analogy) and hand them out to small business owners that wouldn’t otherwise know where to find one. They aren’t trying to provide depth, just amplification. There are plenty of companies that can get by at that level. But, if we want to really rock as marketers, we need to go beyond that.

  • Russ_Somers

    Thank you John! I appreciate your thoughts. Yeah, you’re exactly right about Hubspot’s place in the market – “amplification, not depth” does fill a need.