I have absolutely no doubt of two things.  Firstly that “marketing” means leveraging the resources of an organisation to satisfy the needs of end users and, secondly, that as marketers it is our fundamental responsibility to go places and do things that nobody had gone to or done before. These are the two basic truths upon which I base my work.  I’m happy to debate this with you, but I will win! However, I have come across a few illustrations recently of  woolly, cop-out thinking by marketers around the world that makes me fear for our future.

Firstly I became involved a few weeks ago in a discussion on LinkedIn, that might become its biggest yet, which started with a member asking if anybody was interested in setting up a “consultants’ group”.  The responses that followed were horrendous and I quickly came to the realisation that the relationships between a lot of consultants and their clients must be a bit like the blind leading the blind.  I was simply staggered by the narrow thinking of many of those consultants who contributed.

Then came the response on SimpliFlying.com to a report on the BBC interview last week with RyanAir’s Michael O’Leary.  SimpiFlying is a knowledgeable and highly respected blog that focuses on marketing within the airline sector, so you would expect that the majority visitors would be airline marketers.  That being the case, many of the contributions served only to underline O’Leary’s premise that airline managers are a bunch of sad, uninspired old gits (My words, his sentiment).  I’ve never been a particular supporter of O’Leary, but that might change after this interview.  I have, however, always admired his business and brand development nous, and I’m delighted to hear that his inspiration was Southwest Airlines in the US who are a case study that I use in many of my seminars and workshops.  O’Learly clearly understands branding far better than most of the contributors to this discussion.

The final nail in the marketer’s coffin was a recent campaign by Naked in Australia, an agency that I have always thought was quite OK, for their mens’ fashion client Witchery.  Appropriately, this was drawn to my attention by Adam Broitman on iMedia.com under the heading “Interactive’s Most Offensive Campaigns”, but the offense I took wasn’t that it was rude or in bad taste, but the fact that the production of such utter dross was sure to have incurred some level of carbon footprint.  Naked seem to have totally forgotten that for a viral campaign to work at all the material that’s seeded has to be interesting enough for someone to care enough to forward it.  I am used to clients thinking that a viral campaign is a solution in itself and forgetting, like any other medium, that its only as good as the content, but for any marketing specialist, let alone an agency of this standing to completely miss the point like this is unforgivable.  I fought to stay awake through the movie, only because I wanted to see why it was supposed to be so offensive.

As I said in my opening, we marketers are supposed to be taking our organisations or those of our clients, to places and getting them to do things that they would never dream of.  That’s our primary responsibility and when times are tough, as they are now and we all really need to be brave, its our job to save them from their natural tendency to dig a pit and wait for the flak to pass.  Our clients and colleagues should be beating a path to our door just to recharge at our power-point of creativity, innovation and entrepreurialism.  If they aren’t its our fault not theirs.  It means we are just too boring and that’s something a marketer should never be.

Thanks to Michael O’Leary for calling time on the old farts of aviation and talking up his ambition to pay us for travelling with him rather than the other way around and shame on those like the people who, whether RyanAir is their cup of tea or not as a carrier, aren’t smart enough marketers to recognise that this is how you build a brand (and the world’s biggest carrier).

Michael Weaver
March 17, 2009

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