November 28, 2016

Subversive Thoughts About Marketing

Here at The Ad Contrarian Global Headquarters, we're starting to have subversive thoughts about marketing. Well, we're not actually starting -- we've had them for decades -- but we needed a good lead line...

Back in my agency days, I would often sit and listen to marketing people talk and think 'these people don't really know anything. They've learned a vocabulary and they think that is the same as knowing something.'

As Richard Feynman used to say, if you know that a tree is called an acacia tree you don't know anything about trees, you know something about people -- what people call trees.

Well, I'm getting off track here. The point is, I think there is a fairly large segment of the marketing fraternity (or sorority if you prefer) who are bluffing. They don't really know anything but they've created jobs in which knowing something isn't really necessary.

Here's an example.

Thanks to a loyal reader, I was sent a link to something written by the head of "Marketing Science" at Facebook. I think we would all agree that no company on Earth has prospered more from the marketing industry's passion for social metrics like "shares" and "clicks" and "likes" than Facebook.

And yet the article in question, published in the Journal of Advertising Research, makes clear in no uncertain terms that Facebook's study of these so-called metrics has found them to be meaningless and useless. In other words, there is no correlation between these "metrics" and real world effectiveness. As marketing data, they have no value.

Using these tools to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing is like trying to gauge a person's intelligence by measuring her bra size. Believe me, I've tried it and it doesn't work.

Now please keep in mind that this research wasn't done by a chronic pain-in-the-ass like me. This was written by a head brainiac at the one company in the world that, in a previous incarnation, made a fortune selling us on the amazing value of these "metrics."

The shocking thing is that most marketing people won't bother listening to this guy. These people are spending days and weeks producing reports, Powerpoint decks, and presentations analyzing exactly the data that he says is completely useless.

Many have made a career out of it.

You have to ask yourself why these people continue to do this stuff when it is of no value? There are two reasons.

First, despite its meaninglessness, there is still a demand for this nonsense among other marketing people who also know nothing.

And second, this is the only thing these people know how to do. If they don't do it, what the fuck else are they going to do?

So what we have here is people who know nothing paying other people who know nothing to do something that is useless.

Which turns out to be a pretty good definition of social media marketing.

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