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Marketing Misconception #1: Marketing is easy...newsflash it's NOT.

The Marketing Misconceptions series will focus on topics that are common perceptions of marketing and then clarifying them. Some are light hearted ones that make most Marketers roll their eyes. Others are actually pretty important and could be hurting your business.

This is always one of my favorite topics to discuss. The idea that any job is perceived as "easy" will forever make me giggle. It may be easier to a seasoned practitioner in a given field but that's because they have the experience to do things efficiently which makes it look easy. But from my most certainly biased perspective, Marketing has always had this extra weird status of being an easy role.

Assumptions that Marketing is easy go way back

There's always been an assumption that Marketing is full of fun and games - the Mad Men effect as I like to call it. The iconic show features the marketing and advertising industry in the 1950s when cigarettes and Coca-Cola were still deemed good for you. It makes the industry look sexy and fun with extravagant budgets, awards galore and no accountability. Product, price and place aren't really focused on, just promotion. Businesses needed it without understanding it, Marketers were perceived to have magically produced it in mere minutes because it's such an easy thing to do and everyone got to go for long lunches to celebrate how easy it was.

But even in spite of the Mad Men effect, which for the record totally duped me at first too, Marketing has never actually been an easy, sexy or glamorous role. End customers, sales reps and clients may see a polished beautiful piece (brochure, webpage, etc.) at the end of the day and see that as the Marketing. But the amount of strategy discussions, pricing discussions, product discussions, sales trainings, data mining, creativity, missed meals, all-nighters, scrapped vacations and insane expectations to deliver top tier work on a shoe string budget, is unbelievable.

And that's before you add in regulatory and legal requirements, the ever-evolving technologies and all the extra complexities present in our interconnected world today.

Marketing's Evolution

Not to date myself, but when I first came out of school, the 4 Ps guided absolutely everything, but in a fairly straight forward way - at least that's what we were taught in school anyway.

  • Product was focused a bit less on what the customer wanted and bit more on what a company wanted to make to sell. The packaging at times could be falling apart basic or excessively expensive and fancy to be memorable (think FMOT for those acronym lovers out there).

  • Price was mostly determined using cost-based analysis - the data and technology didn't really exist to dig more into value-based or dynamic pricing.

  • Promotion was made up of print ads and static banner ads (animated banner ads weren't a thing yet) and was mostly what Marketing was known as. We designed print ads and had to learn how to tell an impactful story in a single image with minimal copy to put into our portfolios because that was all there was to showcase your creativity.

  • Place was focused on journals and newspaper ad placements, radio buys and TV buys.

The things that added complexity to Marketing didn't really exist yet. UTM codes to track customers and gather data were in their infancy. Facebook was only available to college kids (without ads might I add) and MySpace was massive (YT link right here for those who have no idea what MySpace was and why it isn't anymore). Google wasn't yet synonymous with web searches. Smartphones hadn't been invented yet so being able to see a website in the palm of your hand wasn't possible, therefore website design didn't need to be responsive or take mobile into consideration. And website design took forever to complete because it had to be coded manually. Marketing automation was not a thing. There wasn't even remotely close to enough data in existence for a ChatGPT to be possible. And so on.

I'm not saying all this to make myself feel old (although it really does make me wonder where the time went), or to get you to play a little tiny violin in your head for us. I say it to reiterate that all of those elements of Marketing, those tools of Marketing, came into existence in the last 20 years. And Marketers have had to adapt and evolve quickly to meet it all.

As a result, Marketing is no longer this straight forward, untrackable, easy function that secretaries and sales reps can just "take on". Or something where you can just expect a generalist to be an expert in every facet of the field. It is a deeply challenging field that requires so many types of expertise today.

The Reality of Marketing

Because of all these changes and this rapid evolution within the field, there are a variety of needs and factors that come into play every day:

  • Deep audience understanding - this goes beyond a high level persona or demographics. This digs into preferences, how they actually use a product, their behaviors, media consumption habits, pain points and more. And today, customers have very specific expectations of their experience with your brand or product from awareness all the way through to advocacy.

  • Competitor landscape - most industries are pretty saturated with competition these days so finding that white space for your product to own or being able to easily find that Blue Ocean Strategy that was so popular in the early 2000s, requires intensive digging and deep knowledge of your competitive set to unearth. And this doesn't even get into competitive pricing strategies either.

  • Creativity - there is still an expectation for beautiful creative that is appealing and compelling to audiences. It's challenging to have your creative stand out in a sea of 6,000 - 10,000 ads consumers see per day. But the expectation is still there.

  • Data - we have an overwhelming amount of data to mine for anything from insights about our audiences to ad performance, media spend, optimization, inventory management and beyond. Using that data to inform our work is invaluable, but highly involved.

  • Technology - like I said, most tech advancements have taken place in the last 20 years and it only seems to be accelerating.

  • Regulatory and legal requirements - we as Marketers and businesses have a responsibility to message truthfully and ethically to our customers. We, of course, collaborate with our regulatory and legal partners extensively. But we also have to have a pretty deep knowledge of it ourselves to try to anticipate and self-regulate where we can. Did I ever think I'd have to have an extensive knowledge of GDPR or CCPA when promoting any product? FDA regulations when promoting healthcare products? Nope and nope. Do I need and use the knowledge around these every day? Yep.

Now imagine having to manage all of the above with small teams and even smaller budgets?

Overall, Marketing is TOUGH

In a nutshell, I'd say that Marketing today is hard. Like really f*cking hard. Marketers know this to be fact because we live in and breathe it every day. The trouble we Marketers face is not our ability to live in the ambiguity and ever-evolving technology like we do. The challenge is shifting people's perceptions to realize that what Marketers do today is not surface level or "making things look pretty." Marketing has become complex. It is intrinsically linked with every facet of business - more specifics on that in blog posts to come. And because of that interconnectedness, Marketing should not exist with tiny teams keeping it going, nor be the first team to get budgets cut or the last team to know that anything is happening. And most of all, it should not be disregarded as easy.

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