Marketing is in big trouble

That’s the assessment of Jim Meskauskas, Chief Strategic Officer for Underscore Marketing in New York and a regular contributor to MediaPost’s Online Daily Spin. Jim’s a terribly smart guy, and his provocative essay, Remember the People, is a good read. In our quest to be ubiquitous and ram our messages down consumers’ throats, Jim says, we’ve lost sight of the fact that we’re dealing with real people.

Marketing is in big trouble. As an industry we find ourselves at battle with the prospective consumer. At every turn the consumer is trying to avoid us. With pop-up blockers and cookie sweepers and TiVo, the consumer is going to great lengths to get away from advertising.

Marketers and advertisers need to start thinking about actually providing a benefit to the audiences it claims to serve rather than assuming that is what advertising does.

The focus of marketing needs to be reset on people. A better experience needs to be given to them in exchange for their time.

Jim’s absolutely right, but I’m not sure the institutional marketing world will ever step up to the new plate. As Starcom’s Richard Tobaccowala so beautifully stated last year, “We’ve entered an era where the consumer is God. How will you interact with God?”

Push marketing is adrift, at best, because it is the tool of top-down mass marketing. The top is now the bottom and the bottom is the top. I don’t think anybody has resolved the matter of how we will buy and sell in such a world, but I think it begins with Doc Searls’ wonderful thesis: markets are conversations. Doc also doesn’t like the word “consumer,” because it implies passive receiving. He prefers “customer,” and I think that’s the way the marketing world needs to view the problem.

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