Poor, misunderstood Marketing

There’s a scene in the film “Devil Wears Prada” where our plucky protagonist Andy is cut down to size by the head of Runway Magazine Amanda Priestly. The item in question is a hideous-looking bargain-store sweater, and the ribbing goes like this:

“You think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select… I don’t know… that lumpy blue sweater, for instance because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise. It’s not lapis. It’s actually cerulean. And you’re also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves Saint Laurent… wasn’t it?… who showed cerulean military jackets? …And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. And then it, uh, filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic Casual Corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room from a pile of stuff.”

There’s been a recent spate of articles questioning the need for marketing in our post-digital, social-driven age of consumerism. Loyalty is king for some. Others claim data data driven marketing (which isn’t really marketing at all) is the thing to aspire to (read more about that here).

It is somewhat naïve to believe that Apple makes billions only because people love their products, and that they wouldn’t have to spend a penny on marketing. It is likewise not wise to believe that Taylor Swift or Drake sell millions of singles because of word-of-mouth among teens.  “Millions of dollars and countless jobs” have been spent to ensure that brands get to the top and remain there.

Yes, loyalty and viral content may keep you there for a short while. But not for long. And you need to get there first. As anyone who has desperately tried to launch their new app, business, or musical career knows, you’ll become exhausted long before you achieve 100 hits on your youtube channel or 20 downloads on the AppStore. Eventually you’ll have to bite the bullet and take out a Google Ad, or pay someone to market your product in the “traditional manner.”

Some so-called experts claim that strategy, analytics, and social-media mining is the new normal and those crusty old marketing types should just retire. They’ll point to some half-wit YouTube star with a million followers who’s now been given their own HGTV channel as the example of what modern media means.

Which is sad, because they consult their iPhones while wearing JCrew khakis and eating lunch at Chipotle because of the very same marketing efforts that they don’t think is necessary.

And they’ll never think twice that the same sad-sack YouTube star made nothing – and I mean nothing – from posting their “Best Makeup Tips” video on their channel.

That’s right! Please correct me if I am wrong, but I am quite confident that the latest crop of Social Media stars are either still living off the largesse of their parents, or working at the aforementioned Chipotle to make their rent. The scores of hits and followers does very little to affect their bottom line. Sure, some have turned ad clicks on their channel into a modest income boost, but it isn’t until HGTV or MTV or CNBC picks up on their “stardom” and markets them to death that they actually start to see something coming back for their efforts.

And what do these Cable networks do to ensure that these people become the stars that generate revenue? They market them! Using traditional, good, old-fashioned communication, advertising, and marketing tactics to ensure a loyal following that, more importantly, spends their money on the things that bring revenue to the advertisers and the channel.

Don’t discount the strength of traditional marketing skills. They are as relevant today as they were when the first hunter painted scenes of his exploits on a cave wall to show others how strong and fearless he was.

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