Gini Dietrich

Marketing is Dead?

By: Gini Dietrich | August 23, 2012 | 

We live in really interesting times.

Technology is coming at us more quickly than ever before.

It took the following technologies to reach 50 million users: Radio – 38 years; TV – 13 years; The Internet – four years; iPod – three years; Facebook added 100 million users in just nine months; and iPod app downloads hit one billion in nine months.

Last year we had two big social networks introduced – Google+ and Pinterest – and the latter is the fastest growing social network…ever.

It’s no wonder “experts” continue to claim certain things are dead. SEO is Dead! Public Relations is Dead! Advertising is Dead!

Marketing is Dead?

The most recent?

In a Harvard Business Review blog post, Bill Lee claims Marketing is Dead and he’s not being cynical; he’s really serious.

He makes a good case. He says buyers are no longer paying attention (half true) and CEOs are losing patience. In fact, he quotes a study of 600 CEOs who are frustrated with their chief marketing officers.

In a devastating 2011 study of 600 CEOs and decision makers by the London-based Fournaise Marketing Group, 73% of them said that CMOs lack business credibility and the ability to generate sufficient business growth, 72% are tired of being asked for money without explaining how it will generate increased business, and 77% have had it with all the talk about brand equity that can’t be linked to actual firm equity or any other recognized financial metric.

This complements some of what we hear from clients and prospects, as well. But it certainly doesn’t mean marketing is dead. It just means marketers are under even more pressure to measure return-on-investment instead of brand awareness and credibility.

What Should We Be Measuring?

I have for-profit experience so the efforts we’re accustomed to measuring at my integrated marketing communications firm are: Increased revenues, shortened sales cycles, and/or improved margins.

In order to do that, we integrate social media, the web, and traditional marketing disciplines – media relations, advertising, direct marketing, and more.

Take Catalytic Products International as an example. They make oxidizers, which are not something you a) buy online or b) use the social networks to connect with the business leaders. If marketing truly were dead, they wouldn’t be doing anything to support their sales.

We used a combination of online advertising, trade shows, email marketing, content (white papers, case studies, educational newsletters), search engine optimization, media relations, and search engine marketing to market their business.

Notice the traditional and new marketing tactics in that list?

Last year, the marketing program generated $2.2 million in new revenue or an 8:1 return-on-investment. As it compared to margins, the return-on-investment was 3:1.

Marketing is long from dead. Don’t let the shiny, new penny distract you. Learn about it, figure out how it can be implemented, find ways to measure the results around the efforts of using it, but always integrate it into what is already working really well for you.

This first appeared in my weekly Crain’s column.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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86 responses to “Marketing is Dead?”

  1. katskrieger says:

    Great read Gini. Imagine that, marketing bringing in real revenue. You’ve been a big inspiration for me as I build out a marketing department that never really existed before. It’s reassuring to know I’m going down the right path! Thank you!

  2. KenMueller says:

    Apparently everything is dead: social media, traditional media, blogging. At least that’s what I’m reading on the Internet. Oh, wait, the Internet is dead, too. 
    The one thing I’m curious about, and I’m not sure how you measure this…perhaps it’s more anecdotal, but I’m curious as to the expectations of the CEO’s regarding marketing, and how in tune with reality they are. Yes, we need to measure, but we’ve seen studies where many CEO’s are rather isolated from how things are done, particularly in areas like social media. Are they trying to fit a square peg into a round hole? Perhaps the picture isn’t so bleak, if you were to take those expectations into consideration. Have the expectations kept up with technological progress?

    • ginidietrich says:

       @KenMueller As you know, I spend A LOT of time on the road talking to business leaders through Vistage and I think it depends on the region of the country they’re in. For instance, business leaders in LA, Atlanta, and Washington, DC really get it. Of course, this is all anecdotal…I’ve done no real research. But it is pretty interesting to see how, if they have one savvy business leader who understands the web in their group, they all get it.

    • HowieG says:

       @KenMueller I think it is different for big business vs little business. As you climb the corporate ladder you tend to be less specialized and deal with other internal divisions. And unless you went to school for marketing you get trained everything is measurable. You can do quick math to see how an investment in a new machine a new hire a new product paid off or not. Then these folks have marketing and whether B2B or B2C by nature it is harder to measure because inputs and outputs for most things are hard to connect. So it takes a CEO with big picture to overcome the CFO who is very analytical (like me) and has a hard time grasping beyond the numbers (luckily not like me).
      I could present an argument that Apple needed no TV advertising the products sell themselves but Steve Jobs didn’t agree.

  3. HowieG says:

    First off the HBR has no credibility to me. I read their stuff and get flabbergasted that an mba from harvard means anything besides ‘I spent a ton on a piece of paper’.
    First off marketing will never die. A smart business school professor will teach ‘Direct Sales is for high ticket items’ and marketing for ‘small ticket mass produced items’. Though technically both exist together. a stock clerk at walmart is technically a direct sales person just like the person who created the catalog to sell $1000 flow control valves to oil refineries for the direct sales person is a marketer.
    How marketing gets done though is a different story. Digital is a complete failure. I can already visit any website for any brand right now. Your ad won’t bring me to the brand site any faster. We already buy a gazillion stuff without being marketed to on TV or Social. Often store displays or word of mouth do it. But you can not get brand/product awareness purely from that and thus you need traditional marketing.
    The problem is the revolving door between agencies and brands. Same for congress/lobbyists. If I work for a brand I don’t want to overspend and have my budget wasted. But then an agency hires me and I want the brand to over spend and waste money. This happens a lot and I have seen people recently jump from brands to agencies and vice versa.
    Lastly to your point measurement and perception. Yes CMOs have the shortest tenure because they are marketers. Marketers lie. And CFOs and CEOs figure things out fast. I am currently battling with a client focused on Facebook. No matter what I tell her she wants more Facebook fans. No matter what data I show proves the impact will be minimal vs other options she wants more fans. I am sure someone else would tell her she is right and spend her money and say ‘here is your fans I succeeded!’

    • ginidietrich says:

       @HowieG Your last paragraph is the real trouble I see with what we deal with daily. If you really, really, really want more Facebook fans, you’ll find someone out there who will do that for you. But don’t call me when you’re upset because it didn’t do anything for you. It’s the Oprah effect to me. Because I’m in Chicago, people used to say to us ALL THE TIME, “Can you get us on Oprah” because they thought that was the golden ticket. People want to get rich quick and they see stuff like that as getting there.

  4. GeoffReiner says:

     @KenMueller I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “many CEO’s are rather isolated from how things are done, particularly in areas like social media.”  It’s so true. They are strategic and they shouldn’t understand the details but rather focus on result. I read the HBR article and I was instantly curious to find the average age of the 600 CEO’s interviewed. I think this would greatly impact the study.  
    Also, the way they positioned the article was a bit misconstrued to me. First they say that marketing is dead. Then at the end of the article they say traditional marketing may be dead. Then they talk about the importance of building brand advocates, communities, and finding influencers. But isn’t this marketing?
    Marketing will never be dead. I completely agree that CMO’s are under increased pressure to perform. However,  reflecting on Kens point, CMO’s need stronger sales skills to articulate the value (to the CEO) that marketing has on the organization. They need to incorporate various forms of traditional and nontraditional marketing into the overall organizational strategy, create alignment, and then they need to perform! 

    • ginidietrich says:

       @GeoffReiner  I think the guy probably had a compelling argument, but was met with a deadline and didn’t think all the way through his blog post. There was a lot of back and forth to what he meant.

  5. jono.smith says:

    Your Catalytic case study takes me back to my very first marketing class. The professor said that designing a marketing communication platform that integrates multiple channels with consistent messaging and calls to action is the best way for a marketer to strengthen brand recognition while simultaneously bolstering sales. But for many very small businesses, this is not an economically viable option. Assuming you agree with this approach, what are everyone’s favorite examples of being multi-channel on a very limited budget?

    • ginidietrich says:

       @jono.smith Yes! Hire us! 🙂
      The nice thing about the web is a lot of the tools are free. So if you have someone in marketing who understands how to integrate the new with the old, you’re not going to spend a gazillion dollars, but you’ll achieve really strong brand awareness and sales. It does take some elbow grease, though. 

  6. TishWine says:

    RT @ericamallison Marketing is Dead? via @ginidietrich

  7. Danny Brown says:

    People that compare luxury non-essential items to free social platforms, and quote the time it took to reach a certain critical mass, need their nether parts rubbed down with sandpaper and dipped in vinegar.

  8. djordon says:

    Welcome back, @ginidietrich.

  9. sydcon_mktg says:

    Geez, I cant keep up with all these obituaries of dear old friends.  I think I need to expand my wardrobe to attend all the wakes/funerals. 

  10. Carmelo says:

    “What should we be measuring” how do we measure it, what does it mean? “What to leave out, what to leave in?” as the song goes … And yes, the blending of the old and the “new.” It really does get confusing if you keep it all at arms length but to honestly insist that marketing is dead is like saying food is no longer necessary now that we all take vitamins, fiber supplements and protein powder.
    Is Marketing Dead? Pffft! Those 600 frustrated, detached, confused, crying meat-heads might want to relax, add a bit of fiber to their diets and perhaps ask some better questions?

  11. DavidRM says:

    I would be more apt in agreeing that home-grown full-time marketing departments are not meeting expectations.  It’s like any competitive industry, a company’s full-time employees can get complacent and stagnant.  They don’t have to grow their knowledge base to stay on the bleeding edge, they get in grooves of “that’s how our boss wants it done”.  
    While, on the opposite end of the spectrum, are the companies that look towards finding relationships with external firms (The external firms have to stay bleeding edge or risk becoming obsolete.).  By partnering with these firms, they hopefully find not only more success in seeing ROI, but also have a competitive edge on being being nimble.  

    • ginidietrich says:

       @DavidRM Now that I agree with! We all get complacent; it’s human nature. But not all of us stay that way.

      • Carmelo says:

         @ginidietrich  @DavidRM 1000 extra points to anyone who can show me the last time … ANY time Gini was complacent. Hmm? Anyone?

        • ginidietrich says:

           @Carmelo  @DavidRM I was totally complacent the other day when my phone was dead and my phone charger was upstairs and I didn’t want to go alllll the way up there to plug it in. Or is that just lazy??

        • DavidRM says:

           @ginidietrich  @Carmelo No, you have just transcended activities that you shouldn’t have to do.  The universe, is just saying you need a personal assistant with you at all times (to search for things for you.  and remind you of your phone needing charging.)

      • DavidRM says:

         @ginidietrich  @DavidRM You are my superhero.  Nothing about you could ever remotely be mistaken for complacent.  Miss You.  

  12. ginidietrich says:

    @merubin Thank you!

  13. ginidietrich says:

    @amarie5304 The “dead” memes drive me nuts

  14. […] our efforts.Marketing Is Dead – Bill Lee – Harvard Business Review.Related Story: Marketing is Dead?TweetNo related posts.Tags: Harvard Business, MarketingLeave a Reply Cancel replyYou must be logged […]

  15. ginidietrich says:

    @TroyClaus LOL!!

  16. INBlaqkInk says:

    @ginidietrich that was a very informative article!

  17. Why can’t bloggers kill really evil things like racism, hunger or that “Call me Maybe” song???
    Great post. I tend to question any statement or argument that is based on absolutes. CEOs are frustrated with CMOs? Is this new???

  18. kristathomas2012 says:

    Great post and conversation Gini; appreciate your work.

  19. Leon says:

    G’Day Genie,  
    Of course it’s not dead!  I’ve run a business for over 30 years. I coined—I think_— the phrase “marketing isn’t everything but everything is marketing.” a while back. Lots of people seem to like it includins Al Ries and John Jantsch.
    I suspect that lots of managers have lots of different ideas about what constitutes “marketing.” So I’m a tad suspicious about surveys tellling us what CEOs think of marketing.
    It’s also true that surveys may not provide the totally objective data they claim
    A survey done here in Australia a couple of years ago suggested that about 70% of surveys came up with a result consistent with the position of the organization commissioning the survey. They didn’t say this was deliberate. But Self Fulfillling Prophecy is a reality. Incidentally, neither Steve Jobs nor Henry Ford believed in surveying customers about their requirements for new products. When asked about  why he didn’t conduct a survey to see if people were demanding a motor car, Henry’s said to have replied, “If I’d asked them they’d have wanted a faster horse.”
    A long-standing client of mine recently conducted  lots of workshops in country towns for small- medium business owners and managers. He himself has built a very successful business. Over coffee recently he told me that far and away the biggest single problem these managers had was lack of focus.
    Marketing may or may not be dead. But even if it is, really successful businesses still need a crystal clear focus and a narrow specific target market. Just ask Borders.
    Make sure you have fun.
    Best Wishes

  20. mdbarber says:

    I am so tired of the ____ is dead posts from people who really don’t understand but instead want to promote their latest shiny penny. There are so many more important things in our world to be concerned about that which communications discipline is dead this week. But, as long as these folks continue to get business this way, and keep the rest of us frustrated, it will continue. I really appreciate your writing this post and hope it will make a difference. 

  21. JayDolan says:

    Perhaps the better argument is that “Marketing is Undead.” It has changed into a form that is recognizable, yet wholly different. It still functions in many of the same ways, but we need to approach it differently.
    Otherwise it might take a bite out of our arm.

  22. ginidietrich says:

    @circlefive Thank you!

  23. largento says:

    Someone ought to tell the CEOs how frustrated we are with them!

  24. jeremyvictor says:

    @ginidietrich me too Gini … that article made my blood boil.

  25. mitchellfriedmn says:

    @mdbarber @ginidietrich Hey Hey my my marketing will never die (thank you, Neil Young)

  26. It would be helpful if the author offered a definition of marketing. I like @Leon ‘s definition:  “marketing isn’t everything but everything is marketing.”  So if marketing is dead, the Mayans are right. Let’s just drop everything and party till the end. 

  27. Rodriguez247 says:

    And that is why I’m so against the term “unmarketing” While engaging with your customers is the ideal way to carry out your business, it requires planning, strategies and most importantly an understanding of the various ways to possibly market an ‘unconventional’ business like your example. The way that people are used to marketing is definitely dead, but I believe that it is evolving into a new form… 

    • ginidietrich says:

       @Rodriguez247 It’s definitely evolving…all of it is. But none of it is dead. It kills me that people forget about email marketing, but it’s still one of the most effective ways to do direct marketing (if done well). And, because no one is mailing anything anymore, it turns out to be pretty darn effective. 

      • Rodriguez247 says:

         @ginidietrich I think it was Gary who said that email was the original social network. I think that is the reason that I was so drawn to your book, you explain all the different tools from a different perspective. Part of our strategy is to build and maintain an email database in case any of those networks in which we currently have a community decide to close shop (I’m sure it’s not going to happen, but email will be around for a long time…) 

  28. ginidietrich says:

    @MarkMathson Thank you!

  29. elijahmay says:

    @lizscherer @ginidietrich let’s hope so 🙂

  30. ginidietrich says:

    @joyadele Ha!

  31. joostharmsen says:

    No marketing = No Sales = No Business = No Revenue = Bankrupt! Marketing is very important!! Great post and keep up the good work!

  32. […] Citing a Harvard Business Review article that said as much, Gini Dietrich posts “Marketing is Dead?” at Spin Sucks. […]

  33. JTCattle says:

    @MKTGdrA : Agreed. Much more to MKTG than Social Media, but hard to show ROI from a pic on Instagram and such

  34. […] Refine these strategic messages until they ring true. Check for consistency. Test them informally with customers or influencers, or use more formal research. Don’t commit to them without scrutiny because they will inform nearly all your marketing communications. […]

  35. […] the Skeptical Marketer will hear this, and immediately spot the big problem: She didn’t sell any tickets! Hello! And not […]

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