The Problem With “Down and Dirty” Marketing

By: Guest | July 9, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Bob Reed

I have to get something off my chest.

I like strategy and process.

I like developing communications roadmaps that take companies someplace and accomplish something.

I’m not one of those “pull it out of no where” communicators. A strategy based on engaging in correct and extended tactics during a long period of time will pay off and yield tangible returns.

Call me crazy but cogent plans help me sleep at night.

Yet, so many companies persist with the need for instant gratification. They persist with short-term thinking brought on by even shorter-term attention spans.

I don’t mean to go on a rant here (apologies to Dennis Miller and not the current one; the one at the time when he had talent), but precision is needed to strategize and execute integrated social media marketing campaigns and to measure their business outcomes.

Having said that, I propose the following phrase be banned from our business lexicon forever:

Down and dirty

These three words are the harbinger of wasted time, effort, and budgets. I’ve worked on the agency side of PR and marketing for most of my career, and out of the list of useless business jargon, “down and dirty” is the one that makes me clench my teeth to the point of cracking a molar.

Too many marketers use it to convey to their agency they want to just get something out quickly and inexpensively. “Keep it simple,” they say. “You know, don’t spend too much time on it; just get it out. ”

So much for strategy.

Executing something with the down and dirty mind set is like sitting inside a German dirigible brimming with hydrogen while holding a match.

Oh, the humanity.

The only aspect remotely strategic about the phrase is the person saying it is being lazy, cheap, or both.

I’ve created a list of talking points here so next time you get asked by your client or employer for down and dirty, you’ll know what to say.

Down and dirty marketing:

  • Threatens brands because of a lack of strategy behind the efforts.
  • Does nothing to enhance reputations.
  • Won’t build products, services, or your business model.
  • Will not positively ingratiate your company to people and their needs.
  • Is sloppy.
  • Won’t encourage others to share what is good about your company when you don’t care enough to do it for yourself.
  • Is for poser marketers.
  • Doesn’t engender trust.
  • Won’t keep your company top of mind.
  • Won’t position you as a thought leader.
  • Won’t help you invest in the best marketing strategies (whatever those maybe) to boost customer loyalty and retention.

Well, almost never. There’s only one use of down and dirty will ever be acceptable:

Down and dirty describes the kind of work ethic that is needed to succeed.

Bob Reedis partner and co-founder of Element-R Partners, LLC, a B2B communications practice that works to make the impersonal, personal. He writes a social media interview series at his agency blog, B2You. Follow him on Twitter at @RAReed.

  • jelenawoehr

    I just heard a review on NPR last night of the book “Wait,” which encourages more thoughtful decision-making and gives various examples where even the world’s “fastest” athletes (from our perspective) do better if they act slowly (from their perspective, which means a difference of microseconds). I had to laugh when the author pointed out that Lehman Brothers was a big corporate advocate of “blink decision-making,” then proceeded to make the worst decisions in their industry. Maybe there’s something TO this “wait” stuff!
    However, I do have to say that sometimes the “roadmap” strategy goes too far in the other direction. There’s nothing like spending a few months planning your next two years of communications strategy only to have some factor outside your control render every assumption you’ve made invalid, change the brand completely, and/or fundamentally alter the landscape in which you’re communicating.

    •  @jelenawoehr @Lisa Gerber I agree that there needs to be a balance.  Heading off into “truthiness” territory or analysis paralysis land is only asking for crap on a shingle.  In the end, it smells bad and you’ll never be able to nail it down.

  •  @jelenawoehr makes a good point – but there needs to be a balance. Many clients don’t understand the need to take time and money to do all this research and monitoring before a plan can be developed before you can even start the actual work. We’re working with someone who we started with in January and we’re just getting ready to execute the plan. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t have that luxury, so there does have to be a balance – a mix of immediate gratification with longer term planning. 
    But I totally agree, the down and dirty stuff is like stabbing in the dark. 

  • Bob:
    I agree with all of your eleven points when discussing strategy and planning and a quick fix is never a long term solution and often goes belly up rapidly. 
    I also agree with @Lisa Gerber and @jelenawoehr that there needs to be a balance as there are so many factors out of your control. Unfortunately in today’s economic climate, 24/7 news cycle and immediate response and reaction in social media, we do not often have the luxury of extended strategy sessions. 
    You summed it up well with your down and dirty work ethic. Getting into the trenches as soon as possible is a must or you may be left with mud on your face. 
    Thank you,

    •  @annelizhannan  @Lisa Gerber  @jelenawoehr So right, Anneliz. Lassoing those factors and distilling them down into a workable plan is part of the battle. But we have to know when to push back to make sure the basic approach is sound.

      •  @BobReed  @Lisa Gerber  @jelenawoehr Agree, and many need to be pushed back in order to move forward. 

  • stevesonn

    Sound strategy and great execution are the keys to winning marketing and public relations programs. Sometimes I think marketers can feel rushed to show activity and perhaps miss out on the best for a campaign. If I’m not comfortable before the execution phase I feel the need to slow down and regroup at the strategy. More often than not, doing so is well worth the delay. Thanks for the great reminder of that!

  • MobileProsUSA

    @alison3cat sms marketing is a great way for a business to reach customers

  • Amen, Brother Rob. But it’s not just marketers who ask for “down and dirty” from their PR agencies and consultants.  A number of agency prospects ask me for the “down and dirty” version of a new business plan or a workshop.  As you’ve pointed out, it’s just their way of saying “I don’t want to spend money on this,” which is just another way of telling themselves, their agencies, and yes, the universe, “this really isn’t important.”  Consultants, agency owners/leaders, trainers and freelancers should have the confidence in their worth of their offering to run, do not walk, away from clients like this. 

    •  @KensViews Couldn’t agree more, Ken.  I tell prospects that we have a monthly minimum.  If they balk at that, let them move along.

  • RAReed

    @PlannerWire Thanks for the mention!

    • PlannerWire

      @RAReed You are welcome, it was a great piece!

  • RAReed

    @lindajvetter Thanks for the mention, Linda!

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