End of story?

Updated: Jul 10, 2020

I’m a bit worried that everything I think I know is wrong. OK, that’s a bit dramatic. What I’m getting at is the way marketing communications is mostly still approached seems to be fundamentally flawed and no longer fit for purpose. Again, a bit dramatic, but I have a vested interest, and so do you.

When I think about it in a certain way, I’m not sure marketing exists anymore.

It obviously exists, in that vast quantities of time and money are still spent on what we traditionally understand to be marketing activities, such as: branding, research, advertising, wonderful creative expression, content production and loitering in railway stations being experiential. I mean the premise behind how marketing – and especially marketing communications – is traditionally understood to work, has, for a while now been increasingly less relevant, less fitting to how most of us live our lives and do our jobs.

The proliferation of mass broadcast media, the availability of affordable computer processing power and the explosion of interactive digital media have each taken marcoms through assorted stages of “wild west” anarchy, regulated main-stream, devastatingly disruptive existential threat and back to “wild west” frontier again.

According to the commentators, luminaries, analysts and pioneers, most comms stalwarts have been pronounced both “dead within a decade” and “the killer approach that you can’t do without”. Our ability to easily process data led some to believe direct marketing (beginning with mail) heralded the demise of advertising. The adoption of email in both home and office was to be the death of all printed items. Google (other search engines are apparently available) and social media have transformed advertising into a fiendishly clever hybrid lovechild born of all three; inheriting all the super-powers of each of its predecessors.

And so, with a wry smile, here I am reading the last rights over the whole lot. Well, not quite. A common thread that has united most comms activity in all that time is the intention to affect the audience, to manipulate the outcomes of interactions, to plant an idea, to kindle an emotion and sometimes unfortunately to exaggerate or even gaslight. We all know a sector or two where the main comms purpose is to create a problem, which could be said to be causing wider social and even psychological effects. Boardrooms and agency studios around the world have for decades rung with the cry “What problem are we solving?”

However, in the main, this has been the path to enlightenment. Substitute the narrow and unhelpfully negative idea