The Emperor is Butt Naked and Marketing is Broken

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Marketing is about the customer. Or is it? Lytics CMO Darren Guarnaccia argues that thanks to a modern world of hard, quantifiable data, marketers have lost touch with the very thing they’re supposed to champion: humanity.  

The signs are all there, everywhere you look, but somehow we don’t see it. Every day, the withdrawal of permission advances, and still no one seems to notice. It’s alarming when you see it, the steady increases in things like ad blockers, incognito and private browsing mode usage, and consumers clearing their cookies on a regular basis. We shrug off massive unsubscription rates that continue to climb – or worse, the massive percentage of your email list that haven't opened a single email from you in years. And still, we don’t seem to care or notice.

What the hell are we doing in marketing? How have we not seen that our customers are collectively revoking the right to engage them? What lies are we telling ourselves, pretending the emperor isn’t butt naked? We have to keep doubling down on the very tactics that are driving this trend, because we need to keep hitting our targets, don’t we? We shout louder and louder into the void, or in the growth hacker style, we shout thunderously at a very narrowly focused set of people. And all of it just annoys our customers ever more, fueling the downward spiral of apathy and irritation that is driving this collective revocation of permission to engage.

We’ve lost our way in marketing. Somewhere along the road to marketing effectiveness and the brave new world of data-driven marketing, we’ve lost our humanity. It’s not our fault really. These shiny news tools finally gave us the credibility we marketers always wanted. Instead of hand-wringing, wishy-washy answers about the power of brand, we could finally point to the hard evidence of the value marketing was bringing to the party. It was enticing and seductive. And multiplied across a dozen different channels and tools, it has led us to this terrible place.

“Gone are the days when marketers worked to understand customers as people, with their wants, needs and intents. That’s way too fluffy. We’re now driven by hard metrics and shortsighted tactics.”

The law of unintended consequences has come home to roost, and these tools have fostered an 'ends justifies the means' mentality, breeding a generation of marketers that are blasting consumers into oblivion. Gone are the days when marketers worked to understand customers as people, with their wants, needs and intents. That’s too hard in this world of tools, channels and silos – and way too fluffy. We’re now driven by hard metrics and shortsighted tactics.

This has to stop. If we keep this up, we’ll lose total access to consumers, beyond what GDPR will force on us. But what about revenue? How will I achieve my goals to drive conversions and Marketing Qualified Lead? A lot of the tactics we’re using today in marketing are like the blind squirrel finding the occasional acorn. We’re broadcasting wide and hopeful, hoping to find that acorn at the expense of alienating large swathes of potential customers. Instead, take the extra time to understand that customer, and earn credibility and their confidence. You’ll not only sell them more, it also becomes cheaper to acquire them. As Steven M. Covey said in his book Speed of Trust, “Trust is a hard-edged economic driver.”

Marketing is indeed broken. I suggest a better way. Let’s take a step back and really think about our customers’ purpose, their ‘why’ and how we satisfy that with our products and services. Let’s build marketing around trying to understand their ‘why’ through encounters with our brand. Engineer into the customer journey the things we need to know about them to serve them best, and pay off on their ‘why’.  Let’s listen to them, and help them feel understood, and then help them achieve their purpose. That’s what marketing is really supposed to be about. Let’s help customers understand our value by delivering value to them. Let’s start earning the right to engage, and reverse this downward spiral of disengagement.

Let’s put the humanity back into marketing. 


Darren is the Chief Marketing Officer at Lytics and a recognized customer engagement strategist - read more here.

This article featured in our SOUND CHECK issue, check out more articles and back stage insights in our debut publication.