Yes, I hate marketing. Yes, this is supposedly my field. That’s what I do, right? Why would I say I hate it?
Because there is a lot of marketing out there that is worth hating. We’ve all seen it. Especially online. It pops up on our screens, flashing, or wiggling to interrupt us and capture our attention. Or maybe worse, we hand over some money and discover we’re disappointed that whatever we bought does not live up to the marketing hype.
Let me cover the basics, two awful extremes that I’ve observed in marketing.
- Over-marketing. This is often marketing pushing a marginal or sub-par product, which wouldn’t sell well without such aggressive sales and marketing tactics. At it’s worst, it is intentionally manipulative and shady tactics.
- Under-marketing. This is the flip side — not marketing a good product well or at all, effectively hiding it while toiling away at a possibly great business not many people know about.
Pushy marketing: Spying, stalking, and harassing customers
Back to why I hate marketing.
The unfortunate thing is that companies using shady marketing tactics may get name recognition and make boatloads of money. People will even invest or buy from them, because they know the company name and assume it must be good. All those other people bought it, must be okay, right?
This marketing might also involve a bunch of hype and “white lies,” misleading customers to think it is groundbreaking or selling it to the wrong customers (who didn’t read the fine print about your product/service).
These companies can be tricky because they often believe their own hype. They wear the branded t-shirt and sound like a happy cheerleader. This kind of marketing might also involve an abundance of words like “growth hack” and “awesome.” The business might even resemble a cult.
Let’s take another example: the doublespeak online marketers use to describe the everlasting, third-party tracking cookies they leave on your browser as “listening” to the customer. By listening, what they really mean is eavesdropping, spying, and stalking you online.
This is the wrong way of listening to people.
Wishful marketing: Dreaming success will fall into your lap
These are the folks who build a good product or service, but don’t brag about it. They know their worth and can sell their stuff, if they believe it is the right fit. Customers will recommend them and new business will meander in the door. If it doesn’t seem like the right fit for the customer, these businesses might even recommend a solution someone else sells.
There are at least two reasons under-marketing happens: one is simply fear of putting yourself out there. What if the wrong people find you, weirdos, or even bad people? Or you irritate people? Won’t the haters come out of the woodwork? If you’re a very small business or personal brand, putting yourself out there (especially authentically, as you are) is scary. It can magnify the impact of imposter syndrome, feeling like someone will say you’re a fake. Suddenly it’s like you’re on a stage in front of an auditorium of people who are live-tweeting mean comments and shooting video with zoom lenses. Also, someone ripped your notes out of your hand.
The other reason for under-marketing is a result of not enough time and choice overload. You’re busy, marketing feels like a waste of time and money. Besides, there are a million companies out there hawking their sales and marketing solutions. Just having to wade into the hype, evaluate and choose among them sounds like torture.
Under-marketing a business can still lead to some success, sometimes a slow to moderate growth, or long plateau. But at it’s worst, it makes a good business look terrible. Failure to communicate as the silent death knell of a business.
And yet. Somewhere in the middle, in between aggressively pushing products and services at people, or wishing people will discover your business, there is a balance. A strategic line, hidden between the egregious examples of over-marketing and hidden failures to communicate.