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Why Is Most Marketing Today So Terrible?

One of my favorite activities, and I say favorite with all irony, is to look at what passes for marketing and advertising in most cases today.

I’ve been known to tweet when I see ads for companies in magazines that really don’t fit, that aren’t focused on the right market, and that completely are wastes of money.

In fact, I’d say that I am likely the only person that might ever read through the ads in many cases.

Which brings me back to a conversation I had recently about marketing in our current business environment.

I have a few theories that I think contribute to the decline of marketing and advertising and their effectiveness in the marketplace.

Let’s take a look.


In theory, automation should be a boon for everyone. You can come up with better messages, more timely messages, and more specific messages.

The thing is, does that really ever happen?

Not too often.


Well, with automation, you should be seeing messages and specificity…but instead you see a lot of the same tired messaging and advertising with greater frequency.

Automation has become another force for spamming people and offering up little or no value.

Poor training:

I recently read an article about CMOs needing to commit to mentoring the next generation of marketers because the role seems to be so overwhelming and unpalatable to many upcoming professionals that there is a great likelihood that there won’t be enough quality replacements in the future.

I think this belies a trend over the last few years, maybe even going back to when I first learned marketing in college that has created an environment where the marketing education you get doesn’t really translate to the job of a marketer in the real world.

In fact, I would often argue that part of the challenge of CMOs mentoring up and coming professionals is that they themselves are struggling with their roles and their places in the organizations.


Because in too many cases, the job of CMO has become one of a data and button pusher and less one of storytelling and storyteller.

This has caused automation tools, automation messages, and other forms of tactical communications to jump to the forefront…at the expense of great brand narrative.

Which is a challenge of poor training going back a number of years.

Too much tactic, not enough strategy:

What the first two ideas lead to is the big idea of the failure of much of today’s advertising and marketing…which is ultimately too much focus on tactics and not nearly enough focus on strategy.

It is an utter failure for your organization to take any action without going through 3 quick questions:

  1. What is the value we offer?
  2. Who can use our value and is willing to buy it?
  3. How do we reach them?

That’s about as quick of a strategy lesson as I can offer you.

Instead what happens is in all too many areas, organizations lead off with a bunch of actions and activities that they “have” to take.

“We have to be on SnapChat.”

“We need to update our Twitter feed.”

“What do you think of our Facebook page?”

All of these are questions that point squarely to tactics driving activity, not strategy.

This focus on activities is a death knell for effective marketing.

Because if you are always driven by tactical decisions, you are going to never know how activities fit into your thinking…even if those activities offer up tremendous results.

How Do We Change This Around:

3 quick ideas that I will expand on later….

First, lead with a solid marketing strategy. 

As in, answer those 3 questions before you do anything else.

If you just walk through those 3 questions, you are going to be ahead of the game and they will help you frame any actions that you might want to take.

Second, spend some time discussing the strategy with your teams…

This will help in the training department and help in the decision making department.

If everyone is on the same page as to what you are doing strategically, that’s going to empower your teams to make better decisions, have better ideas, and it will put them in a position to grow into larger, stronger rolls in the future.

finally, with each decision:

Ask yourself, “is this wise or unwise?”

That’s it.

Is this a wise use of time? Money? Resources?

Is this a wise way to speak to our prospects? Clients?

If you spend a lot of time on this, you are going to be much more successful and your marketing and advertising will be much less likely to suck.