How Marketing is Pursuing Tunnel Vision


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Marketing, almost by definition, follows trends. Marketers must know how people’s interests change, how forms of communication are evolving, how products and services fit into an economic landscape that is continually rearranging itself. Not to do so is to become irrelevant.

But there is a profound difference between following and understanding trends and becoming trendy.

Marketing, I fear, is taking itself down the path to trendy. Worse, I suspect that its headlong rush to organize and re-organize along current lines of fashion will make it unwieldy and difficult to respond when the fashions change. And fashions always change.

Let me explain.

? We are currently consumed by social media marketing. Certainly, social media platforms have become a very important element in reaching and understanding our audiences. But does that mean that our enterprises and marketing organizations should now organize around social media? Radio was once new and revolutionary. TV was once new and changed how we lived and marketed products. The Internet and Web sites were once new and profoundly affected how we do things. And, in the future, social media platforms will be described as “once new.”

Just as we’ve done with radio, TV, and Web sites, we must integrate social media into our marketing mix and strategy development. But I question the breathless acceptance of social media platforms as if they were the Holy Grail of marketing. We’ve seen Holy Grails before.

? We are currently consumed by the need to carve more and more specializations and niches within marketing. From customer engagement to mobile marketing to social media management, there seems to be a driving toward increased areas of decreased responsibility. Indeed, I recently came across a plea for a “Marketing Technologist” to manage marketing technology and tools. There is, apparently, no end in sight in marketing niche creation.

Ultra-specialization is great inside an agency. It is great for turf enhancing and power building in large organizations. But it makes speaking to the marketplace with a coherent voice and focused message that much harder. I suspect that the best that can be hoped for with increasing specialization is an ever-accelerating need for meetings to try to keep everyone on the same page. Meetings, unfortunately, rarely improve productivity and revenues.

? And then there is the ever-popular “let’s keep current by reading books by others in our field.” Sure you want to know what other pros in your business are saying and thinking. But since marketing is largely about speaking to people in a language that resonates best with them, shouldn’t we be broadening our horizons?

I would suggest that we would be better marketers if we read more psychology, anthropology, history, and science, and yes (dare I say it?) novels – and less what marketers are saying to other marketers. I would suggest that we – and the companies that pay us – would be better served with less emphasis on techniques and jargon-filled articles and tomes, with articles written by us and for us, and more emphasis on understanding human interactions, motivations, and what precipitates social and market trends.

Wouldn’t we all be much improved – personally as well as professionally – if instead of fine-tuning our tunnel vision, we broadened our outlook?

Emily R. Coleman
Dr. Emily R. Coleman is President of Competitive Advantage Marketing, Inc., a firm that specializes in helping companies expand their reach and revenues through strategy and implementation. Dr. Coleman has more than 30 years of hands-on executive management experience working with companies, from Fortune 500 firms to entrepreneurial enterprises. Dr. Coleman's expertise extends from the integration of corporate-wide marketing operations and communications to the development and implementation of strategy into product development and branding.


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