Marketing Mentoring: Harsh Truths and Tough Love

Posted by Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth
Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Comm...
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on Tuesday, 13 March 2012 in Comparz Blog

“She’s so dull, rip her to shreds” is a line from a Blondie song.

The same sentiment is seen in the many tomes and articles that tell you how banal boring, and off-base your marketing is and how to fix it.

A classic work in this genre is "Your Marketing Sucks" by Mark Stevens. As his book’s blurb informs us, his main thesis is that most companies don't have a clue about good marketing. In the critiques and counseling he offers, Stevens “bashes marketers' conventional wisdom with an almost immoderate glee.” 

In the same vein, a new article entitled “Why Your Customers Are Just Not That Into You” by Dan Kohn describes a Pitney Bowes survey that asked 6,000 consumers across France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United  States what they felt were the marketing turnoffs and missteps. 

Among the marketing activities that those surveyed said were annoying were: asking customers to support a brand's charity or ethical concerns; sending offers via third parties; encouraging interaction with other consumers via an online community; inviting consumers to create their own homepage; sending weekly emails; and letting your call center reps get too chummy on the phone.

Another example in the “dis your marketing” genre is “Your Marketing Stinks” by Jori Yoffie, who tells us that no one believes corporations anymore, that traditional marketing is push, push, push, and that mass communiction is no longer controlled by the media.

Ironically, these observations, as with many we now find in this genre, are themselves hackneyed. Much of the insight Yoffie provides is repackaged messaging from the "Cluetrain Manifesto" and all similar books by Seth Godin, ala “Meatball Sundae” et al.  

Similar tired messaging is found in the many articles targeted at social media marketing, such as "4 Reasons Why Your Business Sucks at Social Media" by Perry Sheraw. While her criticism and advice are sound, it's criticism and advice we’ve seen over and over again—essentially, be active, be relevant to your audience, be persistent and patient, etc.

Marketing hubs like Business2Commuity are full of these types of “X Reasons Why Your Marketing Sucks” articles, and after a while the redundancy of the messages, as well as the “X Reasons Why” formula, becomes tedious. I often have clicked on an article filled with hope but come away disappointed by another first-grade-level primer or rehash of fairly obvious points that have been made many times before.

A sub-species of this genre are articles that tell you what actions and habits are annoying on Facebook, Twitter LinkedIn, etc.  An example is “7 Social Media Tips: What Not To Do On Twitter” by Jesse Pennington.  Many of the annoyances Pennington describes are common complaints—don’t let your Twitter avatar remain an egg, don’t tweet only about your company, don’t send auto-responses to new followers. 

A lot of these sins are debatable and arguably legitimate actions. While everyone is entitled to their personal gripes, portraying them as universal wrongs is another matter. 

So there, I’ve criticized negative citicsm by injecting a little negative criticsm of my own.

All in all, negative headlines tend to titillate and attract readers. Just as it does in politics, going negative in marketing critiques works just as well.

So as spring arrives, we can expect the "slam your marketing" genre to continue to produce fresh flowerings sprouting on marketing forums across the Internet.


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Michael Neubarth is Vice President of Marketing for and founder and Director of eMatrix Media Communications. Michael has a comprehensive marketing, communications, PR, analytical, and editorial background, including strategic marketing, communications, and market intelligence roles at IBM, FatWire Software, and Brodeur Worldwide, and as an analyst at Meta Group covering advanced technologies. His experience includes roles as editor-in-chief of Internet World, NetGuide, and Windows magazines, and expert contributor to Michael is a well-known writer on information technology, digital marketing, and social media issues, and his articles and blogs are cited widely online.


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