I have been working in marketing for more than ten years now. That’s a long time to be working in any industry these days – apparently my generation expect to change jobs at least every three years and don’t expect to remain within the same industry all their lives. In fact, a year ago I decided I had had enough of marketing and wanted nothing to do with it anymore.
My career began in traditional PR. And when I say traditional, we used to fax cuttings to clients. I’m only 35 – the world really has changed dramatically in the last 15 years. I spent a number of years in communications and fundraising roles, but what really drew me to a career in marketing was social media. I fell in love with the ability we suddenly had to connect directly with our customers, service users and potential collaborators. We could build and participate in communities and be actively involved in supporting the people that supported us. We could provide direct customer service quickly and easily and offer advice and support beyond simply answering questions about our own business.
We began creating blog and email content that would be useful and interesting to our audiences, nurturing lasting relationships and building connections over multiple touchpoints. We crafted cross-channel campaigns with meaningful and powerful ideas. It was beautiful.
Somewhere along the line, though, it all went to hell.
Where did it go wrong?
One of the issues is that the social media channels cottoned on to how many businesses were using their platforms and realised they could make some money out of this. Algorithms have been adjusted and tinkered with endlessly, until it is virtually impossible for a business to reach its audience without putting budget behind its activity. Then they also introduced different advertising types to drive direct sales. And suddenly businesses forgot they’d been using social media as a tool to drive awareness and build relationships and started chasing cold, hard cash. Then it became a race to the bottom.
Once a few people started making money from social media advertising, and telling everyone how much they were making from it, everyone wanted to do it. Then agencies started promising quick and easy wins, and the advertising got more prevalent and less creative.
Content and email marketing went the same way. Businesses became obsessed with gaming Google and driving instant returns. The uncertainty around Brexit hasn’t helped – panic has taken hold of boardrooms up and down the country and all attention has been on the stampede for immediate results whilst the concept of long-term strategy has been trampled underfoot.
The final big issue is that we got a bit too good at measuring stuff. The availability of analytics on every aspect of marketing activity meant that everyone had the ability to scrutinise the exact amount of money made by each channel, each specific piece of content and every social post, which meant that every channel was under pressure to deliver higher returns. The problem with that being that not every channel is a direct sales channel. A PPC ad, served to someone typing in a search query looking for your exact product, is always going to give a better result in pure monetary terms than someone who happened to be browsing Facebook for funny cat videos and saw your ad pop up out of the blue when they’d never heard of your product before. But the person Googling your product might never have known about it if they hadn’t seen that ad on Facebook first.
Fight or flight
With creative marketing having changed so much, not only was I not enjoying it anymore, I actively disliked it. My social media feeds were full of irrelevant and uninteresting ads demanding my money, every website I visited had a “blog” that was just a long list of reasons I should buy their products, and my email inbox was being bombarded by notifications of sales and discount codes for things I didn’t want. And by working in the industry, I felt like I was just part of this very, very annoying problem.
I figured I should get out and leave the whole sorry mess to it.
But in the end, that’s not what I decided to do. Creative marketing used to be a wonderful space where we could provide value and joy and information and humour and make real connections. It allowed brands to have a personality and take it out into the world where it could make friends. I don’t want to give up on that.
So that’s where I am now. I work with organisations that want to do more than just shout at potential customers to buy their products; who want to make their marketing and communications activities meaningful and purposeful.
I help businesses to define their organisational values – their reason for existing – and translate that into actions that will resonate with their audiences. We build long-term strategies that aren’t about turning up a few quick pennies, but that nurture substantial gains over time. We develop ways of connecting with the people that matter to drive awareness, interest, loyalty and advocacy. We create business identities that stand out amongst a crowded marketplace. We do marketing that matters.
Now, I bloody love what I do.