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Grumpy Old Marketers

I’ve read a few blog posts recently from a tribe of people I’m going to call the “Grumpy Old Marketers.” Not because they necessarily are actually grumpy, but because their rants remind me of Dana Carvey’s “Grumpy Old Man” character from Saturday night live. Members of this group include grizzled industry veterans who insist that, “In my day, we didn’t have all this social media stuff. We spent 60 hours a week cold calling people who cursed at us and hung up on us until our ears were bleeding. That was the way it was and we liked it!”

If it stopped there, it wouldn’t deserve a rant. But one article recently set me off. The author had a sales and marketing automation system running on a Digital minicomputer back in 1982. He insists that his customers enjoyed the marketing collateral and white papers he sent, lovingly arranging them into three ring binders. In his post, the author wants us to believe that mailing brochures is the same as crafting an e-book, and pressing the flesh at a cocktail party is the same as connecting on LinkedIn. And while I agree with his central point that human behaviors are the same as they have always been, his final conclusion – and thus his advice – is simply dangerous in my opinion.

Permission Marketing

He argues that they did “permission marketing” back in 1982.

How exactly did he know when somebody no longer wanted their propaganda? Does he really think that people took the time to fill out his little postcard and mail them back to stop receiving his junk mail? Doubt it. And today’s permission marketing is all about people opting into the medium as well as the content. He had one tool – direct mail – where now, people can subscribe to email or RSS, fan pages, Tweets, SMS, etc…

Content Marketing

He argues that they did “content marketing” back in 1982.

“They [customers] received high quality, current information about products and the industry free of charge.” While this may be true, it’s like a caveman laughing at a tank saying, “We had artillery back in the stone age too! We called them ‘rocks.'” His brochures and white papers cost his company a fortune in production, printing and mailing costs. Today, I can write my own e-book with free open source software, upload it to a cloud-based host like Scribd for free, register with an affiliate sales channel for free, Tweet it, share it on Facebook and have it downloaded by a million people without spending a nickel. I can record high definition video on a $150 Flip camera and upload it to YouTube where millions more can watch it – for free.

Furthermore, his content was not discoverable. Your name had to end up in his database somehow or a colleague had to give you his/her copy. You couldn’t simply type some keywords into a brochure search engine and have it magically fly onto your desk.

I don’t think today’s low/no cost multimedia environment is anything remotely like what he’s describing.

Social Marketing

He argues that they did “social marketing” using telephones back in 1982.

Again, that version of social marketing was done on a one to one basis, where today’s version is one to thousands to millions. Apples and oranges.

Social Networking

He argues that they did “social networking” at trade shows back in 1982.

This one’s just flat out wrong. The definition of social networks today is a many to many network of producers who are also its own audience. When you’re exhibiting at a tradeshow, you are a producer and the attendees are the consumers. Period. Completely different paradigm.

Marketing “In Enfilade”

Vickers machine gun crew with gas masksHis conclusion is that marketing is “simple” and hasn’t changed at all – only the technology. I strongly disagree. When the machine gun was first introduced into warfare, they tried to use it the same as they would a rifle; head on. It turned out not to be very effective since they were so immobile. But when they figured out that moving them “in enfilade” (flanking the formation shoot along the longest axis), they created interlocking fields of fire that became the death traps in Word War I. The point is that the battle strategies had to change dramatically when they went from single shot rifles to machine guns.

Likewise, just because there are some similarities between direct marketing tactics and social marketing tactics, it doesn’t mean the strategies are the same. In fact, they are very different.

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