I was recently on an early morning, scheduled, budget airline flight to the exotic land of Luton airport when it struck me how marketing easily and, in many cases, justifiably get the blame for wasting time, money and customers' patience.
The very jolly eastern European cabin crew member started the briefing and the most bizarre thing happened. She introduced the cabin crew by name and then said "now you know who we are, this is the time for you to turn to the person next to you, shake their hand and ask their name".
This could have been a very happy person acting on her own initiative or I could have been hallucinating. However, it felt like something dreamt up by a marketing department to emphasise their new friendly and approachable brand image. If this was the case, it joins the long list of marketing initiatives in history designed to make people hate marketing.
I have particular loathing for a certain coffee chain infesting a high street (and side street, shopping centre, airport, train station etc- you get the point) that want to write your name on your bucket of coffee, just so another member of staff can mispronounce it. What is the point? It does not make a faceless global company feel like a local privately owned cafe. It makes it feel like a police state (albeit with comfy sofas) where you need to prove your ID.
Then there is the long list of pointless rebrandings. PwC changing its name (for a time) to Monday, the British post office becoming Consignia and the ex-monopoly & market leading Irish Telco, Eircom changing its name to Eir. Yes - a communications company dropping any reference to communications (however truncated) in its name. The accompanying marketing guff to explain these changes and the physical embarrassment of the executives justifying the massive costs involved, must be a major contributor to global warming.
I could go on, as history is littered with more examples of these and other worthless marketing activity. The point about mentioning things that have certainly disappeared from the CVs of the guilty, is that they seem designed to kill marketing as a serious discipline.
The serious point about all this, is that every pointless, stupid marketing error (I give you "nothing sucks like an Electrolux") is another excuse for senior management to take marketing less seriously and cut budgets.
Famously marketing spend is one of the first things to be cut in a recession and this is useful because it does tend to curb excesses. However, as we apparently are moving out of recession we must make sure that we do not go down the path of excess, but use increasing budgets for good.
Marketing is important and in the new buyer empowered sales environment is more important than ever, as new tools and techniques are used to find customers wherever they are lurking. This is solid, continual back office work which can also provide an outlet for creativity. The large rebranding exercises and event commercials now have no place in B2B and reducing influence in B2C.
Now is the time to focus on marketing that wins business rather than marketing that has been mainly designed to win awards (mind you I wouldn't turn down an award. I hardly get to wear that tux these days).