Why Most Marketing Sucks

Being a great marketer in the context of a big corporation really isn’t hard. Most roles in their ever-expanding marketing departments serve a very narrow function – SEO, SEM or just Social Media – and if you simply make sure the pages are live and nothing goes horribly wrong, you’re a success. You have fulfilled your corporate duty and until the day you quit to go do that same narrow function somewhere else, you’re good.  Box checked. All is well.

That box checking is quite simply why most marketing sucks. We leave innovation to someone else to do, typically conceptualized and executed by expensive agencies who have budgets that would make a startup gasp. I realize I’m probably lifting a curtain on the marketing magic but it’s time you knew, and I’m happy to break that marketing code and reveal it.

In that handoff of responsibility for being remarkable, a lot of companies that specialize in marketing automation and nurturing snuck in with a bunch of checklists and convinced everyone that marketing is something anyone can do with a photoshop subscriptions and a Twitter handle. That if you follow their prescriptive success plan, the outcome will be respectable enough to showcase on some powerpoint slide when the quarter ends. Those assholes convinced everyone it’s really quick and easy to do great marketing.

But great marketing is not like a Sham-wow. It is not quick or easy when you actually get it right. It takes personal connection, relationship building, empathy and awareness in the context of great risk and rare reward. See, you can’t automate and outsource to actually make an impact with great marketing. And most of the time, even if you get it right – no one will see it because of the sheer volume of marketing people are attacked with every day.

Social media is the format where this reality is most apparent. Now, when I think about social media that represents me – like my Twitter handle, for example – I have a certain set of values and criteria for things I share. I have a distinct voice – my own. I don’t automate any of my tweets for fear that the content that is shared via that feed won’t represent my opinions and values. I’m not naive enough to think every tweet I read is read by anyone else but tweeting just to tweet isn’t worth it to me. I’d rather say what I believe is right than just say something.

I learned that lesson from Matt Charney . He taught me that voice and opinion are more important than saying anything and the proof is in his following. I mean, I taught the guy to tweet and he has 5x as many followers as I do because he has always had a voice and won’t let anyone intimidate or scare him from sharing it. I will admit, however, that I know it takes really big balls to demand that in a corporate environment. To demand to have a voice and not to mince words but rather to call people on their shit on behalf of an organization.

But more often than not, these companies take the opposite approach to social media and pursue that automated, checklist strategy. I can’t think of many companies that say no to half-assed shit. How often do you, the person they’re hypothetically trying to persuade, realize there’s a real person behind that company with a voice and an opinion? Not often, I’d bet.

For big brands, it’s just too easy to standardize and make everything really fucking boring and for most companies, that’s ok. They’re measuring impressions and followers, not conversions and conversations. They’re focused on the wrong things so the wrong tactics are just fine.

Now, if you’re looking for some check-list to tell you what to do next and how to make marketing remarkable, you missed the entire point.

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Kat Kibben View All →

Kat Kibben [they/them] is a keynote speaker, writing expert, and LGBTQIA+ advocate who teaches hiring teams how to write inclusive job postings that will get the right person to apply faster.

Before founding Three Ears Media, Katrina was a CMO, Technical Copywriter, and Managing Editor for leading companies like Monster, Care.com, and Randstad Worldwide. With 15+ years of recruitment marketing and training experience, Katrina knows how to turn talented recruiting teams into talented writers who write for people, not about work.

Today, Katrina is frequently featured as an HR and recruiting expert in publications like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. They’ve been named to numerous lists, including LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Job Search & Careers. When not speaking, writing, or training, you’ll find Katrina traveling the country in their van or spending some much needed downtime with the dogs that inspired the name Three Ears Media.

2 Comments Leave a comment

    • Exactly! It’s so much harder than point and click. A check list will give the basic guidelines but innovation won’t come with some check boxes.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

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