Ah, poor marketing.
It has definitely been a rough patch for marketing the last few years. From those predicting that [fashionable term X] is the “new” marketing (social media! engagement! community-building! customer experience! design! communications!) to those predicting its outright demise, there are a lot of people looking past marketing to whatever comes next.
For many of us, marketing is what we know. We’ve been practicing marketing so long, it is, to paraphrase Chicago (yes, I just did that), a “hard habit to break.”
So if you’ve been tearfully exclaiming, “I wish I knew how to quit you, marketing!” I come bearing hope. What follows is the first in a series of things you can do right now to break marketing’s hold on you. Quitting has to start somewhere. It might as well be here.
First, a short history:
In the beginning, communications were personal. I’m sure it all started when Og was sitting in the cave talking to Grog about his new stone arrowhead design, responding to Grog’s questions and telling stories about all of the animals he had killed with the new arrowhead (brand positioning: lighter design, so you can throw farther, kill bigger, and feed your clan better).
Fast forward to the Industrial Revolution, and all of the sudden we humans were creating goods and services that could be delivered to many more people at once than ever before. While this was fantastic, and made a lot of people a lot of money, the downside was that we could no longer communicate the benefits of the goods we were making to each person individually.
So we developed new ways of communicating to many people at once—mass communications. Along the way, the idea of marketing was born (fun fact: a telegraph was used for mass unsolicited spam as early as 1864!).
And all was awesome. For about 100 years or so.
I’ve been toying around with a new hypothesis. Here it is:
Formality in business is dying.
Now I am not talking about Blue Jeans Friday and Bring Your Pet to Work Day all of the sudden cropping up everywhere. I’ve seen very formally-run businesses where people showed up in jeans with their dogs or whatever. So much superficial informality.
What I’m talking about is a fundamental shift of business culture and management practices from formal to informal in many innovative companies. What do I mean? Let’s take a step back.
Here are two of the ways Merriam-Webster defines the word formal.
– relating to or involving the outward form, structure, relationships, or arrangement of elements rather than content
– having the appearance without the substance
That first definition of formality stands out for me as a perfect description of almost every formal business practice I have ever encountered. “Relating to or involving the outward form, structure, relationship of arrangement of elements rather than the content” (emphasis mine).
Organizational charts. Job titles. Performance reviews. Operational reviews. Strategic planning projects.
In your experience, do these things usually reflect the man-on-the-street reality of the business? Or are they an attempt to impose structure on things that do their best to defy it?
The irony is that, while most formal business practices are attempts to manage the complexity of business by defining structure, they usually fail miserably to capture the true complexity of business. They focus on the structure rather than the real content—and they usually don’t even get that right.
In my experience, most business practices that attempt to formalize structure are about as successful as attempts to construct buildings out of clouds. By the time we finish the plan, everything has already changed beyond recognition.
[Read the rest of this post on opensource.com]