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Marketing Strategy: The Looming Knowledge Crisis

Marketing Strategy: The Looming Knowledge Crisis

Social media is making marketing lazy.  It’s created a “cut and paste” content marketing culture.

So said Simms Jenkins speaking on a panel in Atlanta hosted by the team from the Oracle Marketing Cloud.

I think he’s on to something, but I also think it’s symptomatic of a larger problem lurking underneath. That problem is an enormous gap in strategic marketing knowledge.   Indeed, citing LinkedIn data, Adweek noted marketing agencies are bleeding strategy talent.

That was the point when, in 2012, I predicted somewhat provocatively, that social media strategists will be gone in 2 years.  I got some pushback on that including a comment about building a strategy around a tactic; that comment made my point better than I did.

I’m all for iterative improvement — aiming for home runs is usually a waste of resources — but even interation should be married to strategy.

strategy-will-come-into-renewed-focusx600

Marketers position messages and message to position and the whole thing – as important as it is – has become so muddled as to be indistinguishable.  If that doesn’t make sense, then that’s what I’m driving at.  These words get tossed around thoughtlessly in business meetings.

This is because marketing as an industry is today overwhelmingly tactically oriented.  Our trades, our blogs, our internal strategy memos – have all devolved to tools, tips and techniques to drive a quick bump in whatever KPI is currently in fashion.  Yet KPIs are not the goal but stepping stones to some larger, longer-term, overarching goal.


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This is not strategic.  This is not clear thinking.  It lacks the focus, and organizational discipline, and historical context.

In part, this is driven by the environment.  The numbers are tracked in the short-term – quarterly – at the expense of the long-term.  This short-term thinking is Wall Street marketing.

Consequently, marketing changes tactics, changes leaders, changes staffing, changes its logo, changes it font, changes it colors, it centralizes, it decentralizes and on and on it goes…

It’s a lot of churn with very little to show for it.  Marketing organizations are the masters of re-inventing the wheel.

Increasingly, marketing is not willing, or is simply unable, to take a stand and say: marketing is hard work. This will take time. This a slow build.  It requires data, and research, and analysis.

But it’s really important that we get this right. Because if we get it wrong, we’ll spend a lot more money, and a lot more time, in all the wrong places, and on all the wrong programs, and wind up right back where we started.

Yet the industry bows to pressure and continues to look for quick hits, the listicles, the cut and paste content.  And our KPIs look great, but the business isn’t growing.  This is winning some battles at the expense of the war.

Strategy will come into renewed focus as effective marketing is only going to grow more challenging and will require more patience and resources. Media diversification and fragmentation of channels will intersect a more confusing array of possible enemies, friendlies, frenemies and fence-sitters.

I’ve seen a number of surveys suggesting CMOs are fretting over the deficiency of digital skills on their teams.  No doubt, the lack of digital skills, especially in large organizations, is an affliction.

While it’s a curable affliction, that cure had better come fast, because it is going to be worse in the coming years when these teams lack both digital skills and strategic know-how.


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Photo Credit: Flickr, Marlon E, untitled (CC BY-SA 2.0

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