I have met the enemy and it is us.

Yup. Not to sound like an alarmist, but if those of us who earn our livelihoods in marketing continue down the same long, circuitous path we’ve been on since the turn of this millennium, we may as well throw our hands up in the air and cry “uncle.”

Never mind the Joneses, after all, we’re hardly keeping up with anyone anymore on the receiving end of our marketing messages.

We’re moving in circles as an industry, if we’re moving at all. We’re falling dangerously far behind.
We need to wake up and smell the cold-brewed coffee. We need to stop marketing like it’s 1999 and start realizing that it’s no longer business as usual.

This is 2017 going on a future like you and I can only begin to imagine. This is no time to hem and haw.
Please don’t shoot the messenger, either. I’m merely passing along these words to the wise not just based on my own hands-on experience, but on what I’ve been hearing through the grapevine lately.

As disconcerting as it may be to digest, here are 10 things that are wrong with marketing today…

1. Spam. What junk mail did to direct mail, spam has done to email. People are receiving far too many irrelevant emails from brands they don’t want to hear from, undermining the effectiveness of those online messages of ours that are targeted and timed so well. You know what they about a few bad apples. Read “Why Do Marketers in 2017 Still Spam?”

2. Trust. Ask around. Where do you think those of us in marketing and advertising stand in the minds of consumers? Down there with lobbyists, politicians, telemarketers and car salespeople. Ouch. Read “Attention Marketers! People Don’t Trust Your Marketing Strategy!”

3. Innovation. Ironic, isn’t it? Innovate is what we do day in and day out, yet we’re still not doing it quickly enough. Read “Nick Law: There’s a Lack of Imagination in the Advertising Industry”

4. Knowledge. We may be smart, but our knowledge as individual practitioners still pales in comparison to what members of our audience know collectively. They’re a diverse, dynamic group, constantly in motion, perpetually changing. A culture of continuous learning within the marketing workplace must be a top priority going forward. Read “Marketers Lack the Skills to Deliver on Customer Experience”

5. Technology. Ah, the bane of our existence. As soon as we catch on to one disruptive trend, another one comes along. Yikes. More changes in technology have taken place in the 21st century than most, if not all of us, have seen in our lifetimes. Read “Staying Technology Relevant Has Suddenly Become a Full-Time Responsibility”

6. Agencies. This one hurts personally, as agencies have been the lifeblood of my career. But all good things must come to an end, and the agency model as we know it needs to undergo a massive overhaul if you, me and everyone else in this industry expects to thrive, not just survive as professionals. Read “Forrester: Marketers are the Catalyst to Fix the Broken Agency Model” and “Marketing Agencies are Broken”

7. Quality. We can’t say we didn’t see this coming. Unfortunately, what our parents warned us about while growing up has finally come true. Call it carelessness. Call it informality. Call it inattention to grammar, punctuation, detail and accuracy. Whatever we call it, it could cost us our jobs. Read “Poor-Quality Ads Cost U.S. Marketers $7.4 Billion”

8. Turnover. A lack of continuity and cohesion among teams, especially those at the leadership level, is never good for business. So-called churn-and-burn hiring may never end, but it needs to at least slow down for not just the agency era, but for the marketing industry as we know it to endure. Read “CMO Turnover Reaches New High”

9. Strategy. Why do you think so many ads are being blocked, ignored and avoided today? Why do you think consumers have turned against us? We’re not putting enough time, effort and thought into what we do, that’s why. We’re sacrificing strategy for expediency. We’re cutting corners to cut costs. We’re being penny wise and pound foolish. Read “10 Reasons You Need a Digital Marketing Strategy in 2017”

10. Irrelevancy. Not to sound like a broken record, but we need to do for ourselves what we do for our products, services, clients and customers. We can’t be like the cobbler and his shoes. We need to not just rebrand ourselves, but literally transform ourselves from the inside out before it’s too late. Read “5 of the Biggest Challenges Facing Today’s Marketers”

All that said, this is a fantastically fun time to be in marketing. Seriously. We just need a big course correction, that’s all. We need to seize the day. Digital. Mobile. Social. AI. Augmented reality. VR. Chatbots. Ephemeral content. Livestreaming video. You name it. There are more opportunities than ever today to take our industry further and faster than we ever could have imagined. I absolutely love my job. I love what I do for a living. I love a good challenge. Who else is in?


  • Bob Cargill

    Bob Cargill, who was named the New England Direct Marketing Association's "Direct Marketer of the Year" for 2009, is an independent social media director, content marketer, copywriter, storyteller, creative director and public speaker...available for hire. You can follow Bob on Twitter at @cargillcreative.