Marketing has lost its Mojo

The role of marketing is reduced to the packing of lies

Only look at the themes of marketing conferences, and you’ll know which existential questions the industry is struggling with. Last year it was the changing consumer. This year it is growth. There is a good reason why growth keeps marketeers busy: marketing has lost its impact on growth.

I see three reasons why marketing has lost its mojo: disruption, complexity and boardroom power. Today any market or industry can be turned upside down by new, unknown players much faster than its marketing and advertising can save it. While marketing departments with ever smaller budgets have to squeeze the last percentage points of growth out of the old business model, competitors with clever, new business models – and quick VC funding – take the market by surprise.

The thing that makes it worse, is that marketing disciplines have become so fragmented and complex, that there’s no way they’re going to develop the speed and flexibility of their challengers. While the marketing and sales department are holding their umpteenth meeting trying to agree, the startup’s customer development team are running 10 A/B tests at the same time.

And finally, one skeleton after another is falling out of the closets of a derailed financial and management elite who have used their companies as a means to satisfy their own megalomaniacal ambitions. Think of banks like ING, SNS and ABN AMRO, but also KLM and Douwe Egberts. While ING marketeers are told to sell this utterly Dutch ´Orange sentiment´,  the company is threatening to relocate to London if they’re not allowed to hand out any bonuses. While Douwe Egberts sells this very Dutch ´coffee feeling´ to consumers, the CEO sells Douwe Egberts to a German Hedge Fund. And while the marketing branch of KLM is praised to the skies as a leading marketing company, KLM is balancing on the edge of bankruptcy. The marketing department makes great wrapping paper for lies.

Marketing has become a puppet on a string. And that at a time when recognizing the changes in the market and understanding what moves people is becoming more important than ever.

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