I know a group of amazing people.
And I actually happen to be part of that amazing group, not to blow my own horn.
These people are some of the most interesting, diverse, and — dare I say it — underappreciated folks I've ever had the pleasure to know.
If you haven't guessed yet (the title may have given it away somewhat), I'm talking about marketers.
Although everybody broadly knows what a marketer is (even if the first thing their mind jumps to is Don Draper), very few people understand what we do day-to-day. What our purpose is.
It's difficult to explain this to those who don't already get it. There tend to be two approaches:
- The super-simple "I help to sell things" (best used on grandma).
- The super-erudite "I write and curate content to be used in various campaigns across various channels" (best used in interviews).
Because the role of marketer is both deceptively simple and annoyingly difficult to sum up, stereotypes inevitably appear. Like little joy-stealing gremlins.
Here are just some of the things that are commonly believed about marketers, both by the wider public and by those who should know better:
- Marketers are just hacks trying to sell me stuff I don't want.
- Marketers aren't special — anyone can do their job.
- Marketers use loads of buzzwords to obscure what they mean (we might be a little guilty of this).
- Marketers are people who aren't skilled enough to get into any other industry (ouch!).
- Marketers make everything up as they go along.
These misconceptions hurt. :(
Not just because they're untrue and fairly offensive, but because they devalue everything our industry does and everything it contributes to society.
That's why I'm writing this post, and why I'm calling it a "love letter". (It wasn't just a sneaky attempt to get you to click.)
It's because we all deserve a bit of love, especially at this time of year.
We deserve to be reminded that what we do is important, skilled, and worthwhile.
Marketers Aren't Hacks
Do you know what most marketers want to do on a daily basis?
They want to help people.
Help potential customers find the solution they're looking for. Help their boss launch a new product. Help everyone to enjoy an awesome event.
Basically, marketers are problem solvers.
Marketers aren't soulless suits who just want to make themselves or someone else bucketfuls of money (although if you're not hurting anyone, that's not the worst motivation ever).
There's a certain type of person in this world that takes a perverse joy in trying to feel superior than everyone else. These kinds of people will wrinkle their nose when you tell them you work in marketing. They will wonder how you can live with yourself when you're contributing to evil corporate brainwashing (their words, not mine).
I believe we all have a responsibility to contribute to humanity as a whole. (And just like most people, I occasionally enjoy making fun of examples of terrible marketing.) I also believe that not everyone can be a doctor or a care worker or a global warming activist.
Get your classic marketing fail's!
Some of us have to do less glamorous stuff, like explaining why this particular product or service is one worth spending money on.
No, we don't save lives, but we do help to educate people and assist them in solving their own problems.
After all, when you have an issue you want to find out quickly how to resolve it. You expect to Google something online and within seconds see several options to choose between. Just imagine a world without SEO, where you'd have to browse pages and pages to discover all your local pizza places... the horror!
I'm being facetious. But you get my point.
Good marketing seeks to be informative, not deceptive. We're trying to explain why our product or service is right for the customer, not convince them to buy something they didn't actually want.
In short: we're not hacks.
Marketers Do Their Part
Speaking of contributing to society...
I'm not going to come right out and say all adverts are art.
But marketers frequently create beautiful things. We write beautiful words. We contribute to the crazy, collaborative endeavour that is our popular culture.
At the end of the day, we're people just like everybody else.
People who want to express themselves. People who want to grow and learn and develop. People who want to make the world a better place, with every ad we produce or piece of content we write.
Marketers Fall Into It
It's true. I don't know any kid who wants to be a marketer when they grow up (I certainly didn't).
Plenty of marketers seem to be in the industry just because they fell into it somehow. They got an entry role as a Marketing Assistant and worked their way up. Or they were offered the job because of their people skills and their ability to handle spreadsheets.
As for me, I loved both words and numbers. I took English Literature and Physics at A-Level, and in my spare time I wrote poems and built basic websites.
I couldn't see how to merge both of these passions.
But I fell into marketing anyway, and funnily enough marketing gave me my answer.
What other job could see me writing copy for an email and coding the layout of that email on the same day? Where else could I use language to affect the way people think and back up my decisions with analytics I've gathered from a series of A/B tests?
Marketing people get drawn to marketing for this very reason: it offers them something that no other industry can.
I love marketing because it's this strange blend of seemingly irreconcilable things. It's logic and intuition. It's science and art.
I made this uber-creative image just to illustrate my point.
And marketers are just as contradictory as their craft. They're artists and scientists. They're emotive and data-driven and pensive and fast-paced. This is what makes them wonderful, unique people.
Marketers Embrace Science and Art
This is perhaps my favourite thing about marketing. It allows us do this magical, mysterious thing whereby we take the best parts of scientific and artistic thinking and merge them.
(By the way, it's not really witchcraft, it's just a lot of hard work and trial and error.)
And you know what?
It isn't fair.
Because the scientists that conduct experiments all day long think we're wishy-washy for paying attention to our instinct and being inspired by every shiny new thing we see.
And the true, tortured artists think we're too focused on results and too dependent on hard numbers to help make our choices.
But we walk the middle ground. We try to stay true to both sides of the argument — we can't rely solely on our intuitions, nor can we always trust the numbers. No, it's the balance of the two that makes marketing so varied and so interesting.
Are we sort of like Jedi? I don't know. But in writing this post I think I've convinced myself to buy a lightsaber.
Here are two marketers.
Marketers Are Strong
I honestly believe marketers are some of the most resilient, tenacious people in the corporate world.
We navigate a constantly changing industry, where frequently swapping tactics is a way of life. We're used to operating on our toes. There doesn't seem to be much that can faze us.
This also means that marketers are dogged in their determination. We very rarely give up.
Instead, we focus on continual improvement — our aim is for each new campaign and every new set of results to be better than the last. Like I said, we're problem solvers.
And no matter what changes around us, we have to keep believing in ourselves.
- Even when the numbers turn against us.
- Even when we have to switch strategies and then switch them again next week.
- Even when the budget gets cut.
No matter what, we're still there, still determined to achieve bigger and better.
We can't give up when a designer asks for our copy to be halved or when a client asks for our newsletter to be 'at least 20% cooler'. Through it all, we search for solutions and success.
I've seen all of this firsthand.
I've seen marketers achieve incredible things.
And despite that, I know we're still misunderstood at times (because how hard can it be to send out some emails, amirite?). But together, we make a hell of an industry. An industry full of great new ideas, creative solutions, and genuine love and passion.
Here's to many more years of that.
Here's to every great marketer in the world. Here's to the A/B testers, the email optimisers, the social media schedulers, the campaign planners, the SEO link builders, the eBook designers, the funnel tweakers, the community keepers, the headline writers, the content creators, the PR generators, the problem solvers.
But most of all, here's to the stubborn, the believers, the can-doers.
Here's to you.