“Marketing used to be about creating a myth and selling it. Now, it is about finding the truth and sharing it. Being transparent and focusing on telling a story in a very human, humorous and honest way that people can engage with is critical.” — Marc Mathieu, Samsung USA Chief Marketing Officer; AdvertisingAge, Samsung USA CMO Marc Mathieu Shares His ‘Secret Sauce’
I really hate this quote.
Maybe I’m being overly literal in my interpretation (or overly sensitive) but Marc Mathieu seems to be saying marketing used to be a con game that finally cleaned up its act. I’m sorry but that’s not marketing. That’s sales. Just kidding.
In fairness, there are brands that have taken the myth-making approach when it comes to marketing and sales. The founder of Revlon Cosmetics, for example, famously said that what his company really sells is hope, not cosmetics. But there have always been plenty of brands taking the opposite approach—engaging audiences by telling the truth in human and honest ways.
This is true of the vast majority of companies and clients I’ve worked with over the years. When these companies claimed to make their buyers lives easier … or give companies better tools to manage people and resources … or improve the ways employers acquire talent … they meant it. And they backed up their claims with hard data and real-life success stories.
In his article, “Does Truth Belong in Marketing?,” Matthew Grant, editor-in-chief of Aberdeen’s CMO Essentials publication, observes how permission marketing, inbound marketing and content marketing have all given rise to greater “truthiness in marketing.” Certainly, all of these trends have helped elevate the value of much of the content brands develop. Marketing departments are now widely tasked with creating thought leadership content to 1) showcase their brand’s expertise, 2) educate their key audiences, and 3) share insights and information that have real business value.
Unquestionably, the goal of all of this marketing content is the same as it always was: to nurture prospects into buyers and to retain buyers’ loyalty. But that certainly doesn’t preclude employing the truth to accomplish these goals.
In my own experience, one of the most important factors that has kept marketing grounded in reality rather than myth-making is this: marketing is driven by sales. Not the other way around.
In companies where the reverse is true or where marketing and sales are siloed, myth-driven marketing could be more common. In these organizations, the marketing team might well be operating in a kind of void, lacking crucial knowledge the sales team can provide (e.g., what are buyers’ top pain points, why deals are being closed successfully, why others are falling through, what draws prospects in the first place, etc.). Without intelligence from the sales team or expensive market research, marketers may be forced to make assumptions or create myth.
As I noted previously, maybe I’m taking Marc Mathieu’s quote a bit too literally. Then again it’s hard not to take exception to the sweeping generalization he makes. Marketing isn’t some long con that has finally found religion. Marketers have always known the power of sharing the truth. That’s nothing new. What is new is the power buyers and other audiences wield thanks to the Internet and social media. They’re now sharing the truth about their brand experiences—far and wide, in real time and in ever-growing numbers.
No amount of myth-based marketing can stand against that tide.
About the Author: Michael Civiello is a communications strategist and senior writer at fisher VISTA. He collaborates with clients every day to develop messaging, content and PR campaigns that build brand awareness and marketplace credibility.