Why isn’t marketing more popular?

Who says it isn’t (you may well ask)? Where’s the survey?

As it’s the silly season, I offer no research, just conjecture and portentous conclusions. But is that any worse than countless articles, programmes and blogs where the data is briefly summarised and then discarded in a welter of opinion? My first job was as a Nielsen presenter, and I was taught to interrogate the figures and never deviate into guesswork. Here is the other end of the spectrum – no data and plenty of speculation.

Marketers are loved by agencies eager for their business, but apparently by few others. Take the denizens of any commuter train or tube. Very few of their professions and job descriptions would excite much admiration or even approval from the world at large. In the early days of TV panel games there was a long-running classic called ‘What’s My Line?’. Contestants were welcomed, and required to perform some mime to give a clue to what they did for a living. I remember that when the panel had cracked the puzzle, the audience would invariably applaud enthusiastically. Chimney sweeps, accountants, tea tasters – it made no difference. All jobs were respected and OK back then.

How very different now. To judge from newspaper and internet chatter, I suspect that marketing and advertising might not be down there with bankers and politicians, but would probably fall into the shyster/exploiter category alongside estate agents and car salesmen. Pity that, because we mean so well.

After all, the language of marketing and marketing communications is so caring and consumer-friendly. We listen. We learn. We wish to offer benefits, superior performance, outstanding value, and indeed ultimate satisfaction. Our generosity in bringing radical new products to market is only matched by our dedication to improving familiar brands and repositioning them to make them more appealing to today’s mother, shopper, householder, motorist, whatever.

But they still don’t like us much:

• ‘Products would be cheaper if brand owners spent less on advertising and promotion’ (generally untrue)
• ‘Admen are always making spurious claims about superiority’ (surprising given the toughness of truth in advertising legislation)
• ‘Top marketers and advertising people are overpaid’ (tosh – look at city boys and girls, entertainers and footballers)

The scepticism towards our industry is even more remarkable given the dramatic swing from command and control communications (telling people what to buy) to conversational dialogue in social media and a new emphasis on sharing content.

Maybe the #1 goal of the marketing industry in 2014 should be to market marketing itself, and marketers, as forces for good.