Fixing Marketing’s Perception Problem

Thomas Barta discusses marketing’s perception problem. By this he means more an internal perception problem within firms than an external view (of marketers as sleazy). Internally marketing is seen as unaccountable — a bit of a black hole for funds. As marketers we don’t often appreciate the problem. As Barta notes we like the classic (Peter Drucker) idea that only marketing and innovation matter. Sadly not everyone sees it that way. He suggests that: “To fix marketing’s perception problem, we must overcome three issues: forecast phobia, noise obsession, and purpose confusion”. (Barta, 2018)

Noise obsession is the idea that when marketers measure they often measure what doesn’t really matter. Measures such as likes are touted but few firms want likes, they want sales. It is great if likes lead to sales but likes for likes’ sake is a bit of a waste of everyone’s time. We need to move beyond the noise and focus on what matters.

Purpose confusion is connected. To Barta the purpose of marketing is selling. This can even be relatively noble; it helps people keep their jobs. (The marketer at a very minimum).

My favourite criticism was that marketers experience “forecast phobia”. Why does this matter? “Marketing is all about future success. Future revenue, future profit. And that future is hard to forecast. So marketers tend to avoid forecasting, because they could be wrong — and look stupid” (Barta, 2018). The problem is that to plan we need forecasts. If we have no estimate of what will happen we have no way of deciding what looks like a better plan. To Barta (and I agree) hard to forecast is no excuse. People do hard things all the time when the hard tasks have value. “We need the same effort in marketing” (Barta, 2018).

Read: Thomas Barta (2018) To fix marketing’s perception problem, we must overcome three issues, Marketing Week, 5 November,