Myths of Marketing
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Myths of Marketing

Banish the Misconceptions and Become a Great Marketer

Grant Leboff

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eBook - ePub

Myths of Marketing

Banish the Misconceptions and Become a Great Marketer

Grant Leboff

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About This Book

It's common knowledge that marketing is nothing but advertising, and if your business comes through word of mouth then you don't need marketing anyway. Besides, everyone knows that social media is the best form of free marketing there is... don't they? The world of marketing is abound with a staggering number of misconceptions, fallacies and falsehoods. In Myths of Marketing, recognized industry expert Grant Leboff takes readers on a fascinating and entertaining journey through some of the most deeply entrenched stereotypes that exist in the industry, from the idea that sales and marketing are basically the same and that getting people's attention costs a lot of money, to the notion that demography is the best way to segment your market and 'content is king'. Using a combination of academic research, amusing examples and industry case studies, Myths of Marketing effectively debunks many of the most pervasive myths and assumptions, leaving readers with a clearer, more perceptive understanding of marketing as a whole, to improve their own practice and marketing strategy.

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Before the proliferation of digital technology, the overwhelming majority of the information we obtained came from traditional media companies. We received the news from broadcasters on radio and television or in magazines and newspapers. We read books and trade magazines from publishers, listened to music from record companies and watched TV programmes and films, produced and distributed by studios. It was these entities that had the sole means of distribution and could reach a wider audience.
A number of developments then changed this paradigm. By 1989, some of the largest commercial email services in the world such as MCI Mail, Ontyme, Telemail and CompuServe had connected their respective email systems to the internet, thus connecting them with each other for the first time, and marking ‘the start of commercial Internet services in the United States’ [1]. This was followed by British scientist Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World Wide Web, while working at CERN. By December of 1990 Berners-Lee had built all the tools needed for a working World Wide Web [2]. Then, in April 1993 CERN put the World Wide Web software in the public domain, making it available on a royalty-free basis. This open licence maximized dissemination and, as stated on the CERN website, it was these actions that ‘allowed the web to flourish’ [3].
As the web developed, social media emerged. Six Degrees, created by Andrew Weinreich in May 1996 and launched the following year, is widely considered to have been the very first social networking site. It ‘combined popular features such as profiles, friends lists and school affiliations in one service’ [4]. These phenomena, together with the increasing adoption of smart phones in the first decade of the 2000s, changed the nature of communications.
Today, everyone owns media channels. Companies such as the BBC, Comcast, CBS Corporation and Viacom are still broadcasting as they always did. In fact, by utilizing the web, streaming services and apps, many of the world’s largest media companies have a bigger output than ever before. While these enterprises have expanded their offerings, the shift is that now businesses and organizations also own media.
A media channel is essentially a distribution medium for reaching an audience. Entities such as a website, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile, YouTube channel or Instagram account should be treated as media channels, as they provide a company with the ability to reach an audience. What makes any of these compelling is the content an organization posts on these platforms.
Marketing Communications (marcom) used to be the craft of interrupting someone else’s audience. A business would decide on a market it would like to target, and then pay the entity that had that audience’s attention. For example, a training provider wanting to reach HR professionals may have decided to advertise in an HR magazine dedicated to that profession.
Radio, TV, cinema, billboards, journals, newspapers and magazines were used to interrupt people in the same way. Similarly, direct mail enabled organizations to obtain eyeballs, using the postal system, by purchasing stamps. Telemarketing utilized the telephone network through call charges. Of course, there are times when paying to interrupt an audience will remain part of a marcom strategy. If it is effective, there is no reason why it should not be a component.
However, digital now dominates every facet of our lives and needs to be right at the core of any marcom strategy. Operating these channels relies less on traditional marcom disciplines and more on practices associated with the media. Today, an organization can invest in building a brilliant website, put together an amazing Facebook page or create the most marvellous YouTube channel but, unlike in traditional marcom, there will be no immediate audience. In other words, businesses now need to build an audience and retain it. This is a traditional media discipline, not a marketing one.
If media channels are only as good as the content they disseminate, then companies now have to create compelling material that is pertinent to their business, while ensuring it is relevant to their audience. Of course, traditionalists will point to the fact that creating content was always the job of marcom. After all, brochures, guides, leaflets, adverts, commercials, direct mail pieces, and the many other types of materials that companies produced, are all content.
However, there is a fundamental difference. This content was designed to garner the attention of an existing audience for a few seconds. A lot of the communications were transactional in nature, encouraging an immediate response from a prospect. As a business was paying the broadcaster or publisher for a moment in time, these communications were sporadic and normally based around a campaign a company was running. For example, even the most vociferous of TV advertisers may only put out a few adverts per year.
Just as broadcasters must put out new programmes daily to ensure their media channels remain interesting, vibrant and enticing, organizations also need to generate a constant stream of fresh content. This material cannot be merely transactional, simply espousing the virtues of a business. There is a limit to how many times an individual would visit a company’s different media channels if all they did was state the greatness of the enterprise. This approach is unlikely to build an audience and certainly won’t retain it, as no one would ever come back. Instead the content should provide the specific audience with value, regardless of whether a transaction will take place in the immediate future.
For example, a recruitment business may put out material about how to attract staff, great interview techniques and questions, how to retain staff as well as a benchmarking table to provide regional businesses with a rough guide to wages within their specific locality. All of this material is relevant as it directly relates to recruitment. Yet a business owner or HR department would not need to be contemplating using a recruitment company in order to find this content useful. They may subscribe to a newsletter, sign up for alerts or choose to regularly visit the company’s website as it becomes a useful source of information.
If this business owner or HR department ever does need to use the services of a recruitment company, it is probable that this particular business will receive the enquiry. They may well explore other recruitments agencies and this organization cannot guarantee it will receive work, but having consistent engagement with the recruitment firm makes it likely it would be in their buying set. This is what marcom should achieve; that is, when someone in a company’s target market is looking for its products or services, it receives the enquiry.
As stated earlier in the chapter, in previous times a company’s main marketing activities would involve paying to interrupt an audience built by a media organization around its magazine, radio programme or TV show etc. In a world where businesses possess their own channels they, like the media companies, need to build their own audience and retain it. There are two other changes in the digital age that make this approach essential.
First, it is not just media companies and businesses that own their own media channels. Billions of individuals are also posting content on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. The result is that we now live in a world of information overload. In essence, every individual and organization is now a media entity.
Everything in life has a cause and effect. The direct effect of inhabiting a world where there is an abundance of information is that we now reside in a world of scarcity of attention. ‘Attention’ is the resource that every business requires in order to be successful. Today, it is the companies with your attention that ‘win’.
For example, one of the aspects that makes Amazon so formidable is that it is not merely an e-commerce platform but a product search engine. People use Amazon to understand the choice and price variations in a particular product category. Once it has a customer’s attention at the beginning of the buying journey, with one click to purchase and next-day delivery, it will receive a good percentage of the business.
Not only do digital platforms work like media channels, whereby a company is required to build an audience and retain it, but there is a commercial imperative in doing so. In a world where attention is scarce, it is the companies with their audiences’ attention that will ‘win’. Companies were once valuable because of ‘what’ they did; businesses today are valuable because of the attention they have.
This brings us to the second change. Inhabiting a world where everyone owns media channels has changed the dynamic of how information is distributed. Traditionally, in broadcast, a TV show or radio programme would receive as many listeners or viewers as tuned in or recorded the episode at a particular time. While occasionally people would lend each other video tapes of programmes, offices were not full of individuals swapping videos every day. Of course, in the world of publishing, people would share books and magazines. It is estimated that the average newspaper is read by three more people than purchase it [5]. So, social sharing has always taken place.
The difference is that in the digital world, social sharing doesn’t just take place, it is the currency of media. It is the primary way that information is discovered online, and this has severe implications for marcom. In traditional communications, there were fundamentally two different aspects: the audience comprised the people a business wanted to reach; the channel was the mechanism used to get to the audience. So, as in our previous example, HR professionals may be the audience and an HR magazine would be the channel used to reach this target market.
In the digital age where everyone has a channel, and consequently social sharing plays such a pivotal role in the way information is discovered, the audience is no longer merely the people whom a business wants to reach. They also become a significant channel in their own right. They are now a company’s best marketers and a key purchase influencer: as the proverb states, ‘birds of a feather flock together’. Accountants know accountants, lawyers know lawyers, followers of a particular sports team are likely to know other followers. In a digital environment, an engaged audience can be an excellent channel for reaching other people of a similar type.
When media companies controlled the distribution of information, marcom was the discipline of interrupting someone else’s audience. Today, when all businesses and organizations own their own media channels, marcom is not merely about interrupting an audience but also building one and then ensuring it is retained. In a world where attention is becoming a progressively scarce resource and information is increasingly being disseminated via social sharing, this approach is not simply how digital works, but it also makes commercial sense. This being the case, marketing communications has changed in a fundamental way.


1 Internet history of 1980s, Computer History [online] (archived at [accessed 1 February 2018]
2 Pre-W3C web and internet background, W3C [online] (archived at [accessed 6 August 2019]
3 The birth of the web, CERN [online] (archived at [accessed 6 August 2019]
4 Then and now: a history of social networking sites, CBS [online] (archived at [accessed 1 January 2018]
5 Greenslade, R (2010) Look how many newspapers are still sold every day in the UK, Guardian, 14 December [online] (archived at [accessed 1 January 2018]

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