How would you describe your company’s marketing practice? If “a tax on the business,” “a cost center” or “an annoyance” are some of the first thoughts that come to mind, you’re not alone.
There’s a palpable sense of frustration with marketing today, both among marketing practitioners and their peers in other disciplines. While so many areas of customer engagement have or are being transformed, the way we do marketing has remained remarkably unchanged.
Break Out of the Marketing Doldrums
“In a word — today, marketing is stuck in a rut. Marketing’s future may be bright — but it needs a swift kick in the behind to get it out of its doldrums,” write Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose in their persuasive new book “Killing Marketing.”
Pulizzi is founder of business media company the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and his colleague Rose is the institute’s chief strategy advisor. With “Killing Marketing,” they aim to administer that much-needed wake-up call to executives and marketers. The end result is a well-argued case for companies of all sizes and across industries to take a fresh look at their marketing approach.
For instance, one of the authors’ first pieces of advice in the book is for readers to approach marketing as if you’re a foreigner visiting a new country for the first time. Freed of any previous experiences, you face no limitations when you want to think what might be possible with marketing.
One of the biggest mistakes marketers have made to date is thinking too small and only making incremental changes, according to Pulizzi and Rose.
Kill, Then Rebirth Marketing
Having spent the last two decades providing companies around the world with strategic marketing advice, Pulizzi and Rose are well qualified to make the case for how and why we need to first “kill” and then fundamentally rethink marketing. While traditional product marketing still has a role to play, the authors make the case for a new business model and a broader role for marketing, one which relies on homegrown content.
This new business model is much more than simply dabbling in content marketing, which the authors suggest many companies are already doing reluctantly and in a scattershot manner, resulting in watered-down and ineffective output.
“You shouldn’t feel completely comfortable with your content,” the authors advise. “It should make you squirm … just a bit. If it does, you are starting to hit close to home.”
Reinvent Marketing as a Profit Center
Over the course of 10 chapters the authors lay out a road map for how organizations might reinvent marketing as a profit center through the creation of valuable and engaging content, which they can later directly and indirectly monetize. The underlying idea is to use the content to first create a loyal audience and then deliver the products that audience wants.
What Pulizzi and Rose are ultimately advocating is that companies make a long-term investment in a new “media marketing”-based business model. The authors provide plenty of good advice on how organizations can make a business case for this strategy and how they can then proceed to execute on it and measure its effectiveness.
Pulizzi and Rose each write different chapters but the tone and argument are consistent throughout as advice from well-seasoned experts in the marketing field. Each chapter ends with two sections. The first, “Profitable Insights” is a set of bullet points with a great summary of the issues raised in the preceding chapter. The second, “Profitable Resources” is a little less successful since it’s a listing of the articles, books, blogs and other content the prior chapter draws upon.
What’s missing from “Killing Marketing” is a complete list of reference materials at the end of the book or suggestions for further reading or inspiration, which could focus on how to adopt a “Think Different” mindset about marketing.
Real-World Examples of Early Adopters
“Killing Marketing” contains many real-world examples of early adopters of this new approach to marketing.
Take Red Bull, the poster child for the kind of model the authors are advocating. By using content to build a loyal audience, Red Bull is a media company that sells energy drinks rather than a beverage seller which publishes content. As the authors note: “Red Bull’s marketing arm is actually enabling the company to sell anything it likes.”
Then, there’s Arrow Electronics, a Fortune 500 electronics components distributor. In recent years, Arrow has bought up electronics publications which has enabled it to establish ties early on to its core audience of electrical engineers as well as create a new profitable media business.
The Merging of Product Brands and Media Companies
Some of the examples in the book, which include Cleveland Clinic, Schneider Electric and Zappos as well as Content Marketing Institute itself are in-depth and compelling. Other company stories made in passing, such as a brief mention of Salesforce and its Dreamforce user conference, could benefit from further explanation.
The larger company stories tend to be threaded through several chapters rather than being concentrated in their own single dedicated sections. In some cases, these stories may have had a stronger resonance if the whole narrative could be consumed in one go.
Over time, Pulizzi and Rose predict the differences will dissolve between what a product brand does and what a media company does. Both organizations will derive their revenue from products and services and from media via subscriptions and advertising. This means the marketing skills companies will need in future are “equal parts marketing and publishing.”
A company may end up with a self-sustaining and potentially profitable media division led by marketing. A deep dive into how organizations might seed and nurture this mix of skills would make good fodder for another book.
There’s No Harm in Trying
The book’s closing section entitled “What If We’re Wrong?” talks through the objections a CEO voiced to the authors in relation to their concept of marketing as a profit center and the use of content to build audiences. Pulizzi and Rose ultimately conclude: “What harm could possibly come from trying?”
Shining a light on your marketing activities and your companywide use of content is always going to be a useful exercise to undertake, even it doesn’t end up with you “killing marketing.”
As the authors state: “Marketing has changed. Past tense … And so the only question that remains is, what are you going to do about it?” Digesting the examples and reflecting on the arguments contained in “Killing Marketing” are good starting points to help you and your organization begin to answer that question.