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Tuesday 2¢: Are the Machines Ruining Marketing?

Tuesday 2¢: Are the Machines Ruining Marketing?

Welcome to the Tuesday 2¢ . It’s Tuesday, the weekend is a distant memory and it’s time to let off some steam and give our 2 cents on a hot industry topic. This week Ian Truscott explores why some of the industry's big brains are feeling so blue about the effects of marketing technology.


If you’re regular reader, you’ll know that we sponsor Rockstar CMO and I often dip into its pages for inspiration here. In particular, it features a series of Q&A articles asking leading CMO’s for their advice and pet peeves about the industry we all love and work in.

Lately I’ve noticed a bit of downer on technology from some of these guys, specifically marketing automation and what it’s being used for. For example, John Andrews, Founder of Photofy, thinks that push marketing should stop, Robert Rose, content marketing guru, is tired of programmatic advertising, and Ted Rubin, one of the most popular CMO’s on Twitter, has voiced similar views on retargeting.

And when noodling around the web it’s not hard to find similar views. In his article Why marketing technology is sucking the life out of the marketing profession , Mark Schaefer makes this statement:

“In my own beloved profession of marketing, the primary application of technology is to find increasingly sophisticated ways to annoy people.”

Which seems to summarize nicely what’s really happening here. After a period of playing with all the toys technology has offered us, maybe as marketers we are developing an empathy for the experience for the consumer. Maybe the penny is dropping and there is a connection between our annoyance with how we are marketed to as consumers and the techniques we use to reach our audience in our day jobs. According to Marketing Strategist and Speaker Samuel Scott:

“The positive side of direct marketing is that it is easy to track results. The negative side is that it is boring to create and invasive to receive.”

Rockstar CMO actually devoted a whole article to this – Algorithm and Blues – suggesting that perhaps we are losing the human touch and are not limited to techniques that, post Cambridge Analytica and GDPR, are now considered distinctly shady, or at least a bit creepy, like remarketing - the machines will also be driving email campaigns too .

That suggestion from Scott, that’s it’s “boring to create”, also rings some other alarm bells about our industry. Read on and we discover something else: a suggestion that these lazy, automated, machine driven practices are actually dumbing down the discipline of marketing.

Why would you do the hard work of research into your audience and its needs, if you can just pull a lever and carpet bomb Facebook for a few cents a click until your budget runs out?

Returning to Samuel Scott, in this long rant on TechCrunch , blames our marketing education. He suggested that we get back to basics:

“Over the past decade or so, many digital marketers entered the field from the technical world and, therefore, lacked any traditional marketing education. That’s why they focus on algorithms, discuss how to automate best practices and invent random new terms rather than think about how to build brands with the techniques that have been developed over the past century.”

Seems harsh! But, Schaefer, in his article , agrees and he shares the basic discipline he used when becoming a marketer which he feels we are losing through this heavy reliance on the tools, that I don’t think has changed:

“I was obsessed with learning about our customers and their un-met needs. I knew that to win I had to be feverishly seeking opportunities to create customer delight that led to loyalty, and perhaps profitable new sales.”

So, can we blame the machines for the ruination of marketing, for the push, remarketing, targeting and our inboxes full of unsolicited junk? Well, based on these marketing luminaries it seems that we can't. It’s marketers who are ruining marketing, as we are becoming automated, maybe we are losing our marketing minds.

Ian Truscott Ian Truscott

Ian Truscott has the unofficial and honory title of the “Träger des Firmen-Megaphons” for censhare, bringing 20 years of B2B software experience to our company (surely starting as a child) to lead marketing here. Luckily for us in the Munich office, he’s found the kettle and some tea bags – look at him, he’s happy.

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