This post is the third in a series looking at the AMI. Click below to read the others:

  1. Whats wrong with the AMI
  2. The Great AMI Debate: Round 2
  3. The Stark Reality of the AMI
  4. The AMI Bites Back
  5. Marketing the Marketers: the UK perspective
  6. Bowll bites back: Geoffrey responds to the AMI

This time, Geoffrey Bowll
is puffing the right muffins! There are lots of reasons why the AMI
as a professional body fails to deliver the recognition and the
benefits its members crave, as pointed out in the June 2008 Marketing
Magazine and in the comments from marketers to Geoffreys earlier post.

However the reasons are more linked to the marketing profession itself not just the association that represents it – the AMI. WE
are all responsible for the state our profession is in, from
educational institutions, through to advertising agencies and marketing
consultancies, industry publishers and as individuals.

… lies, damned lies, and statistics.

I am not sure that the survey of one 50 year old by Mr. Bowll or
his own perception is adequate enough a sample to conclude … so few
marketers are happy to call themselves that. Why isn’t it felt to be
sexy to be a marketer?

After three years as an independent SME marketing consultant and
over 15 years of being in the profession, completing well over 100
marketing projects, both at corporate and SME levels, my perception is
quite different. Having spoken with over 600 SME business owners and
hundreds of young people both in the profession and those that know
absolutely nothing about it, I conclude that the majority are very
proud to say I am in marketing, advertising, design, etc.

They do not hide and are not self loathing about their chosen
career path. Young people not in the profession as well as SME business
owners across the board still have a perception of marketing, and
advertising as a glamorous industry, much more so than it actually is.
As discussed on numerous occasions, many an agency and media outlet is
staffed with pretty young things to a greater degree than any other
industry with the exception of fashion.

The problem lies in the fact that very few of the general business
population actually understand what a marketer does and what all of
the different marketing disciplines are under the term marketing.
Let’s start educating them!

Common Language is uncommon

The lack of a common marketing language and of course the resulting
metrics is the single biggest reason I believe marketing is in trouble.
Can you imagine if this was the case with a profession like engineering
or medicine? Blood pressure measured differently by different doctors?
Hmmm. The Marketing Metrics project by the AMI is taking longer to complete than the pyramids, but you can find the latest report on the AMI website here.

In the meantime, if MarketingProfs,
the most useful marketing resource I have found online, can provide
their readers and members with useful Templates and How -To-Guides, I
see no reason why the AMI could not provide the same and at least
encourage its members to stick to guidelines, if not regulate them. Is
it any wonder that we are behind other professions? Let’s not
pontificate any further.

What can marketers do today?

We can all keep it simple and remember why we are all in this
business – to assist our clients (or employers) in selling their
products and services. Maybe re-reading the 1927 classic Scientific Advertising
by Claude Hopkins can help more of our colleagues realise how little
has changed and bring back the passion for results, making our
profession more accountable and respectable. Yes, I know, now I am
focusing my attention on advertising – only one of the sub-categories
of the marketing mix, yet in reality marketing has become synonymous
with promotion (advertising, PR and sales). The reason for this is
two-fold:

  1. promotion is, in most cases, the only element of the marketing mix that marketers truly control; and
  2. 80 percent of the marketer’s budget (time and money) is spent on promotion or more correctly in today’s world – communication.

Why is the marketing universe limited to big brands and why does
the membership drive of the AMI seem to be limited to the top tier
corporations?

We need to promote out profession like professionals, instead of
being a shoemaker with no shoes, we need to get more funding and
increase and diversify the membership ten-fold. Currently, the SME
market is completely ignored by the AMI, which is where, together with
the graduate segment, the growth in membership has to come from. You
don’t see the accounting profession’s member base being limited to the
top tier corporations!

SMEs marketing needs are ignored by the publishing industry and the professional association

If I was on Marketing magazine’s marketing team or that of
the AMI, I would be aiming to grow circulation/membership by hammering
home Peter Drucker’s prophetic view to the Australian SME market that
usiness has only two functions – marketing and innovation. I would
be directing this message at the 70,000+ buyers of My Business and Dynamic Small Business Magazines
and the thousands of members of numerous SME networking organisations
around the country. However, to do this the SME content component would
have to increase substantially and this massive market segment will
have to be placed on top of the agenda not in the too hard basket
where it currently resides. Honestly, it is not that hard or expensive
… yes, I have a few ideas as I am sure many others who are passionate
about improving the status quo do too!

SME marketing advice is simplified to the point where it loses much
of its usefulness and big brand marketing is over complicated

Expensive research and proliferation of marketing jargon only
confuses both clients and marketing practitioners. Every advertising
agency and marketing consultant has their own proprietary way of
doing things and of course comes up with fancy lingo to differentiate
their way from all others. And yes WE are ALL guilty of this to some degree.

In this June’s Marketing magazine the sales and marketing
director for Ansell Condoms (not an SME but a top tier corporation!),
Mathew Groskorth hits the nail on the head: … I still get a little
bamboozled by statistics …The real proof is in the sales. The same
wisdom was expressed by Claude Hopkins saying this over 80 years ago:
The only purpose of advertising is sales. If Groskorth’s experience
is representative of the confusion that exists in the market place,
(and my personal experience and constant discussion of the marketers
struggle for respect at board level certainly support this view) then
we have much bigger fish to fry than Mr. Bowlls issue with the AMI not
providing member discounts on insurance and mortgage rates.

A few months ago, the Marketing magazine had this note from
the editorial staff: If you are involved with an SME or have some
budget maketing tips to share with our monthly column On A Shoestring
please contact Marketing. It seems that the whole art and
science of marketing has been reduced to tips! Marketing is marketing
– why arent more marketing professionals crying out loudly or quietly?
Small Business Marketing is no different to marketing for big brands or
professional services or business-to-business companies.

The marketing principles do not change, but as the budgets become
tiny, they make you think outside the square. What does change between
industries, and business types are the specific marketing tactics that
are used to achieve business objectives. Marketing is about SATISFYING WANTS. Marketing is about understanding human psychology and behaviour.

I am happy to see the SME section of Marketing magazine
growing and the focus shifting away from tips. Well done Marketing
mag and SME contributors like Brett Lowe and Danielle Lima – keep up
the good work! [Ed: wow, thanks Gene! We didnt even pay you to say this 🙂 so cheers for the recognition]

Until marketing professionals develop a common language and
appropriate metrics, we will struggle to attain the respect we seek, we
will struggle to educate our clients (in fact we will keep confusing
them) we will struggle to deliver optimal results and we will propagate
the perception of the untrustworthy ad man that hides behind jargon
to impress clients or avoid giving straight answers. Check out Huh Corp
– it is not only a great parody of what our industry is turning into
but should serve as a wake up call to us all, before the bean counters
really take over!

There are a multitude of ways each of us (agencies, consultants,
academics) can differentiate our services, our ideas and methodologies
without having to do it through making up new names for the processes
we follow to achieve results for our clients. Let’s start speaking in
plain English and stop hiding behind jargon! No more Brand Pillars,
Brand Wheels, Brand Triangles and a thousand variations of the USP!
Isn’t that the advice many of us are giving the financial, legal and IT
industries – ditch the jargon?

Let’s all start practicing what we preach and begin the change by changing ourselves!