The Talents of the Corporate Marketer

Judy_Shapiro_headshot Over at Ad Age, Judy Shapiro, “CEO and founder of EngageSimply, a social marketing engagement company, and [a person who] has held senior marketing positions at Paltalk, Comodo, Computer Associates, Lucent Technologies, AT&T and Bell Labs,” gives her peers a pep talk. Apparently the increasing automation and rationalization of their trade has many big business brand propagandists feeling that “it’s anything but playtime for marketers, [as t]he sheer tonnage of technologies is a serious buzz kill, casting a cloud over the industry.”

The remedy, Shapiro says, is to remember one’s own wonderful skills and the larger meaning one’s labors:

Marketing was never for the faint of heart. It requires the insight of a psychologist, the wit of a standup comedian, the stamina of an endurance athlete and a chameleon-like ability to adapt to never-ending business highs and lows.

But if you made the grade, you were rewarded by participating in an industry that attracted the best and brightest. More than that, marketing as a vocation was deeply satisfying because you knew that your work meant factories kept running and people kept getting paychecks.

Bravery, inisght, wit, stamina, adaptability. Quite so, but it seems to TCT that Ms. Shapiro, despite and because of her pride at keeping capitalism growing, has omitted the topic of moral fiber.

Might that be because the qualities required of the marketers there run rather parallel to the work of overseeing the Tarnungskommando at Treblinka?

Public Intelligence

wisdom-signOne theme here at TCT has always been defense of the public against the idea that it is too stupid not to be blamed for the crappy and dangerous nature of corporate capitalist society. While many lefties and apparently most greens accept the “consumer culture” thesis, in which we are supposedly all equally to blame, TCT has always sided with its hero Noam Chomsky, who goes out of his way to keep careful track of the many important ways in which, even in the massively indoctrinated United States, the public is way to the left of its supposed representatives.

The latest piece of such evidence is particularly gratifying, given our main theme here. As reported by Rupal Parekh at Advertising Age:

Think politicians are slimy? Well, according to a new study, what they do for a living is considered more desirable and valuable than what marketing and ad execs do.

The study, conducted earlier this month, was commissioned by Adobe and fielded by research firm Edelman Berland. It included 1,000 participants in the U.S., China and Japan; three quarters of them were consumers 18 years and older and the remaining quarter was made up of a mix of marketing professionals.

Overwhelmingly, the survey respondents agreed that marketing is essential to business — and they agreed that it works. When asked to consider the value of marketing, more than 90% of consumers and marketing professionals responded that it’s a field that’s “strategic to business” and 90% said that marketing is “paramount” to driving sales.

But when asked if marketing benefits society, only 13% of consumers agreed. And compared to other professions, the results were grim. Teachers — despite how little they are often compensated — were valued at the top of the list, followed by scientists and engineers. That’s somewhat to be expected. But what was more surprising was that advertising and marketing ranked below nearly every other profession, including bankers (32%), lawyers (34%) and even politicians (18%).

There was only one profession that ranked lower in the survey, and even that one is just a part of the marketing ecosystem: PR professionals. Only 11% said PR is a valuable job.

According to the study, the majority of consumers –53%– stated that most marketing is “a bunch of B.S.”

The survey even shows marketers themselves aren’t all true believers:

Meanwhile, the results weren’t much better among marketers; only 35% of people who were marketers themselves deemed it a valuable profession in responding to the survey.

Imagine if we had the ability to debate and act upon such views in the political realm…

In the mean time, ponder the rather important fact that the linchpin occupation in corporate capitalism, the one that most distinguishes and facilitates the system, is also the most hated one.

The Power of Targeting

This week’s Advertising Age has a story on what happened when it asked one of its reporters to be a guinea pig testing how much specificity a marketing research firm could produce by doing a routine marketing study on the life patterns of one of its reporters.  Using its databases, the unnamed targeting firm produced the following results, as described by the Ad Age reporter in question:

NEW YORK ( — I had to ask: How the hell did they do that?

I’m no neophyte when it comes to targeting — not only do I work at Ad Age, but I cover direct marketing. Yet even I was taken aback when, as an experiment, we asked a database-marketing company to come up with a demographic and psychographic profile of me based on publicly available information. Was it ever spot-on.

The company doing the analysis, which asked to remain nameless, used seven sources of information, including public records and census data, online-shopping data, catalog and retail-purchase history. From that it concluded my date of birth, home phone number and political-party affiliation: Republican (note: I was in high school when I registered). It gleaned the fact that I was a college graduate, that I was married and that one of my parents had passed away. It found that I have a number of bank, credit and retail cards at “low-end” department stores.

It knew not just how long I’ve lived at my house but how much it cost, how much it is worth, the type of mortgage that’s on it and — within a really close ballpark guess — how much is left to pay on it. It estimated my household income — again nearly perfectly — and determined that I am of British descent (here, I fooled the company; I’m also Romanian and Colombian, but the record didn’t show that). Oddly, what didn’t turn up was my occupation or e-mail address.

But that was just the beginning. What followed was the psychographic profile the company was able to compile.

A deep dive
It correctly placed me into various groupings such as: someone who relies more on their own opinions than the recommendations of others when making a purchase, whether it’s clothes or a car; someone who is turned off by loud and aggressive advertising; someone who is family-oriented and has an interest in music, running, sports, computers and is an avid concert-goer; someone who is never far from a web connection generally used to peruse sports and general news updates; and someone who sees health as a core value.

Scary? Certainly there will be people bothered by that level of detail and accuracy.

So, for those keeping score, such is the present state of this always speedily advancing art/science.  As I argued in The Consumer Trap book, the perceptive powers of the corporate overclass have long since dwarfed those of the Census Bureau.  And, obviously, that’s increasingly so.

And, for the record, the profiled Ad Age reporter is a typical navel-gazing yutz who professes himself untroubled by the results of his “spot-on” commercial profiling.  A soul who says he registered Republican as a college student, he writes, “I wasn’t necessarily bothered by the data as much as I was surprised and somewhat impressed by the depth of the profile the company was able to compile.”

Such are the sensitive, far-seeing folks managing the details of our future, ladies and gentlemen, thanks to capitalism.  Other people may be scared, but he himself is impressed.  So, it’s all good.