Don't accept marketing as it is

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Should we in marketing and communications accept the world-as-it-is, or look to make the world-as-it-should-be?

A while ago I went to an interesting APG event on what makes a great marketing strategist. There were great points made which others summarised at the time, but the bit that really stuck with me was the various speakers' reflections on changes in marketing strategy and by extension marketing generally. They all basically made the same point:

"When I started, I had time and training, and that was good. However, the world has changed so marketing needs to too, and you can't have what I had."

They're probably right, but I'm not sure the need for change is the same as a requirement to accept the current state of affairs. To me there seems to be a growing gap between people who entered their career before the big digital shift and those who came after, but it's not the normal "and they had to learn to use an iPhone!" division.

These individuals had time to learn and hone their craft. They currently sit in all those Head of Planning and Chief Strategy Officer roles at the top of agencies, or have made the move client-side. They recognise that the new world doesn't have the time, that it is antithetical to everything good about strategic and creative thinking, but accept it. To borrow from some poorly remembered philosophy; they've built their careers on - and fondly remember - the world-as-it-should-be, but have accepted the world-as-it-is.

"Brands need strategic and creative thinking now more than ever to help them navigate an increasingly uncertain future."

One of the speakers proposed that strategic and creative thinking is critical now more than ever. But is that marketing as-it-is or as-it-should-be? I suspect the latter.

So why accept the new status quo?

Account Planning, the core marketing strategy discipline, itself came from agencies deciding there was a better way of planning marketing, and imposing their vision on brands, even though those very same brands paid for their existence. Many other disruptions have run counter to market demands before and after. Change can happen.

But a problem remains; what about those of us who have only worked in the world-as-it-is? We don't have the time or the training, right?

Fuck it. Let's build a better world. Let's regain some of our visionary roots, fight for our right to think and create, and start figuring out how we get to the new world-as-it-ought-to-be, rather than compromising in the current world-as-it-is. It constantly astounds me that in an industry beating itself up about diversity, that diversity of thought is so under-valued.

Nick Barthram