Editor's Notes: Why People Hate Marketing

Thorin McGee, Editor-in-Chief/Content Director, Target Marketing

The late comedian Bill Hicks had a hilarious routine about marketing. You can still see it on YouTube. But before you go there, you should know, he’s going to tell you to kill yourself. And then he’s going to rephrase that message in some of the most offensive, unsafe-for-work language you’ll ever hear. (You were warned.)

Hicks isn’t the only funny man to draw the old evil marketing caricature. Dilbert did a whole run of comics on the soulless marketing department—apparently marketing isn’t a real skill, just liquor and guesswork.

The webcomic XKCD has made some good jokes out of content marketing infographics, IP-targeted ads, and unwitting social ads.

I even have a New Yorker comic by Bruce Eric Kaplan hanging by my coffee maker. It has a businessman informing his boss, “Marketing and sales has decided that we should destroy all civilization.”

It’s not like these artists haven’t made buying decisions based on marketing. They all must have brands they prefer, offers they’ve jumped on … In other words, at some point marketing has helped satisfy their needs. So why the pop-culture hostility?

All of these jabs have one message in common: They’re offended by the stereotypical insincere marketer, and they don’t trust you. From Bill Hicks to Dilbert to XKCD, it’s the same joke: Marketers will say anything, make you feel anything, because they’re just selling something … Which is, I suppose, true—except none of us wants our marketing to be a lie!

The very successful brands are the ones that convince people they are sincere. Whether it’s JetBlue making customers love the service or REI showing its staff lives the mountaineering lifestyle. Sincerity defines the brand and gets under that “you’re only trying to sell me something” callous.

Believe in what you sell and bring that belief to the marketing plan, because sincerity is only going to get more important to the connected customer. If you’re not trying to tell them a truth, then you’re only trying to sell them something.

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.
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  • DraytonBird

    My favourite, from the late Charles E Brower (a copywriter before he ran BBD&O: Honesty is not only the best ;policy; it is rare enough nowadays to make you pleasantly conspicuous:

  • tony the pitiful copywriter

    Reminds me of the old pop culture suspicion of the "used car salesman."

    Despising "marketing" seems to be the updated version of it? I believe it’s a Catch-22. In order to get your customer’s attention, you bombard the poor fellow with messages and calls to action. The resulting mess isn’t pleasant. It’s like when all Three Stooges try to walk through a door at the same time.

    More targeted marketing should actually help, not annoy customers. Also, know your product(s)/service(s) and believe in them. If you don’t, then you’re in the wrong business. Don’t EVER think your potential customer is stupid or naive about anything. I notice companies that take the customer experience seriously seem to have the most positive of reputations.

    Right, Comcast? (okay, that part was a joke)

  • um yeah

    The reason we hate marketing is because it is 100% unnecessary. Yes, my job is there because of marketing, but the need for me to work 12 hours a day is also there because of marketing. So without marketers, I would only have to work much less than I currently do. In fact theres a famous advertising guy (I can’t be bothered to do the research) who says advertising is responsible for creating 80% of demand. So without marketing, I basically could work 20% of the time that I currently work. That’s the basic reason I hate them. The more visceral reason is that they are just slimy – they refuse to answer questions in a straightforward manner, and they think it’s funny. They’re infuriating for that reason and I want to punch them. Also of course, they are rewarded for this behavior and I think that’s probably the main cause for the hatred – it’s like we’re all little kids, our parents are telling us that lying is bad and then giving all the ice cream to the kids who’ve figured out how to get away with lying. I want ice cream for behaving well.