Brian Creath

Save Our Burning Library. (A plea to marketers.)

In Advertising, Brand, Business strategy, Communications, Corporate Marketing, Marketing, Strategy on June 30, 2009 at 3:30 pm


It’s not in vogue to look to the past for lessons anymore. Today, many in marketing have built a wall behind them – having decided that the world of business began just a few short years ago. These people believe that things are simply moving too fast and have changed too much for marketing history to hold any answers.

It’s been said that when an elderly person dies – because we lose their knowledge and wisdom – a library has been burned. Sadly, it appears that marketing may be suffering a similar fate. As we race to harness the speed of our new marketing world, the knowledge of our past is slipping away.

In a recent Ad Age article (sign-up may be required), Pete Blackshaw writes: “Speed is good, and change is gospel, but we might be moving too darn fast and making too many dumb or shortsighted moves along the way. That fuels cynicism, which is not what we need in an environment of increasingly empowered consumers, eroded trust and greater regulatory scrutiny.”

Blackshaw continues,”We blog, we Twitter, we litter e-mail boxes. We celebrate every online ‘conversation’ as though it actually matters. We’re breaking new ground, but we’re acquiring a few bad habits along the way.”

Marketing (like all forms of business) is an evolution. Where few things ever start from scratch, because history is always part of the context. The best marketers know this, and work to adapt new trends and technologies to existing schools of thought. They learn the lessons of the past so as to not repeat its failures.

Smart marketing is about the long view. Building credible, sustainable brands. Creating honest and relevant dialog with customers. Building business trust and value for the future. Technology (as wonderful and critically important as it is), is but a tool to achieve these things. It cannot replace the 150 years of learning that must be a part of every marketer’s point of view.

Because to deny – or worse, to not know – the past is to sell our marketing future short.

(By the way, if you’re looking to balance today’s marketing needs with tomorrow’s marketing goals, I know a firm that can help.)

While I’m working on my next post, I hope you’ll read about how Cohesion helps organizations build stronger messaging to increase consistency, lower cost and drive growth, here.

  1. Can we finally put to death the screaming of “buy me, buy me, buy me” and “listen to me, me, me”? Marketing should be all about building credible, sustainable brands that can sustain the test of time with genuine communication between the brand AND customer!

  2. “I once asked Sir Hugh Rigby, Sergeant Surgeon to King George V, “What makes a great surgeon?”

    Sir Hugh replied, “There isn’t much to choose between surgeons in manual dexterity. What distinguishes the great surgeon is that he KNOWS more than other surgeons.” It is the same with advertising agents. The good ones know their craft.”

    -David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man

    Knowledge is among the scarcest of commodities.

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