Marketing Died

If your business is like most, you’re probably constantly looking at how to up the ROI of your marketing, branding, communications, public relations, and more. You probably blame your marketing department when any goals aren’t met. And, if you’re in the marketing department you’re probably constantly asking for more money but being faced with executives who want to know where in the world it’s going, how it’s helping the bottom line, and how it’s being measured. And, you probably aren’t totally sure half the time. The truth is, you’re all frustrated because you’re operating with a dead paradigm. Don’t believe me? Saying, “oh no no Dr. K you’re nuts!” Well, all the evidence backs it up so you need to check yourself before you wreck yourself… and your bottom line.

Is Marketing Dead?

Yes. And, we killed it. As consumers we are much more savvy and we rely much more on word-of-mouth. Here’s
what it boils down to:

1. Consumers Aren’t Paying Attention:

We are bombarded with information and stimuli everyday. And, we honestly don’t care much about traditional marketing communications. We get it. We know how it works. We prefer to do our own research and ask around. We aren’t going to rely on your ad or PR campaign to sway us.

2. Social Media:

As with everything, social media plays a huge role. People are sharing their experiences, opinions, and feedback real time. And, people want to share everything. You better believe that one bad experience can turn viral and kill a company no matter how many millions spent on a marketing campaign. Or, one good experience could put a company on the map.

Example – ever see the United Airlines song when a customer had his guitar broken? Click here to check it out.  This 4-minute song about United breaking guitars went viral and has had over 14 million views to date. The result – a HUGE decrease in stock value that week. And, let’s just say, it didn’t help them long term either. All of this over breaking a guitar. The customer tried for months to get some decent customer service from United Airlines and have his guitar replaced. Nothing was ever done. So, this comical song was his last resort (and quite a polite one if you ask me).  This viral video had a much bigger impact on a huge company like United Airlines than any of their multi-million dollar campaigns ever have.

3. Opinions:

Organizations are full of people that… work for that organization. Duh! So, if they are making the marketing decisions based on the customers they’re not aligned most of the time. Why? Because they aren’t the customer! They can spend tons of money on market research but at the end of the day, they still aren’t the customer. They’re making decisions based on the customer though. It doesn’t even make sense anymore. I see this all the time in retail settings where small business owners buy the clothing they would want. Problem? They aren’t the customer. Those items sit on the shelf and the owner is left utterly confused. Why wouldn’t these sell? I would wear them! That’s the very problem.

4. Public Relations:

You can easily spend $10k a month on a PR firm. PR is simply the spread of information between and organization and the public. That’s really it. And, when you think about, our world of social media and digital influence is already doing that. So, you can save tons by cutting back on the PR stuff. Instead of traditional PR it’s more about social PR or social influence now. This is about creating customer advocates and influencers for your brand.

5. Celebrity Endorsements:

Companies can easily spend millions on celebrity endorsements. Try to get Kim Kardashian to shoot a commercial with your product at you’ll easily be shelling out 7 figures. And, think of all the athletes, musicians, and more. The problem here is consumers are too savvy for this. They know these people are getting paid big bucks to tout your product. That has no bearing on whether or not most people will buy it. Think about it… most people don’t think Kate Hudson is actually coloring her gorgeous blond locks at home with Loreal Color Rinse. And, we don’t believe Jennifer Aniston’s glowing skin comes from slathering herself with Aveeno daily. And, we don’t even believe Tiger Woods drove a Buick. We also don’t believe the the celeb weight loss endorsements. We know a pill or a supplement isn’t the reason they have hot bodies. We know there’s trainers, nutritionists, etc. So, to spend tons of money on a celeb isn’t really going to boost your bottom line much.

What To Do?

For starters, companies need to heavily rely on social media. And, I’m not talking about paid ads on Facebook or campaigns. I’m talking about the community experience. As we can see, buyers make purchases based on their network and reviews. What other real people said that bought the item. The more you can replicate the community experience on your own channels, the better. People want trustworthy, authentic information from real people just like them.

1. Customer Influencers:

Find people who have a following on social media or an online influence. Or, cultivate your own. How? Give them something amazing to talk about. This goes so much deeper than the typical customer lifetime value, which is just based on purchases. You need to focus on emotion and community. You can give your customer influencers access to knowledge or products first and have them share their own opinions and experiences to their network and those that they influence. This is also a much more affordable way to penetrate markets. And, you build up key customers that are lifelong MVP’s. #winwin

2. Their Reputation:

Having customer influencers and customer VIPS not only benefits you, but also benefits them. Again, a win-win. These influencers do not need to be bribed with money. By providing them first-hand knowledge and the credibility of your company, it builds their own resume and boosts their career path. You can do that essentially without spending a dime. Influencers crave this more than you know. Your customers want to be your strategic thinkers.

3. Community Solutions:

You know what else customers love? Helping create solutions. If you haven’t noticed, people have a lot of opinions these days (guilty!) and want to contribute and be heard. Hearing out your customer or potential customer’s opinions is huge! Not only does this build community, but it frequently leads to the best possible solutions for your organization. Why? Because, again, your customer knows your customers better than anyone else. Better than you. Better the the firm you hired to research them.

So, even though marketing is dead, the best part is we have new ways to propel companies’ bottom lines and build cultures of influence. It’s not about just selling products. The keys to successful and sustainable growth lie in influence-based and community-oriented strategies and tactics.

4. Customer Engagement and Service:

This goes without saying and you probably are saying to yourself, “well duh we’ve always done that well.” Hmm… probably not. Most companies don’t. More often than not it’s an afterthought due to busy schedules, lack of manpower and struggles focused too narrowly on operations and marketing. Humans tend to be last on the list, which is severely detrimental. Customer engagement and customer service goes much deeper than a follow-up survey or the like. Real, effective engagement is about a deeper human connection, focus on emotions and actually being genuine. Every single buying decision is emotionally-based. Yes. Every. Single. One. So, to avoid this is aspect altogether is super counter-productive.


I’ve spent a lot of time working in higher education. In the Los Angeles area UCLA’s Anderson School of Business always ranks high. They were the only business school to actually increase during the recession whereas the rest fell (as with most industries). Most people (and other frustrated university administrators) think it’s due to their big budget. “Oh sure if we had millions we’d be great too.” Not so fast. This actually has very, very little to do with it. So how do they do it? Customer service. They treat potential students, current student, and alumni like VIPS. I recently had good friend go through the MBA application process. She got into many schools (no surprise, she’s a star!) and ultimately chose UCLA. She shared with me that her experience going through her research process was incredible. Not only did she have options to attend information sessions and class visits, but she also received a hand written thank-you card after meeting with a recruiter. And, she was actually able to easily get ahold of someone on the phone with her questions and to setup an appointment. Does all of this seem super easy and make sense? Of course! Do most place do it? Nope. Case in point, she received none of this with USC. She wasn’t even able to get all of her questions answered. Did this top tier customer service ultimately sway her opinion? Of course it played a role. Who wouldn’t want to go somewhere that treated them so well when other’s didn’t? That’s a stellar first impression. And, I know many students and graduates that proclaim this same information long after. That’s the best marketing you will ever find. And, how simple it is to answer the phone and write a thank-you card? Amazing!

Nordstrom Example:

I only shop at Nordstrom when it comes to the major higher-end department stores. I don’t go to Saks. I don’t go to
Neiman Marcus. Why? Nordstrom treats me like a valued human being no matter if I buy something or not. I can’t tell you how many hand written thank you cards I’ve received from a sales person simply for a purchase that was small. I remember the first time this happened I spent less than $50 on makeup and in rolled a thank you card to my mailbox 3 days later. Did that have an impact? You bet. I’m still loyal. Another example of Nordstrom – they reply on social media. Another one that seems soooooooooo simple yet hardly anyone does it! Just a few weeks ago I was at the ebar at Nordstrom having a meeting over coffee. I tweeted this. Within about 34 seconds Nordstrom responded via Twitter. Our convo went back and forth with a few tweets and it honestly kinda made my day. Seems lame right? Maybe I need more friends. Or, maybe I’m a human just like you and we like to be heard and acknowledged, especially at a place where we spent our hard earned cash.

Marketing Died

If you take anything away from this, be sure to take a look at your current marketing, advertising, branding and public relations. The traditional methods are dead so stop wasting your money on them. It’s about a movement now. It’s about your culture. It’s about influence, transparency, and community. It’s ultimately about human connection, which we all crave. You don’t have to be a huge corporation like Apple to create a cultural movement. You can do this with your own small business too. Everyone’s looking for meaning in a world that’s become more an more chaotic and turbulent. How are you creating meaning for your customers?

Need help creating your meaning and culture? Email me:

What are your thoughts on marketing? Comment below!

Dr. K

Be part of my community! I value you and your opinions!