Get your own house in order.  A rant.

By Carol Shmygol

Today is a fascinating time to be a marketer.  It’s fascinating because we have so much.  And yet we just don’t get it.

We have consumers wary of BS and wanting the truth as they watch the daily battles play out between real news and fake news.  You know this is a thing when the NYT runs a full and glorious campaign on finding the truth.

We have big brands making big statements.  Take Airbnb and their bold, politics-be-damned Super Bowl commercial with their statement of #weaccept.

We have consumers more powerful than they know – actually they do know the power of their voice. They are opting to put their money and their voices where their hearts are. Newsflash: it’s not just millennials who are doing that.  It’s everybody.  They trust, buy and participate with brands that mean something to them – brands that share their values and their dreams.  Those that make them feel better about themselves by association.

We have so many more ways, channels, moments, and data than ever to make our message heard, and to know exactly who heard it and what they did with it.


And from all of this we have the ability to do what marketers have long dreamed of doing:  to delight customers.  Take for example, when Morton’s steak house listens to the tweet of a wary traveler stranded at the airport and sends him a steak.  Or a WestJet pilot hears the voices of really ticked off (insert competitive airline here) passengers and buys them pizza.  Pretty cool – wish I’d thought of that.

We have all of this. And yet we fail.  Just look to Pepsi and United in the last 60 days.  Massive brand fails.   Why?

Was it because their culture forgot the most important thing – the customer?  Was it because they didn’t prepare for when things go wrong?  Rule of thumb – assume things will always go wrong.

Yes to both.

All of the marketing and media toys we have at our disposal have become distractions.  Some of the time we spend in our social media war rooms,  monitoring every tweet and like, has come not in addition to, but instead of, good old fashioned truths.  I’m old enough to remember those truths. They’re not just hashtags.

Brand means creating companies and cultures that are meaningful, with purpose and that do right by consumers and stakeholders alike.  

Media training means setting our leaders up for success, being able to think and respond on the spot, and not to be doe-eyed in terror when the camera is turned on them.   Crisis management means imagining the worst, and preparing for it.   Communication means that you never forget your own employees and that in order for them to be truly engaged, they need to know and understand what is happening to their company. And then, with fully engaged employees, you market to the public at large.  Great public relations means having real relationships with media and influencers and building trust.  The collective of these disciplines is a proactive, strategic and thoughtful approach to building, sustaining and protecting brands that people actually want to be a part of.

Social media has amplified everything, including marketers’ blind faith in their ability to stumble through the crisis.  So maybe we shouldn’t wait until the camera is rolling and the passenger is being pulled down the aisle to determine and fight for what we stand for as brands.  To determine who and how we will respond when things go awry, not with denial, but with honesty and authenticity.   Because social media is eternal. Because memories are long.

Isn’t it time we got our own houses in order?