I recently had a discussion with a longtime friend, whom is well respected in the marketing community, Pam Murtaugh. I shared with her my discomfort when people describe me as a “marketing genius” for sending an email last September, naming for the community the financial state of Nick’s Pizza & Pub. The following is what I learned about myself through our conversation:
“Marketing” is not what it used to be. This is the result of the shift from product manufacturing to profit manufacturing: Granddaddies of the industry believed in “product positioning.” Then it shifted to “brand positioning” and differentiation (other products based on gross attributes -nothing real). It seems new marketing is out to trick people into buying something with just enough “quality” — just enough of an experience (enhanced and made “tangible” or exciting by branding) — to generate the predicted profit that will keep investors happy.
(By the way, another thing that happened was that after the tax breaks in 1980, share-holders who accepted profit as variable — some years up and some years down — became share-*takers*, as in “what have you done for me lately?” and “promise in advance how much profit you will deliver — or expect punishment.” Even stating that, “profit alone is not enough….it has to grow rapidly, consistently and infinitely.”)
So “marketing” is now the business of making false promises. Marketing has become a left-brain notion that generates profit without anything genuine behind it.
Your discomfort with it is that you are real. Your business proposition is a human one — about people and products and jobs and communities. In your email you reached out for empathy (right brain) and people returned it in kind. You confessed to being human and people embraced you for your human-ness.
I am not a marketer. I am not a “marketing genius”. In fact I’ve come to understand that what I do is the opposite, because marketing as we know it today has become a world of false “brands” and “strategies” designed to manufacture profit.
I believe in products. I believe in making quality products that people love. I believe in making my restaurant a place that people love to be — not because it “delights” them or meets their “desires” (new marketing terms) — but because it feels like a place where they can be themselves. Where they can be together with their families and where their kids are free to be themselves.
I believe in work (not “creating jobs” that are in service of profit). I believe in a fundamental work ethic. I believe in encouraging people to work in ways that are good for our guests and good for them — with good pay, respect, opportunities for their own advancement and full knowledge of the business itself. I believe in a workplace that’s focused on people who value what we make for them and how we make them feel. This is what I call good business, and good businesses are responsible for fostering strong people and strong communities.
I believe that business has become a profit trap. If I had gone into this with an exit strategy I wouldn’t be here right now. If I hadn’t gotten back to what’s true — that the human connection makes Nick’s a special place — I wouldn’t be here right now either.
I do not accept that I’m a “marketing genius” or that recent events have made me one. I love that I have the ability to make people happy in very real ways. I love that my guests and my team get something that matters to them. When I do what I love in a way that works for everyone, I am profitable. But profitability is not a goal — it’s the by-product of doing something real in a way that’s good for everyone.
What are your thoughts of marketing these days?