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Are We Getting the Marketing We Deserve?

October 2023


With most so-called ‘brand strategy’ being surface-level at best, is our pre-occupation with all things skin-deep rubbing off on the marketing industry as a whole?

Take a brief scroll down the boulevard of social media and it’s clear we’re increasingly becoming a society of selfie-obsessed, image-crafting narcissists, focussed more on how we look than working on any of the deep-seated psychological wounds we may be harbouring.

Our Instagram feeds are clogged with picture-perfect lives being presented as documentary, but which are as fake as any fictional movie. Our YouTube pre-rolls are thick with over-contoured Kardashian clones whose homogenised expressions of ‘beauty’ and ‘lifestyle’ makes difference look like a perversion.

Many people blame ‘marketing’ for this shit show. What started with a bit of airbrushing in advertising has become a barrage of unrealistic expectations foisted upon impressionable people who don’t have the tools to withstand the damaging effects of it all.

But is this pre-occupation with all things skin-deep rubbing off on the industry as a whole? Are we getting the marketing we deserve 

Our own research findings certainly suggest so: 

  • 81% of decision makers say they’re confident or very confident they know what a ‘brand’ is, and yet 49% of them think a brand is its visual identity.

  • 27% of them would be more likely to use a graphic designer rather than a marketing consultancy if they needed a refreshed brand strategy. 

  • 91% don’t think of a brand as a commercial construct in the first instance.

It seems it’s not just individuals suffering from a warped image of themselves; the whole profession is being eaten away by a malaise of its own invention.

Get the inconsequential facelift, run the superficial social campaign, and continue to ignore the gaping hole at the heart of your business because it’s easier than doing the tough things or asking the tough questions that can lead to genuine growth.

We’ve lost sight of what building a brand (in the true sense of the word) involves and the strategic value it can deliver.

It’s why any designer can sit at home in his underpants, doodling logos, and consider himself a ‘brand consultant’.

It’s why Gary Vee and Neil Patel can consistently conflate tactics with strategy and still be considered amongst the top ‘marketing influencers’ in the world.

It’s why the entire discipline is being side-lined, side-stepped and side-eyed with contempt, the role of growth increasingly falling to ROI-obsessed CFOs as CMOs press their noses to the C-suite window and wonder why they’re not the ones being asked in to eat the fancy biscuits.

It’s a collective sickness that is consuming the discipline from the inside, a pandemic of posturing that’s leaving marketing, and its potential impact on the balance sheet, weaker than ever before.

We believe this affliction is an affront to marketing science. Not only is it robbing businesses of their competitive advantage, but it is distorting the perception of our industry beyond all recognition.

We’ve dubbed it “Brand Dysmorphia” - a syndrome of putting style before substance, aesthetics before economics, comms before MCap.

And it needs to stop. We need to get back to the business of brand.

There are no quick fixes. But understanding a problem is the starting point to resolving it, so if you’re interested in finding out more, we have a memo that explores the topic further.

Brutally uncomfortable in words, images and facts, it’s just the reading material you need if you want to get your brand back into a commercial context. Download it here.

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