Invest in The Future of Marketing On #GivingTuesday

Russ Klein
Marketing News Weekly
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Key Takeaways

​What? Many of today's marketers have failed to illustrate the nobility of marketing done right.

So what? To advance the field of marketing, we must invest in tomorrow’s marketers.

Now what? Join AMAF in supporting student marketers on #GivingTuesday.

​Nov. 23, 2016

To advance the field of marketing, we must invest in tomorrow’s marketers

The world has to be about fed up with fine-print disclaimers of “Results Not Typical” and what is now, I fear, a ballooning content bubble that will soon burst if marketers are not careful. I once thought the brand equaled promise plus experience, with the observation that most brands were in the promise-making (and promise-breaking) business, as opposed to delivering the experience. Then brands like Starbucks came along and defined their brand almost exclusively through experience, and since then, many have followed across all products, services and industries.

With the advent of digitization, smartphones and social media, the equation has changed. A brand equals story plus experience. The story factor is no longer one-way, it’s a product of co-creation, as is the experience. The marketer had best tread lightly with the notion that they are simply pivoting to become storytellers for their brands. You can be a contributing author to be sure; but don’t delude yourself that you’ll ever get control of your brand story again by storytelling alone. Here’s a better idea…make your product or service “work”—you know, do what it’s supposed to do: solve a problem or bring joy to your customer.

Now so-called design experts have swashbuckled onto the scene to rescue marketers by claiming they’ll design the ultimate customer experience. The most important thing you can remember as a marketer is that brands don’t design experiences; they design for experiences. The proverbial dirt path of usage has already been worn into the marketplace; and you will be well-served to not move it, but instead to find it and then pave it.

We’re all about customer engagement now, too. Going beyond the direct transaction with a customer; hoping to engage them on an ongoing no-dead-ends relationship filled with social interaction, sharing, liking, feedback and co-creation. Pause for a moment, though. How is increasing customer engagement satisfying their insatiable desire for a frictionless experience with your brand? You see, it’s just not as simple as we all want it to be.

The whole matter of trust as it relates to brands is changing, too. It’s more than the shift of confidence in one’s self and friends over institutions and companies. Trust is almost becoming irrelevant, and if it isn’t, it’s certainly becoming different. So too are measures such as customer satisfaction and NPS; both of which, at least alone, have been mathematically proven to be flawed in their correlation to growth.

What matters today is usability. If products you make or services you provide are useful, frictionless and convenient, you will have a brand. If and when it stops becoming useful, frictionless and convenient, you will have a brand that nobody really wants to use. So asking the right question, and I suggest it is a new and different question, as Albert Einstein so aptly pointed out is still more important than anything.

All of this reflects Frank Lloyd Wright’s simple imperative that represents sound and timeless advice for architects and marketers alike: Work true.

Tomorrow’s marketers have grown up in a world listening to “Results Not Typical.” Since birth they have seen commercials for “well-meaning” prescription drugs that spend more money on advertising than some developing countries spend on their very survival warning informing users of the horrific side effects of their medicine that often include death. Is this the best we can do? I worry the field has yet to show the next generation of marketers the nobility of marketing done right and done for the right reasons. Perhaps the transparency exhibited in my pharmaceutical example is noble. But I hope we can light up a path ahead for tomorrow’s marketers that shows them how marketing can be part of creating a better world for everyone; how marketing can solve serious societal problems with honest communication and innovation to improve the quality of life for the “have nots” growing in number, and democratize product quality with affordable products and services.

Certainly it will require a full recognition of the different customer dynamics around decision-making and purchase, and it will require a new generation of marketers to advance. It’s why the American Marketing Association believes in investing in young marketing hopefuls who will be tomorrow’s magicians of marketing. These young marketers will find the dramatic changes in today’s marketplace to be self-evident while the “more experienced” among us are trying to keep our brains elastic enough to blow up the old linear models and hierarchy of effects that became our frameworks for thinking and problem-solving.

You see, if we want tomorrow to be better because of marketing, it’s our responsibility to invest in young people who see the world through a fresh pair of eyes. If we want to see diversity in the profession, we have to invest in it. After seeing the hopefulness and joy sparked by scholarships provided by the AMA, I committed this year to personally matching up to $500 the AMA staff’s contributions to the #GivingTuesday American Marketing Association Foundation fundraiser. And if 100% of the AMA staff donates, I’ll raise it to $1000. The scholarship recipients will affirm your faith in the future of marketing when you see their joy and passion.


 Oscar Ramos 2015 #GivingTuesday Scholarship Recipient


It’s why you might want to think about helping to fund the education of a young marketing hopeful upon whom we’ll be relying to elevate the esteem of marketing within the C-suite and the greater society. Maybe they will be the ones who once and for all vanquish the “Results Not Typical” fine print. Maybe they will be part of innovation that allows for 100% home ownership. Perhaps they will find the tipping point of inspiration that ensures no child in America goes to school hungry. Wouldn’t it be great if more students in marketing could see PhD’s and CMO’s who look like them in their institutions? On the other hand, maybe they will simply work to market a product that does what the buyer expected it to do when he or she purchased it. Funny, that’s what I thought we were supposed to be doing all along.

Please be part of the solution on #GivingTuesday. Please invest in both the legacy and future of marketing in one simple gesture. No gift too small, don’t underestimate how lots of littles add up.



Donate now to help AMA student leaders use their marketi​ng skills to make communities stronger.

Giving to the AMA’s Social Impact and Diversity Leadership Scholarships provide AMA students with opportunities to gain the experience they need to impact the world now and in the future​. Support the education of some of the best and brightest marketing leaders of the future by making a contribution on #GivingTuesday!


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Author Bio:

Russ Klein
As CEO for the American Marketing Association, Russ is charged with the transformation of the AMA to become the definitive force and voice shaping marketing best and next practices worldwide. Klein was once nicknamed “Flamethrower” by an industry publication for his managerial boldness and provocative advertising, but he now aspires to be the torch bearer for all marketers.​
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