by Christopher Butler on in marketing

I have a new article up at Smashing Magazine called Stop Shouting. Start Teaching. After the last article that I wrote for them, Vitaly Friedman, Smashing’s Editor-in-Chief, asked me what I’d write next. I wasn’t sure. We batted around some ideas and he suggested doing something on “good karma marketing”—or the idea that marketing isn’t always that thing that we don’t trust or puts us on the defensive. At first, I wasn’t that interested. I felt like I just didn’t have much to say about marketing, mostly because I generally don’t think of myself as a marketer. Most of the time, I think of marketers as the people who track me, the people responsible for me seeing ads for things I search for on Google everywhere I go on the web. That is a form of marketing, but that’s no longer the full picture. After one of my usual Saturday morning Skype chats with my friend Michael, I realized I might have an angle for that article for Vitaly after all. We’d been talking about design and marketing for a couple of hours—co-ranting, really—and after we said goodbye I ended up filling a text document with a ton of notes. Those notes eventually became this article.

Here’s a clip:

It’s worth asking at this point: What, exactly, is marketing? Here I won’t quote a definition—not just because we’re all capable of looking it up ourselves, but because it really doesn’t matter anymore what the “official” definition of marketing is. Marketing, in it’s ubiquity, is something we all live and breath. We know what it is, though we may struggle with articulating it with any meaningful precision. In our culture, the distance between marketing and creativity is virtually nonexistent.

Every bit of that space has been filled with the promotional. What were once barely overlapping magisteria have become fully integrated. It’s not enough that we make beautiful things, or have brilliant ideas, or even have powerful experiences anymore; they’re hardly real to the world until they’ve been shared in some digital burst of “Here I am, you should pay attention to me.”

Life and work has become noisy with marketing. And the noisier it gets, the noisier it gets, because we’ve bought into the lie that nothing cuts through noise better than the right kind of noise. But noisy marketing—of the parade for a naked emperor kind—is cheap; there is no there there, and we all end up feeling cheap for looking, anyway.

There is a better way, of course. But the better way requires that we get as far away from this sort of marketing as possible. In fact, it might be better that we call it something else entirely, because no one ever says, “I want to be a marketer when I grow up.” So, why not call it education? If you ever experienced the free gift of education—whether or not as I dramatized it above—let that be your model for marketing. For your sake; for the sake of all of us.

If you’re interested, you can read the whole thing here. I’d love to know what you think.

  • http://www.kieselaw.com Steve Kieselstein

    Thanks Christopher, great post. Looking forward to reading the full article this weekend.

    My one observation is that there are different kinds of “noise”. As a small law firm competing in a practice area populated by large firms, we realized that we simply didn’t have the resources to compete with their standard site content–current developments articles produced within a day or two of the event, easy to generate for firms with personnel to spare, but for us, not so much. But then we came to understand that this was really our target market’s “noise”– a half-dozen large firms always seemed to be putting out roughly the same article on what happened within the same compressed time frame.

    Since we couldn’t shout as loudly or quickly as they could, our strategy in cutting through this noise became to do more in-depth analysis on cases and situations that are off the beaten path, focusing less on being first and more on “explaining”. It’s early, but the results so far are very encouraging.

  • https://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Christopher Butler


    Agreed — all kinds of noise. That variety and peoples’ awareness of it, particularly within marketing, is the subtext of much of the comments discussion on the article.

    Would love to hear your thoughts once you’ve had a chance to read it in full.

    - Chris


By Christopher Butler

Chris Butler is the COO of Newfangled. He writes and speaks often on design and the web. You can follow him @chrbutler. More by Christopher Butler