August 22

What happened to marketing’s cool cats?

Sinek seems wasted on the overwhelmed

In this dynamic age, where digital possibilities continuously transform our ways of engagement, a curious paradox emerges. Whilst technology is making bounds, certain aspects of marketing management seem entrapped in antiquated methodologies. This contradiction pushed me to revisit the teachings of visionary thinkers, especially Simon Sinek. Re-immersing myself in Sinek’s ‘Why’ ideology, a question arises: Why do age-old marketing management approaches, sculpted for consistency and optimisation, lag behind in today’s swiftly transforming digital landscape?

Finding ‘Why’ in the Digital Marketing shambles

Traditionally, management blueprints were born in times when predictability and control was paramount. In stark contrast, today’s technological canvas is continuously morphing. It beckons us to believe that our marketing management paradigms must co-evolve. No longer can technology be seen as just another notch on our marketing belt. We’re not merely using it; it’s intricately woven into our strategies. Yet, there are moments when our drive to innovate feels stifled by legacy management structures -structures obsessed with poorly validated data and management approaches that often sideline the richness of human creativity and interaction.

The infinite game in marketing

Drawing from Sinek’s “Infinite Game,” technology in marketing is a ceaseless journey. It’s not about a fixed destination but continuous adaptability, learning, and progress. Isn’t that what modern marketing management should embody? A focus on consistently unlocking potential rather than fixating on often meaningless metrics or dwelling on the transient obstacles of the competitive landscape.

Evolution in marketing leadership approaches

Upon reflecting on managers I see clinging to outdated approaches while technology races off into the distance hand in hand with AI, these are the pivots I’ve wholeheartedly adopted: 

  1. From Control to Empowerment: Rather than micromanaging, I’ve discovered the profound impact of granting teams autonomy. Cultivating an environment where setbacks forge pathways to innovation, rather than avenues for censure, has been enlightening. You have to trust people and let go.
  1. Endorsing Continuous Learning: In the realm of digital marketing, complacency is the real adversary. My mission has been to ignite a passion for perpetual learning amongst peers, urging them to perpetually chase after what lies just beyond the horizon. You need to invest in talent as if your life depended on it.
  1. Leading with Empathy: Steering through the swift streams of technological advancement can be challenging. Recognising and addressing the distinct challenges faced by every team member has proven invaluable. Everyone is on a journey. Stop focusing on your own pathway.
  1. Rediscovering My ‘Why’: Every decision prompts me to revisit my driving force. Does it align with the overarching goal? Is that goal valid? If not, what are you doing about it?
  1. Communicating Our ‘Why’: A shared vision, values, and objectives are indispensable. The essence of an enterprise flourishes when unified by a shared purpose. Recognise it. Proclaim it. Embody it. Cherish it.

Missing cats wanted

As I plod into the no man’s land of human/AI collaboration, intertwining profound insights from luminaries like Sinek with my own experiences, I harbour a cautious optimism. The future isn’t merely about racing with technology but about leadership that radiates intent, ensuring that we, as passionate marketers, are primed to leverage the boundless opportunities it presents.

In an age dominated by algorithms, data analytics, and automated strategies, it’s easy to forget that the essence of marketing remains human. Behind every click, every view, and every purchase is an individual with desires, emotions, and motivations. The tech-driven world may have evolved the tools of the trade, but at its heart, marketing is and always has been about people.

Who What Happened to Marketing’s Cool Cats? 

The marketing landscape, much like fashion, sees trends come and go. There was a time when ‘Mad Men’ in sharp suits, wielding poetic pitches, ruled the roost. These were the ‘cool cats’ of the marketing world, known for their charisma, wit, and uncanny ability to tap into the zeitgeist of the times. But where are they now? And what has changed? 

The Digital Revolution 

With the onset of the digital age, the tools and mediums of marketing underwent a seismic shift. The flashy billboards and catchy jingles gave way to targeted Facebook ads and viral Twitter campaigns. As the platforms changed, so did the skills required to master them. The cool cats, who once thrived on intuition, now had to grapple with analytics, metrics, and KPIs. 

Data-Driven Decision Making 

Data has democratised marketing. Instead of a handful of ‘cool cats’ dictating what’s hot and what’s not, brands now turn to data analytics for insights into consumer behavior. This shift from intuition to insight has levelled the playing field, making marketing more inclusive but, arguably, less ‘cool’ in the traditional sense. 

The Rise of Influencer Culture 

Today’s cool cats aren’t necessarily in boardrooms or brainstorming sessions; they’re on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube. With the rise of influencer culture, brands have found a new kind of spokesperson. These influencers, with their vast and engaged following, often have more sway than traditional ad campaigns.

Ethical and Social Responsibility 

The marketing mavericks of the past operated in a world with fewer boundaries. Today, with consumers more socially and environmentally conscious, brands have had to rethink their strategies. The focus has shifted from merely being ‘cool’ to being ‘conscious’, making ethical considerations an integral part of modern marketing. 

Over-saturation of the Market 

Back in the day, the cool cats had fewer brands to contend with. The marketplace today is saturated, and with the democratisation of digital platforms, everyone can be a marketer. This over-saturation means it’s harder to stand out, and the ‘cool’ factor alone isn’t enough.

Nostalgia and the Return of Retro 

Interestingly, as we’re inundated with digital touchpoints, there’s a growing appreciation for the traditional. Vintage ads, retro campaigns, and old-school marketing tactics are making a comeback. The cool cats of yesteryears are being celebrated, albeit with a touch of nostalgia. 

Concluding Thoughts 

The world of marketing is in constant flux. The cool management cats of the marketing world, once celebrated for their larger-than-life campaigns and intuitive genius, have had to adapt to a new era. But as with all things, there’s a cyclical nature to trends. While data and digital might reign supreme now, there’s always room for the charisma and flair that these cool cats brought to the table. The essence of their approach, built on human connection and understanding, will always have a place in marketing’s hall of fame.

As we advance further into the digital age, it is imperative for marketing management to remember that they are not merely chasing numbers or metrics; they are working with and engaging with people. The brands that will thrive will be those that place people at the centre of their strategies, using technology to enhance human productivity and connection rather than override it. In the end, marketing, no matter how technologically advanced, remains a profoundly human endeavour. Bring back the cool management cats who believed what they were doing was a form of art, who always valued the individual and had a clear sense of purpose beyond the bottom line. They were people, people. They were committed to communication that created awareness, preference and sales. And they valued and nurtured talent more than spreadsheets. They knew why, before Sinek made it a thing. How cool is that?