What I learned about marketing (and goodbye)

As you read this, I'll be on holiday in Mexico reflecting on a brief career covering the marketing field.

As you read this, I’ll be on holiday in Mexico reflecting on a brief career covering the marketing field.

After about three and a half years at Strategy (the last year and a half as editor), I’ve decided to move on and try my hand as features editor at a Toronto-based magazine called MoneySense.

I’m excited about the new opportunity, of course, but sad to leave one of the most infuriating, fascinating and downright enjoyable jobs I’ve ever had. The good part is that now that I’m no longer at Strategy, I can celebrate by telling you the real dirt on the agency presidents and other assorted marketing execs I’ve had the pleasure of chatting to over the years. (Or maybe not: I can hear the lawyers murmuring already.)

Anyway, I can at least sum up what I’ve learned about marketing while I was here. It won’t take long.

Agencies and client marketers will always bicker: But it’s old married couple bickering. It’s healthy. It’s like the friction you find between a good editor and publisher. One is concerned about the creative quality of the work, and the other wants to make sure that money is made. Both goals are equally important, and both need a guardian.

The good ol’ days were always better: In the same way that you can look back on disastrous family vacations and convince yourself that you had the time of your life, there will always be elder statesmen going on about marketing’s golden age. It’s not true, but it’s pointless to argue. Just grab a drink, sit back and enjoy the witty anecdotes.

Everything in marketing is cyclical: The spend goes up, the spend goes down. Everyone rushes to embrace online marketing, everyone backs away from online marketing. Everyone gets tactical with below-the-line and direct, everyone rushes back to broadcast TV. When you’re in the middle of a cycle, it looks like a trend, but after you’ve been through enough of them, you realize it’s more like a yo-yo.

Marketing will never die: There will always be people trying to sell products, ideas and political parties to the masses. And there will always be people trying to make a buck by helping them do it.

Client marketers will never come together as a community: It’s too competitive. You can’t have the head of marketing for Pepsi hobnobbing with the head of marketing for Coke. It’s just not done. Besides, everyone works in Mississauga and it’s too far to drive.

It’s the consumer who keeps things interesting: People sometimes ask me how we keep coming up with new ideas for stories. And I say, ‘We just follow the consumer.’ As long as Canadian wants, attitudes, technology and demographics keep changing, marketers will have to keep changing to keep up.

Marketers are the most fascinating people on earth: I’ve met marketers and agency types who are creative, condescending, fearful, sharp, ambitious, shallow, friendly, frank and wise. But I’ve never met anyone in this field who’s boring. Marketers are shaping society’s values and popular culture as we speak, so it’s a good thing.

That’s about it. But before I go, I just want to give you a heads up on some changes coming down the line.

First off, I want to welcome back a familiar face. Mary Maddever, former Strategy editor and now VP and editorial director at Brunico Communications (which publishes Strategy), has been quietly and wisely guiding us from the sidelines for years, but will be returning full-time to the brand as of the next issue.

Next, I’d like to pass the torch to Lisa D’Innocenzo, Strategy’s new editor. In her former capacity as associate editor she was doing most of the work anyway, and she’ll do an even better job at the helm. Finally, I want to welcome Natalia Williams to the fold as staff writer. I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with her, but from what I’ve seen so far, she’s really good.

So I guess it’s so long, but I’ll never really be out of touch. Because no matter where I go, I’ll always be watching the ads.

Duncan Hood, (former) editor, dhood500@hotmail.com