What’s a Marketers’s Job?

If you are a marketer, what’s your primary job? And what do you do about it?

A few days ago, one of the SoG members asked me, what’s your primary job as a marketer. At that time I would have replied with some mambo-jumbo to wiggle out of a tough conversation but now that I think about it, the question is more perplexing than I had assumed it to be. I honestly don’t have an answer. What I do have is some plausible alternatives. And I will present those to you and seek answers from you. 

So, as a marketer, what’s your primary job?

Here are a few alternatives. You choose.

A. Act as the agent for the client and help them sell more. You know, by building compelling campaigns that inform the world about your client, crafting lines that nudge the fence-sitters, using design as a tool to stir emotions and sell that damn thing that the client wants to be sold. 

B. Be brave. Be bold. Fan fire to ideas that shift cultures, shape narratives, and spark revolutions. Your client may not want to be a part of these narratives but you try to hide these in plain sight. 

C. Use marketing as an excuse to earn a living from what you enjoy doing – writing, designing, daydreaming (aka brand planning), telling stories, and meeting people. Good work, awards, and sales is a byproduct. 

D. None of the above

E. All of the above

While I wait for your answers, while writing this, my reason for being a marketer dawned on me. Lemme give a background and talk about it. 

So, my love for marketing probably started when I saw that dude hit the ball out of the park on the last ball of the match and see his woman rejoice like there’s no tomorrow. The love became stronger when a simple piece of communication made me crave for Jalebis like Bablu did when Ramu Kaka talked about em. It got amplified when I saw some kids scrounging around to get their retiring headmaster a suit piece as a farewell gift. And there are many more such stories that made me want to tell stories like that. 

Back then, I was naive. And even though I’ve been at it for more than 18 years now, I remain a student and I continue to marvel at pieces of communication with a gaping mouth, bated breath and nervous excitement. 

Just that, the pieces that I take inspiration from have changed. The kind of things I want to put my name to has changed. While I enjoy seeing work by Cred and Ixigo and Fevicol and others, I am moved more by things like Farmers by Ram. Or Real Beauty by Dove. Or in India, by organizations like The Whole Truth and AMFI (disclaimer: I do some work for them via a client). 

These are the companies and communication pieces that go beyond short-term sales goals to long-term narrative building that inspires people at large to live a better life. These pieces require long-term thinking and slow, painful execution on a day-to-day basis without losing sight of the goalpost. 

No, I am not implying that we become climate-warriors, tree-huggers, veganism-paddlers, equality-champions and all that. Rather, as marketers, we need to shift how people live their lives. I mean look at Nike. It’s not a shoe company. It’s an attempt to get people at large to get fitter. Each piece of communication from them inspires me to push harder at being an everyday athlete (I just coined that phrase ;)). Look at Dumb Ways To Die. It made me look left and right and then left again while crossing the roads (trams and trains and metros are still new to me)

Truth be told, a lot of these could be dismissed as tokenism and dash-washing (insert your favourite color here). A lot of these may sound irrelevant in the thumb-twaddling world full of people with tinier attention spans than hummingbirds, each hooked onto social networks proliferated by content marketers, search engines gamed by growth hackers running “marketing experiments” and more. After all, these days CAC, LTV, ROAS and such acronyms are more important. Engagement trumps brand salience. Sales is more important than your raison d’etre. And thus, marketing as a profession has been reduced to copy written by chatGPT, designs by fivers and debates around the sizes of the logos on Instagram posts.

What we’ve lost in this proliferation of this new crop of marketers is the ability to be like poets and politicians and artists and writers and revolutionaries to fan fires to ideas that shift cultures, shape narratives, spark revolutions. Think about it. Which woman woke up and said that I want a pen that writes in blue ink but is encased in a pink body (a pen company makes this product)? Which young person wants to start their day with a shower in a deodorant that smells like chocolate (we all know the deodorant company)? 

On the other hand, each parent wants their child to get a car that is safer. What if the marketer could tell that parent that apart from safety, the car also offers zero emission that is well, better! 

Yeah yeah, I know that this may not be a marketer’s job to build a car that runs on water. Or electricity. Or air. But it’s the marketer’s job for sure to plant the seed about eco-first cars in the minds of people. And subsequently, make people want and ask for and force car makers to make cars that offer not just safety but greener alternatives. 

And that, ladies and gents, is the post for the day.

Lemme know what you think is the job of the marketer per you.  

Originally posted here.

Index: 90-90-1 Project. Day 1