Taking the Trash out of Marketing

Photo Credit: Jose Francisco Fernandez

In my previous article, I wrote about why we should embrace the new forms of media and marketing. But there is a dark side that we must face if we want to do it right.

This new marketing world of social media, SEO, and algorithms are extremely popular business verticals in the communications business. That’s because many have turned it into a money-making scheme, every aspect of a project is monetized as part of a murky game.

Unsuspecting clients are led up the garden path and self-claimed digital brand experts keep their coffers ringing without a single moment of guilt.

As I delved deeper into this new paradigm of selling dreams to gullible business owners, I realized yet again why we rarely make it to the international platform as change makers in the communications business and set global standards there. It is not because of a lack of talent or good products. It’s because we lack the guts to say to NO to things we don’t understand, and follow our gut when it comes to red flags. We follow the herd.

We still adhere to the western world for all trends related to businesses and marketing methods. We rarely create global trend history. And since the western world is filled with players of digital marketing who have made it through either dumb luck or dirty tricks, marketers here imitate them. Rather than learning from the successful ones who made a difference with their hard work and empathy.

That approach to the subject has come about largely because of the lack of honesty and a general quick-fix mindset of just returns and less long-term thinking. For most digital guys the monthly retainer is the yardstick for success. I have over the last one year met tons of digital gurus who claim they will bring the world to your doorstep with brand associations and assignments, yet they all fail.

They all promise “virality”, knowing fully well that with every day that the internet grows and mutates the probability of making something viral decreases, and the planning, product/idea-fit, timing, funding and network required to optimize your chances increases.

The truth is intrinsically most of these guys are short-term players in this market. They sell buzzphrases context-free, that once had a concrete meaning: virality, CTR, engagement, SEO, analytics, growth hacking, SMM, ROI, influencer etc. and mostly the budding and mid-level influencers and the small business owners risk their entire savings to create a brand and come out with zero returns and large cash withdrawals. This is why some of them eventually resort to companies that sell bots and fake followers: at least those guys are upfront about being unethical and uncaring about how they get results!

Most SMM/SEM experts these days are IT experts and understanding of brand and marketing for them is like a fish out of water. They use jargon to confuse the client and confuse themselves, till one day lakhs of money has been lost to ill-advice.

I am dismayed as technology surges ahead so many remain stunted in terms of ethics and self-awareness. This increasing bunch of fly-by-night operators masquerading as digital marketeers take the fee without blinking an eye.

But at the end of the day, all this negativity only reveals opportunities to do better: there is huge potential in the mid-level players. There are many small business owners who will benefit with the burgeoning digital platform. Just the synergy of the right mix of passionately driven tech and brand experts coming together to tap into this gnawing, gaping area of opportunities and be less opportunistic, can create a new level of game playing in this untapped space.

Having spent decades in the communication business, with utmost honesty and love towards the brands that I worked with, even in the most difficult situations I have flinched if I have unknowingly given wrong advice and not been accountable for the retainer I have taken. Yes, I take pride in ethics. I take pride in the relationships I create with people and the companies they have painstakingly built. I care about every brand whose story I have told on this blog.

And that is the takeaway for the new age of digital marketing, especially in India: ethics and honesty between marketers, clients and their customers. This will create stronger long-term relationships, result in better discussions, data and analysis, which will result in better content, planning and campaigns, and end up being a win-win for every party involved.

Long-term players last because of vision and principles, the rest generally fade away.

A lot of people are inspired by Steve Jobs, Ogilvy, Walt Disney, Seth Godin, and even Zuckerberg, but we must remember they were successful because their dreams were not myopic.

This business is going to grow exponentially over the years and everyday as the rules change, to think out of the box and play fair is the need of a true digital brand marketeer.

Marketers, lies in the times of Corona is not very pretty. As you clean your hands, don’t forget to clean your soul too.


  1. A marketing BS generator, fun, hilarious and accurate: https://www.bullshitgenerator.com/?
  2. Why you need to stop caring about going “Viral” and focus on your content and its audience: https://medium.com/the-mission/why-you-need-to-stop-giving-a-shit-about-going-viral-798acfeef33b

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