My sister Sharon and I are good friends. She’s extremely bright. Reads a ton. Takes a lot of online university courses in theoretical everything.
She also has a wry sense of humour and always sends me really good jokes and cartoons and pieces of early to mid 20th century artwork that she finds in her travels on the Internet.
She is also fascinated with the idea that I am such a prolific blogger.
She is, of course, totally convinced that I am full of it, and a BS artist of the first order. And she’s probably right. There’s a certain amount of BS in everything a writer writes, even if it’s not intended.
BS Has Been Around For A Long Time
It would be easy to argue that the cave drawings dating back thousands of years depicting alien type creatures and spacecraft are just some really old guys messing with us and creating prehistoric BS.
There are a lot of scholars who argue that the bible is mostly BS. And that many of the evangelicals who preach in gigantic cathedrals waving it around and selectively quoting from it are BS artists too.
I majored in philosophy in college. Some of those 17th century philosophers also really had the BS going on.
Today, well you can pretty much take your pick, starting with politicians and working your way up or down the food chain, (your choice).
Where I Got My BS Credential
As a writer, mainly of communications, I come by it honestly as I spent the better part of the 1970s and 80s working in the ad agency business. Here I was mentored and trained by ad guys who spent their formative years in the agency business of the 50s and 60s.
Many of these people were part of the creative revolution that started in the early 60s. But they, in their youth, were mentored and trained by the likes of David Ogilvy, Raymond Rubicam, Leo Burnett and many of the other major league hucksters of the post WW2 era.
The Fabulous Fifties
This was the era when advertising BS really came into its own. When there was no such thing as political correctness: women were all homemakers and mothers and men were all breadwinners and the family disciplinarians.
It was a waspy world. And the largest middle class in history. Everybody went to church on Sunday. Every kid went to college or trade school. Every woman got married and became and indentured servant to her own family.
And the advertisers who pushed all the products that made that middle class such an incredible marketplace made sure that this world was accurately depicted.
It was a Leave It To Beaver TV show where everything had to be a certain way. A man’s pipe and slippers and newspaper were waiting for him when he arrived home from working at General Electric or Boeing or wherever.
Dinner was served on time every night. People smoked cigarettes everywhere, and the myth of a male dominated society was established and drilled into the brains of consumers, the vast majority of whom were the housewives.
And the BS level was pretty much up to everybody’s eyeballs.
The BS of this era was pretty blatant and unapologetic. It was mostly totally demeaning to women, making them look like the property of the men to whom they were married.
But it was a different time back then. Very few people knew any better. And because of this, it was reflected constantly in the advertising of the day.
The stories directed at women were almost menacing in their implication that anything remotely resembling selfishness or not buying the best for your family was something that could turn you into a social outcast.
The ads directed at men painted a picture of dominance and firm stoicism of a confident slave owner.
There was no shortage of this type of communication. My sister has sent me tons of it over the years. And in retrospect, it’s kind of funny when you read it.
Especially since anyone daring to write anything like that these days would quite literally be tarred and feathered. And rightly so.
Today We Have BS Of A Different Colour
The digital marketing world is not unlike the advertising world of the 1950s. It’s trying like hell to create a cultural imperative out of the idea of content marketing.
It’s claiming that the impetus for this is coming from a fundamental mistrust that consumers of, well, just about everything, have for conventional advertising. (This, of course is nothing but conjecture and part of the Big Giant Digital Marketing Plan).
It paints a picture of a world where these consumers are endlessly curious about the products and services they are choosing to buy. A world where they need lots of evidence and data in order to make an ‘informed’ purchase decision.
This, of course is the BS of today. This is a world where it’s no longer considered ‘prudent’ to rely on conventional advertising without reinforcing it will reams and reams of well placed digital content.
This content, of course, is curated and managed by the digital marketing companies for a tidy fee. It is written, for the most part, by drones sitting inside slave ship digital agencies or in home offices hammering away all day long spinning yarns about anything you can think of with all the authenticity and sincerity of a drunken prom night hickey.
And all this BS is finding its way to blog sites, information web sites and social media sites where, paradoxically, it is mostly ignored or simply skimmed over by consumers, who, understandably, have become numb to the endless barrage of BS coming at them.
All of this, of course, is much to the chagrin of a huge number of individuals and companies who bellied up to the digital ticket window and bet heavily.
Lately, and not surprisingly, the issue of the real value of content marketing is moving to the front burner.
Companies that have spent a couple of years diligently following the advice of digital marketers are now starting to squeak. Individuals and solopreneurs who are running their own CM programs are starting to burn out. And none of this looks promising or bodes well for the future.
This Is Not BS
Internet Advertising Revenues – Up Year Over Year (past 5 years)
Mobile Advertising Revenues – Up Year Over Year (past 3 years)
Television Advertising Revenues – Up Year Over Year (past 5 years)
Magazine Ad Revenues – Up Year Over Year
Magazine Title Growth – Up Year Over Year
Radio Commercial Revenues – Up Year Over Year (past 5 Years)
The only major advertising sector that is in decline is newspaper advertising, but revenues are climbing again now that online newspaper subscriptions are growing.
Just To Be Fair…Not Everybody Fails
There are a finite number of people who have figured out how digital marketing works. I can actually lay claim to knowing a couple of them. But these people constitute, at the very least, a minuscule percentage of the entire digital marketing world.
And that makes sense, because it’s right in line with the average ROI in content marketing.
Just like the macho, sexist, misogynist, BS world of the early days of modern advertising, this new world of BS doesn’t have the same type of content. It is, however, trying to achieve the same thing.
It’s trying to create a wave that everybody can ride on, which is admirable.
But what it’s really doing is saturating the world with nothing more than well intentioned BS.
Many businesses are now starting to find it difficult and not really cost effective to keep up with the demands that even a modest content management program entails.
Very soon this will reach the critical mass stage and then who knows what will happen then. On to the next thing I suppose.
A Solution To All This BS
Well, in my opinion, the easy way out is back through the door through which you entered.Back to what used to work for you but that you have been neglecting while you became part of the Big Fat BS Bullshit Social Media Experiment.
I’m not saying get out of content marketing altogether. What I’m saying is try to recapture the balance between content marketing and whatever still works in other media. Here are some things you can do.
• Modernize your website design and content
• Invest in a good SEO program to support your site
• Update your brochure material
• Think about trade shows you can attend and create the materials you would need to make a good impression
• Find some good places to advertise and create some No BS ads
• Update your corporate identity
• Invest in a good sales strategy and update training for your sales people
• Upgrade the designs of your packaging and find new online or bricks and mortar places to sell in
• Find some high end networking events to attend and or exhibit at
• If you are in communications, take your existing clients out to lunch and talk about how they could be doing more of everything listed here.
I’m Not Saying It’s All BS
But a lot of it is. And like any generalization, the exact amount will depend on what sort of business you are in.
For some businesses, and by some I mean very few, content marketing programs are ideal for reaching certain receptive target audiences.
But in the majority of other cases, a rethink is more than just a good idea. It’s quickly becoming a survival tactic.
The Key Question To Ask Yourself About Content Marketing
How worthwhile is any business idea, that is comprised of a high time, energy and financial investment that needs to be sustained over an extremely long period to achieve a very small ROI if any?
I’m not saying this is the case for every business. This is just a cautionary tale. Caveat emptor and all that jazz.
Footnote: Everything I have just said is my own opinion. It’s reinforced by things that have happened in my world, especially with clients who have gone full tilt into content marketing, got a little blip, then a long flatline period before their decline.
Also thanks to Bob Hoffman of the Type A Group, who provides me with the constant reminder to question everything that begins with the word ‘digital’.
I’m Jim Murray and my company is called Onwords & Upwords.
I am a communications professional, primarily a strategist & writer.
I work with B to B clients, large and small, graphic designers, art directors and marketing consultants to create hard working strategically focused communications in all on & offline media.
I am also a lyricist and a prolific blogger who likes to provoke thought and revive the comatose.
If you have a marketing or communications challenge
you would like to discuss, (no obligation),
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Direct Line: 416 463-3475
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All content copyright Jim Murray, Onwords & Upwords Inc 2016