The Problem of Communications Careers

This article in GQ, of all things, makes me kind of upset. The killer graf:

Marketers revere the idea of brands, because a brand means that somebody, somewhere, once bought the thing they’re now trying to sell. The Magic 8 Ball (tragically, yes, there is going to be a Magic 8 Ball movie) is a brand because it was a toy. Pirates of the Caribbean is a brand because it was a ride. Harry Potter is a brand because it was a series of books. Jonah Hex is a brand because it was a comic book. (Here lies one fallacy of putting marketers in charge of everything: Sometimes they forget to ask if it’s a good brand.)

That’s the real danger, the real problem, with working in marketing and communications. As a person, I’m inclined to want to find out useful stuff and tell people about it. It’s what makes me good at my job, which is… well, marketing and communications. But who’s going to pay me to do that? All too often, it’s someone whose product or idea can’t really make it on its own.

There are more people with bad products than good products, and there are more jobs putting lipstick on pigs than there are jobs just breaking through the noise for something that deserves to be communicated. If you’re a believer in the Gospel, whether it’s the gospel of Apple Computer or Google or Jesus, that’s all well and good, but good luck getting a job promoting it. There are plenty of people who love that shit so much they’re going to do it for free. If you’re lucky, or clever, you’ll find a cause that’s got a bit of a budget. (I count myself in that number; I’m not going to strike it rich marketing financial sanity, but I’m not going to sell my soul either).

There are, of course, exceptions: A friend of a friend is a brand ambassador for Moët Hennessy, which involves drinking fine wines with sommeliers in top-tier New York restaurants. It’s as though Charlie Sheen were paid by drug cartels to hang out with hookers and do blow. Or as though a couple of clever bastards happened to make a career out of drawing comics about video games. Which they would do whether there was money in it or not.

So what do those of us who have the unfortunate distinction of calling ourselves “Marketing Communications Professionals” do? All too often, we find ourselves selling the wrong thing, distorting the truth, or creating the noise that other people have to break through.

If only we all lived in Seth Godin’s universe of people only marketing ideas and products that are worth the effort. If only moviegoers were motivated by art and not wanting the kids to shut the hell up for 90 minutes.

I might as well wish for a pony too!

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