I was invited to connect with someone on LinkedIn the other day. Nothing unusual about that I hear you say, and there isn't. The interesting thing is what happened after I accepted the request.
When you accept a connection these days LinkedIn takes you to a page where it shows you a load of other people you might know and with whom you might connect. Still nothing odd. I usually have a quick scroll around this page to see if I can spot anyone that I know, or would like to. It was then that I saw something that made me stop.
In all honesty it wasn't that unusual but at that moment in time for some reason I had a moment of clarity.
I'd seen similar things loads of times. In fact I see them all the time and have done for years but I never thought about them in the way I did at that moment.
"What on earth was it Jim?" I hear you say. "What could you possibly see on LinkedIn that would make you sit down and write a blog about it?"
Well it was this. I saw a photograph of a marketing guy - no names, no pack drill. The thing was that it was a wacky photo. He looked like the Stasi interrogator had just attached the electrodes to his nether regions and cranked up the dial.
Why I wondered in my moment of enlightenment do so many marketing people and agencies feel the need to come across as wacky? Or left field? Or unconventional?
At The Purple Edge we take marketing quite seriously. When we talk about marketing we do so from the position that marketing is the most important part of being in business. It's the thing that creates customers and to be clear if you don't have customers you don't have a business, you have a hobby.
We're not unusual in this regard. Peter Drucker the father of consulting said many years ago "Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business."
There are a million definitions of marketing but the one we like is meeting customer needs profitably. We like it because it puts the customer at the heart of the business but recognises the importance of profit to the enterprise.
So if you consider that making sure your business meets customer needs and makes a profit is important. If you are convinced that customers are critical to a business and the activity that creates customers is marketing then you'll agree that it is a serious discipline.
If it is a serious discipline and critical to the long term success of a business then why would wackiness be a desirable feature of a marketer?
Don't get me wrong I think it's important to challenge accepted beliefs, to look at different ways to communicate and catch the eye, to stand out. But you don't need to have a photo of yourself that makes you look kooky or to dress in strange clothing to do that.
I think marketeers are business people first and foremost. The best have some creativity and understanding of messaging - and choosing the right message, delivered in the right way, to get the client's story across.
Perhaps the tendency to demonstrate our creativity leads us as marketeers to go over the top. I fear though that this contributes to many business people thinking of marketing as a fluffy activity concerned with nothing more serious than branded stress balls.
It's a shame because marketing really can add value to a business, especially if it's central to what the business does. To quote David Packard, co-founder of HP “marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”