When I was a junior in high school, I got a job as a cashier. After the training period, which seemed to go on forever, I finally got my real name tag. Under my name, it said “Sales Associate.” I was euphoric. “I’m not a cashier, I’m a sales associate!!” I said it to myself, I said it to my parents. I had never been an “associate.” It sounded so grand, so important! As I dug more into the job, as I went to work during Summer months for the first time, as I dealt with people who were rude and sometimes even cruel, I realized that really I was a cashier. My grand title did not really describe the reality of what I was paid to do.
So what do I do now?
If you’re in marketing, maybe you’ve experienced this exchange before. You meet up with a long-time friend. They ask what you do and you say something like, “I’m in marketing,” or “I work at a marketing firm,” or “I work in Public Relations.” Your friend gives you a kind of blank look. “So, you advertise or promote things?” Your gut instinct is to laugh and say, “No darling, it’s SO much more than that.” But if you’re like me, you stop short. Is it more than that? It seems so, but I have no real way of describing exactly what my job entails.
This is a problem I did not expect. In one of my favorite movies, City Slickers, Billy Crystal plays a guy who buys radio ad space. That’s his job. “I buy air,” as he says. In Mad Men, the characters are ini “advertising.” Their job is to use ads to create sales for their clients. These things are pretty clear cut. But I can’t really define myself as being in “advertising.” This blog is not really advertising in the traditional word. Is it PR? Not really. Consultation definitely isn’t advertising. Or is it? Is that more marketing?
I’m downright confused.
What exactly are we integrating when we integrate marketing?
This has been on my mind ever since I started participating in two chats on Twitter, one called #custserv (you can guess what that focuses on) and one called IMCChat, which focuses on Integrated Marketing and Communications. Repeatedly, while participating in both chats, I am faced with questions that make no sense to me based on my understanding of various terms. Sometimes advertising is differentiated from marketing. Sometimes PR is differentiated from advertising and marketing. Sales is differentiated from all of the above and customer service. And social media? Well, sometimes conversations have erupted just regarding who “owns” a company’s social media presence.
I believe in integrated marketing with all my heart. If you show me a diagram with arrows going around in a circle showing how everything is interrelated, I’ll probably accept it with a little drool from excitement. I could preach integration until the cows AND the horses come home. There’s just one little problem. I don’t think we know what we’re integrating anymore. We take words of the profession like “Public Relations” or “advertising” for granted, but have you thought lately about what these words actually mean?
Well, over the next few weeks, every Thursday, I’m going to take a different phrase and explore different ways we could define it. What I think we may find is that the words we have always used may simply be too outdated now. People were talking about PR before email. People were talking about advertising before mobile. Even marketing may be a dying word. Is there a market to market to, or is just a bunch of individuals with whom we connect?
How do you define your job? How do you explain what you do? Let me know in the comments below.