I am not saying they are related, but they certainly could be.
For almost a decade, the majority of Americans have been living with the world at their fingertips. There was a season of romance, as we learned to leverage the opportunity of boundless information. Then the romance plateaued as we began to fill the fatigue of endless content. In recent months, it seems we have entered yet another season - a season of distrust. Our attention and our personal data have been exploited time and time again. The early days, more so the glory days, of the internet may be over. We are a cog in the machine and for the first time in a decade, we know it.
If Seth Godin is correct:
“Earn trust, earn trust, earn trust. Then you can worry about the rest.” — Seth Godin
…then perhaps the majority of marketers, especially of those who focus online, have lost that trust.
Not too long ago, marketing required empathy. Advertising was expensive. So marketers put the bulk of their resources into understanding their customers and aiming their targets so their advertising dollars were impactful. But then came the internet and advertising became incredibly affordable. Empathy was no longer needed. Marketers could quickly and cheaply run test campaigns. They could measure results almost instantly, so empathy was exchanged for analytics. After all, we could always scale and refine, scale and refine.
Ready - fire - aim.
The marketplace, which had previously been a showcase of the best and most polished ad campaigns, became a testing ground - or in some cases, a dumping ground. And customers suffered, as we quickly became subjected to hundreds of marketing messages each day, many of which were not intended for us. They did not speak to us, about products we wanted, or about the problems we needed to solve. They were shrapnel in the war for digital dominance.
Trust quickly began to erode. What once felt like standing at the edge of the ocean, looking out upon the sea, now feels like a crowded subway car, filled with commotion and noise.
That brings us to today, when even the youngest among us feel less like people and more like prey.
Marketing, as a profession, is sick. We have leaned too heavily on analytics and not enough on empathy. We have lost the trust of our customers. And our customers are responding accordingly.