We often hear that the professions that have the worst reputations among the public are bankers and politicians. A study commissioned by Adobe and fielded by research firm Edelman Berland and reported in Ad Age finds that there is a group of professionals held in lower esteem: marketers. The study found that while people understand that marketing is an important role in business, they also think very little of those of us who do it and the value we bring to society. According to the study, the majority of consumers –53%– stated that most marketing is “a bunch of B.S.”
When asked if marketing benefits society, only 13% of consumers agreed. And compared to other professions, the results were grim. Teachers — despite how little they are often compensated — were valued at the top of the list, followed by scientists and engineers. That’s somewhat to be expected. But what was more surprising was that advertising and marketing ranked below nearly every other profession, including bankers (32%), lawyers (34%) and even politicians (18%). Marketing and advertising were tied with the job of an actor or actress in terms of its value.
Ouch. Then again, we bring these things on ourselves. Think about what the public experiences with respect to marketing these days. Spam in their in boxes. Data being gathered surreptitiously and used without their knowledge or permission. Those go along with issues that have been there for years – ads that seem (or are) sleazy (way too much fine print to be real), using media as a bullhorn via the “spray and pray” method, and an industry with not enough accountability for results.
Fortunately, we have a chance to change this as the nature of marketing itself has changed. While consumers don’t like ads in digital (there’s a lot of evidence on that) they DO welcome the opportunity to engage marketers in conversation via these channels. The study shows that just 2% of respondents believe information about a brand from a company’s social-media site is credible, however, so there is some work that needs to be done there. As we’ve discussed before, there needs to be a paradigm shift on the part of we who communicate with consumers before the consumers will respond with a similar shift. It takes time to build trust.
This is not a study that should make anyone engaged in marketing feel good. It should be a wake-up call for transparency and more respectful grown-up dialog with our customers. That’s my take. What’s yours?