Marketing can mask mediocrity.

And indeed, a lot of marketing is being used to pass off mediocre products and services as more than they are. And in the short term, this clearly works.

You go to a brilliant sounding workshop or seminar, only to find a lot of ra-ra-feel-good buzzwords without any real synthesis, new thought or actually useful learning.

You buy a great sounding product online (but not something that is too-good-to-be-true), it arrives, and does not quite add up to the hype.

Marketers love to say “perception is everything.” As if marketing is the only thing that really matters. This has always rubbed me the wrong way; even as I see the truism in it.

We can divide the creation and selling of new products into two parts:
Product (content, technology, design, usability, value proposition.)

There is a camp that clearly sees marketing as paramount. To them, there are no users; just buyers.

As long as the product is good enough – and this is wide open to interpretation from expectation-exceedingly great to consumer-law-breakingly poor – they are all set to make a million bucks.

They focus their energies on understanding people in a market context: what would make they buy more?

In this camp, the quality of the product only matters if:
Their ethics integrity demand it.
They care about genuine word of mouth referrals.
They care about making a real contribution to their customers’ lives.

Unfortunately we see a lot of this use of marketing to cover up mediocrity. Marketers selling vaporware and products that are not finished or fit for purpose but made out to be “too good to be true.”

Another trait is the use of distractionary supplements to bolster the value of a sale. In an event for example, the organiser may put on extra lollies or an over-the-top lunch spread to draw attention away from the lacklustre presenters and material. This is equivalent to the “free steak knives” offer on teleshopping shows.

The better (and arguably more ethical) approach would be to spend more time and resources on improving the core product. There needs to be more emphasis on building a better mousetrap, and not just just marketing it well. Remember: the product continue to exist in the buyer’s life long after they have experienced the marketing.

Perception is important, but it is not everything. Even with good marketing, the product has be good enough and fit for purpose; definitely beyond the bare minimums set by consumer protection laws.

We all need marketing. If they don’t know we exist, they can’t discover our offering. What we don’t need is manipulative untruthful marketing. They can distract us from the products that actually serve our needs.

We as consumers need to demand a clearer line between truthful “putting things in a positive light” and “blatant spin and lies.” We need to be ever vigilantly discerning.

image: Empty promise via Shutterstock.