Marketing: Why do we Try to Hide a Forest Among the Trees?

Posted on 02 July 2013 by John Britsios

Over the last couple of years, we seem to have been inundated in a swarm of new names for old things. Analog, digital, inbound, outbound, inside-out-upside-down-outboard marketing… enough already!

How about…

Marketing in a Plain Brown Wrapper

“Marketing is marketing” is a statement that many have made, and there’s a good deal of truth in that. But admittedly, marketing in a four-color glossy magazine does have subtle differences from that in a black and white tabloid. Online marketing brings even more differences to the table.

Radio vs. television, billboards vs. flyers, email vs. snail-mail and print vs. Internet… all have some subtle differences. A failure to be familiar with those differences and exploit them could make the difference between success and failure. Different channels offer different opportunities.

At the heart of the issue, however, the goal of marketing is always the same: convince the viewer, reader or user to perform some desired act. Buy it, subscribe to it, donate to it or talk about it – the conversion is what it’s all about to the marketer.

That said, there are styles of marketing that are distinctively different in their approach. In years gone by, for instance, the soft-sell vs. hard-sell was often thought to present the extent of options. But at the end of the day, it’s all marketing. You may use a little different style, some different techniques or a different approach… but it’s all still marketing.

Let’s not conflate styles and techniques with disciplines.

Why Give it a New Name?

It seems someone is always trying to give a new name to an old process or claiming to have invented a new process altogether. Those that have been in Internet marketing since the beginning often scoff at such efforts, while those that are very new to the business may embrace the changes. thinking that doing so puts them on “the cutting edge”.

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The idea that the “new SEO” is social media, content marketing, co-citation or any other of the myriad claims of various marketers is seen as ludicrous by most of us. Yet it seems that every such claim also attracts at least a few avid followers, the number of which is usually in proportion to the notoriety of the promoters of the claim.

Some that have made their name in SEO have gone so far as to remove any reference to SEO from their profile, company name or website. Whether that’s because of a genuine refocusing of their company’s thrust or simply an effort to divorce themselves from a field that has had its share of bad press… that’s anyone’s guess.

Unfortunately, whatever the reason, when a prominent practitioner, widely read industry blogger or otherwise well-known entity says or promotes something, there’s usually a flurry of camp-followers scurrying to take up their hero’s banner. If what is being promoted is crap, then the hero is being irresponsible. With notoriety comes responsibility.

Giving an old protocol a new name can be done for a few different reasons that come to mind:

  • Perhaps the field has changed enough that the old name is no longer accurate;
  • The new name will clarify the process;
  • Maybe it was difficult to get decent search rankings for the old name and a new one would be much less competitive.

I don’t think marketing has changed enough in the last few thousand years to warrant tossing the name “marketing” out the window. Maybe a decent argument could be made for differentiating between print and digital marketing, though. There are nuances to online marketing that aren’t as pronounced in print media – even a couple of unique factors in each.

But interruption vs. permission marketing? Both are simply variations of style. If you’re going to propose that they each need a unique name, then may I suggest work vs. home marketing, male vs. female, single vs. married, maybe even winter vs. summer marketing. A little ridiculous, right?

Yet that seems to be the direction that some would take us. New names keep popping up, as do new meaning for old names (inbound marketing, for instance, referred to call centers long before the Internet was around).


Apparently, some folks just don’t see the irony of muddying the waters in an effort to “clarify” things. Given that most clarification is (or at least, should be) intended for the benefit of those for whom we perform our various marketing tasks, keeping it simple should be the focus, no?

I would suggest online and offline marketing. Both marketers and site owners can certainly understand the distinction. In one basket or the other, they encompass essentially anything any marketer might do. Paid vs. organic breaks down the online possibilities nicely, and requires no renaming.

If there’s confusion among marketers over the flurry of renaming styles and techniques, just imagine the consternation of those outside the industry. To some, it must seem like an effort to baffle them with B.S., rather than dazzling them with brilliance.

The upshot, in my opinion, is that B.S. is some very poor marketing!

Ooh! How about Upshot Marketing?

Author: John Britsios

Founder and Chief Information Officer (CIO) of SEO Workers and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Webnauts Net, a qualified Forensic SEO & Social Semantic Web Consultant, specializing in Semantic, Forensic & Technical Predictive Search Engine Optimization, Content Marketing, Web Content Accessibility, Usability Testing, Social Semantic Web based Responsive Web Design & Ecommerce Development, Conversion Rate Optimization.

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