Some stereotypes die hard. A study conducted earlier this month in the U.S., Japan and China looked at (among other things) job respectability. Maketers did not fare well.
The study was commissioned by Adobe and fielded by research firm Edelman Berland. It included 1,000 participants; three quarters of them were consumers 18 years and older and the remaining quarter was made up of a mix of marketing professionals. That latter point is what’s most troubling about what Adobe found: Not only do consumers not value the role of marketing and ad professionals, but many people in those jobs don’t value themselves.
Overwhelmingly, the survey respondents agreed that marketing is essential to business – and they agreed that it works. When asked to consider the value of marketing, more than 90% of consumers and marketing professionals responded that it’s a field that’s “strategic to business” and 90% said that marketing is “paramount” to driving sales.
But 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 was tied with the job of an actor or actress in terms of its value.
There was only one profession that ranked lower in the survey, and even that one is just a part of the marketing ecosystem: PR professionals. Only 11% said PR is a valuable job. Meanwhile, the results weren’t much better among marketers; only 35% of people who were marketers themselves deemed it a valuable profession in responding to the survey.
Adobe CMO Ann Lewnes said one factor that’s lending to marketing’s poor perception vs. other professions is that it’s still thought of in an old-school way rather than a more evolved two-way conversation that incorporates technology.
In other words: People still think of Darrin Stephens from the sitcom Bewitched when they think of marketing, when they should be associating it with digital and tech jobs.
“I think people still have a traditional and somewhat limited view of what marketers do,” Lewnes said. “We’re typically seen as the creative types who make flashy ads. We have a bad rap as the folks who spend money, but don’t care about the bottom line. This just isn’t the case anymore. At least it shouldn’t be.”
Its notable, though, that the study’s findings suggest that the ads that are more traditional – and less able to track for engagement using digital tools – are actually the ones consumers say they prefer. The study found that people prefer to view advertising in their favorite print magazine (45%) or while watching their favorite TV show (23%). Only 2% stated that they prefer to view ads via social media and 0% said they like ads in an app.
Companies investing in branded social-media sites should also pay attention to this finding: Just 2% of respondents believe information about a brand from a company’s social-media site is credible.
“Make no mistake, creativity will always be our calling card,” Lewnes said. “But digital has given marketers an opportunity to rewrite their roles. Marketers today have access to technology that gives them critical data and insights about their customers… insights we can turn into more relevant, high-impact marketing. People want messages and marketing that’s more customized to their needs. And businesses want to be able to measure the impact of their marketing dollars. Digital gives you both. As an industry, we need to accelerate the move to digital. Only then will we be able to get the respect and credibility we deserve.”
Considering the participants of this study aren’t merely a cross-section of average consumers but also include 250 top marketing professionals, it seems imperative that the industry needs to start from within. How can you expect folks to respect you if you don’t respect yourself?
According to the study, the majority of consumers – 53% – stated that most marketing is “a bunch of B.S.” That’s compelling evidence of a big reputational challenge the industry must tackle, and fast.