11702685083_7d69ba2f08_mLast week we talked about whether or not there was room for marketers to move into the collaborative economy. In discussing that idea internally, we began to talk about another change we are seeing as marketers. That is the commoditization of marketing.

If you have been in marketing for say, ten years, you will remember a time when creating a new corporate identity was a major series of decisions, whether it was for a brand new company or whether a company was simply rebranding itself. A lot of thought and research laid the foundation for what the logo and tagline would look like. Some level of marketing expertise was valued for helping to position the company. What tag line would be most effective?

Fast forward to the present day and deciding that your company needs a logo can involve going to a website like elance.com, laying out your stipulations, and seeing who you want to work with based on bids. Ostensibly, you will be swayed by whomever offers the lowest bid, just like when it comes to commodity items like facial tissue and toilet paper, you will sometimes just go with the cheapest, because as long as it works, what’s the difference?

This kind of thinking has impacted many facets of a company’s marketing. Sell sheets that used to be designed by a graphic designer using a program like InDesign are now being designed by someone using Microsoft Word. The same holds true for ads. As long as the sell sheets and the ads do their jobs, all is well. Why spend money with an agency or an experienced freelancer when you have a person you are paying anyway who can throw something together?

What will the commoditization of marketing mean for companies in the near future? A few things. Mostly, our fear is that marketing will be broken down into individual tactics that will be priced at basement levels with no thought for the big picture. Parts of a campaign could be executed by numerous people who are not communicating with each other, with each tactic needing to stand on its own. In this kind of scenario it would be very easy for a company to show inconsistent messaging across platforms. The risk for errors due to a lack of overall coordination would be high.

Of course you might well say, “Of course an agency would be worried about the commoditization of marketing. Marketing is your bread and butter.” Oh ye cynics. The truth of the matter is that we are in business because we want to see companies grow and succeed. Marketing done right can help lift companies to increasingly higher levels of success whereas marketing poorly executed can undo all of that hard work. Whether or not we do the work (and of course we would love to work with you), we want your marketing to speak in the best way possible to and for your brand. That kind of work is a craft, not a commodity.

There’s a lot of talk these days about how hard it is to measure the ROI of marketing. The solution is not to try to bring your investment as low as possible so that hypothetically it would be easier to realize a return. Don’t turn marketing into something that is a price-based commodity. It’s an artform. It’s worth the price. Let’s keep it that way.

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lendingmemo/11702685083/ via Creative Commons