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Are you ready to break your marketing and do something better?

Barb Mosher Zinck Profile picture for user barb.mosher June 3, 2021
Marketing isn't really working for us, so what to do? Break sh!t! At this event, we learned about the dangers of "woke washed marketing" and phony engagement. Marketing breakthroughs were shared - such as Tudder. Yes, that's Tinder for cows. Here's my event highlights.


Break Sh!t - A Terminus Conference - brought together nine marketing experts to share one thing they would like every marketer to either stop doing - or break. The 15 minute sessions were all great, with experts sharing things in marketing that need to change if we want to deliver better customer experiences.

I'm not going to go through all the sessions, although I think if you haven't seen the conference, you should head over to the video series and watch them all (no registration required). But I am going to talk about three of them, starting with...

Break the fundamentals and challenge the funnel

Andrew Davis listed a lot of bad habits marketers need to break, including unsolicited LinkedIn pitches, cold email outreach, pop-up email subscriptions, the word "engagement," and personalization in the form of "Hey <first_name>!" I can't argue with any of these. 

Davis said that one thing powers all these bad habits that we really need to break is the fundamentals - or as most of us understand - challenge the funnel. 

Here's something I didn't know: the funnel concept was developed in 1898. All I can say is, "wow." Davis said we've seen plenty of different evolutions of the funnel model, but most have worked along the same lines, which is that consumers buy in a linear model. Which we all know is wrong.

He also said that anyone who sells advertising loves the funnel, so stop buying ads.

Build your own model, Davis said, or look at what others are building and model your funnel in a way that works for your business. Davis developed his own funnel, but he didn't share it in his presentation. Still, it's one worth looking at (which I did at another event).

We've been talking about how the traditional lead funnel is broken for several years now, maybe more. But so many marketers still follow it and believe it's the best approach to take. Why is it so hard to stop following it and do something different? 

Because at one time, it worked, and no one has come up with that single silver bullet to replace it that companies want. There is an overall indifference to the fact that customers have changed the way they buy products and services and that despite the evolution, old models are still the safest route to take. 

Stop with woke washed marketing

Katie Martell wants marketers to break "woke washed marketing" and become a true ally. On her website, she explains woke wash marketing as the: "Collision of marketing, advertising and PR with social movements such as feminism, LGTBQ+ equality, racial justice, gun rights, environmental protection and more - and the danger of brand pandering." 

Think rainbows everywhere in June, or greenwashing to show the brand is environmentally friendly, or all the black backgrounds supporting Black Lives Matter(BLM). 

Martell is working on a documentary on the topic. It's about how marketers have a pandering problem, aligning to social movements with no real understanding of what they are doing or genuinely standing up for.

On the one hand, this alignment is positive, she said. But if it's our new normal, then we need a new set of rules that will enable brands to become real allies. To become part of the solution, though, requires taking the time to understand the movement's history and creating real accountability goals around diversity and equity.

Martell is right: we all have a responsibility to stand up for human rights. 

I think this one is hard for brands. It's easier to take the shortcut and pay lip service to critical social issues or try to stay out of it altogether. It's another thing to embody them through everything the brand does and says internally and externally. 

Stop thinking B2B marketing is boring

I follow Carla Johnson because she makes you think about how to work and approach marketing strategy. Her talk focused on breaking the way we pitch ideas and drive true innovation in the organization.

Johnson said that our bosses make us think we can't do creative work in the B2B world. But the truth, she said, is that it's not about the ideas we are offering; it's the way we pitch them. 

Here's how we do it now: generate ideas and then pitch them. And it's wrong. Johnson said we are confusing an idea with a pitch and that bad pitches kill great ideas. So we need to fix the pitch.

Here's the process she shared:

  • Observe the world
  • Distill broader patterns
  • Connect and relate their work
  • Break the cycle - pitch

Johnson explained that great pitches aren't divined; they are refined. It's a refined pitch that creates confidence and builds momentum. 

She shared the example of how the company Hectare came to build Tudder, which is Tinder, but for cows. That's a pretty innovative idea, and the pitch that brought it to life was not boring. 

I think of a recent scenario where I pitched the idea of an ABM program. It's something that the business needs to do. And they said yes, although they didn't understand ABM. And it's not working. It's not working because ABM is an idea as much as it's a strategy. How it should work within an organization depends on that organization, on their ideal customers, and the goals they want to achieve. It's time to take Johnson's advice to heart and fix the pitch.

My take

Part of this one-day conference included the opportunity to vote for your favorite session. The winner received $10,000 towards a charity of their choice. Oli Gardener of Unbounce won for his session - which was by far the funniest. He talked focused on "breaking the shi!ty value proposition and how high IQ design reduces confusion."

Other presenters included Jay Acunzo, Sangram Vajre, Tatiana Holifield, Rohit Bhargava, Zontee Hou; all spoke of things we, as marketers, need to step back and rethink. Modern marketing is constantly changing, and that makes it very hard to adapt. But if we don't, we will pay the price. 

Image credit - Breakthrough. Businessman breaking through a wall. Rendered business illustration © bizvector -

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