The trouble with Scotty from Marketing

Natalie Robinson

  • Director of marketing and communications, Melbourne Polytechnic
Natalie is a strategic, innovative and results-oriented marketer with 18 years’ experience across the oil, automotive, manufacturing, finance, fashion and education industries. She’s currently Director of Marketing and Communications at the government-owned education institute, Melbourne Polytechnic, focused on building a new brand across a mass market demographic spanning everything from trade apprenticeships to post-graduate business studies. Since applying her brand strategy in Q3 2015, the institute has seen improvement to over 70 per cent brand awareness, and more than double the traffic to product Web pages. It was this work that saw Robinson listed as a ‘one to watch’ in the 2017 edition of the CMO50 as well as win the 2017 Australian Business Award for Brand Management

As a Marketer, the ‘Scotty from Marketing’ meme troubles me.  

To be very clear, it doesn’t concern me anywhere near as much as the fires that have been ravaging Australia, or climate change, or the leadership issues that underpin the virality of the meme. But I find it disquieting that marketing is being used as a synonym for ‘exasperating irrelevance’.  

Specifically, in the current context, it is being used to satirise the Prime Minister as someone only interested in pithy slogans, photo opps and self-serving promotion opportunities.  

It’s symbolic of a deep misunderstanding about the nature of marketing that any marketer will find familiar. The function is too often seen as a questionable expense that occurs after the ‘real work’ has been done. The ‘colouring-in department’ that spends its time schmoozing and making things ‘look pretty’. Often the term ‘guru’ has been used to describe a marketing professional, as if there is some kind of mystical scrying associated with the work.  

The reality is that, done right, the modern profession of marketing provides a lot of useful transferrable skills for any leader.  

Marketers put the physical and emotional needs of stakeholders at the centre of organisational decision-making. They use data to underpin their decisions. And they are experts at rapidly deploying and efficiently managing resources for the best return.  

Marketing isn’t frivolous, expensive window dressing. At their core, marketers are in the business of solving problems; customer problems and organisation problems. They seek to understand the root causes of issues, and address those in a meaningful and sustainable way before throwing money at the problem.  

‘Scotty from Marketing’ has stuck. At the time of writing, the term nets nearly 40,000 search results. As we return to work, marketers need to think about what this means for the image of our profession, and how we communicate our true skillset and capability to our organisations.

Tags: marketing strategy, marketing leadership

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