Marketing Myths that Annoy Me

I just finished reading the brilliant book, The Age of Persuasion: How Marketing Ate Our Culture by Terry O’Reilly and Mike Tennant. This was a fantastic book, full of things that remind me why I chose to be a marketer. But, as I finished the book, and remember people’s reactions when I say that I’m a marketing and communication manager, I get a little disheartened. So, I wanted to write about the top three marketing myths that grind my gears, explain why they’re not true, and give you some tips to begin thinking differently about marketing.

Myth #1 – “Advertising is sneaky. In order to be effective, you have to sell people things they don’t need or want.”

This may have been true in the early 1900’s, but modern day marketing has rejected that notion for quite some time. Most good marketers – or advertisers – think about what they do as informing people of options that are available to solve the needs people already have. We know no amount of shouting, subliminal advertising, or pleading will ever create a need. Our job is to inform about the benefits our products, services, or organizations give supporters or clients in trying to fulfill a need they already have, even if they are not consciously aware of it.

The reality: You know that your organization does good work, but which of your supporter’s needs are you meeting? If you have a large base of volunteers, perhaps you’re meeting volunteer’s needs for a community to meet people and make friends. Perhaps you’re meeting your donor’s need to be recognized and celebrated. Once you know what needs your organization meets, it makes your appeal for continued, or first-time, support a lot more compelling. 


Myth #2 – “Marketing? Don’t you mean advertising?”

No, I mean marketing. Advertising is one aspect of marketing. Public relations is another. Social media is another. Product or service design is another aspect. So is pricing. So is evaluating the customer experience. Marketing is every way your organization interacts with a person. The organizations – nonprofit or otherwise – that have succeeded in the 20th century realize that supporter/client experience is king.

The reality: Examine your organization from the outside in. Do you do the things you say you’ll do? If you say you want to end a certain disease NOW, do you take 5 days to respond to an email, or do you respond immediately? If you exist to engage youth in the nonprofit sector, are you willing to employ young graduates with little experience? Evaluate if the way an outsider experiences you is consistent with your mission, values, and brand.


Myth #3 – “Our audience is everyone”

I guarantee you your audience is not everyone. Unless absolutely everyone donates to your organization, volunteers with your organization, or uses  your services, your audience isn’t everyone. Most likely there is a specific group of people that your product, service, or organization appeals to.

The reality: Start collecting data about who engages with you, why, and how. If you already collect that data, spend some time exploring it, getting to know it, and using it to find and appeal to the people who are the best fit for your organization or cause.


Jenna Marynowski, Marketing and Communications Manager