Sometimes you spend weeks working on a presentation, and it ends up that some spontaneous thought becomes the show-stealer. Such was the case when I opened the ANA conference on “b2b Marketing in the New World” earlier this week in Chicago. I’ve received dozens of messages from attendees since I returned.
As I looked on this room of senior-level marketing executives from some of the world’s largest companies, it dawned on me: Governments don’t end recessions. Economists don’t sort it out. Politicians don’t get things moving. Engineers don’t invent our way out. Marketers and advertisers have ended every recession, and they’ll end this one.
Recessions are like a long backup on the highway. You’re driving along at a good clip; then the traffic comes to a standstill. In the big ones you can see cars lined up for miles ahead of you. As the traffic starts to pick up, you eventually move up to the source of the backup and you see that it’s not really the accident that’s slowed things down. It’s all the rubberneckers who have to get a look at what happened. That is, until one driver with intention comes to the head of the line and doesn’t care what happened because he has somewhere he needs to be. He blows on by, and then so does everyone else. And before you know it, you’re at 70 mph again, unless you’re like me, in which case (oops, better not go there)…
The same thing happens in recessions. An event, sometimes catastrophic, interrupts the free flow of exchange. Folks slow down to figure out what happened. They get scared by what they see. But then some marketer says, “I gotta get goin’,” and soon everyone else has picked up the pace. Indeed you look up and say, “Hey, that was my competitor who just raced ahead.” Hit the gas.
In the last few decades the mantra of business education has been risk management and risk mitigation. The job of marketers is risk provocation and risk advocacy. With the possible exception of sales, there is really no other unit in the modern corporation that serves as a reservoir of hope, courage, faith and optimism.
The noise has been loud in 2009. The shrapnel has been flying. The wreckage has been horrific. But it’s time for marketers to lift their heads from their foxholes and propose, recommend, initiate, venture and risk. If you’re going to go down, go down in flames. Some enlightened enterprise is always going to value the heat and light you represent.
The real and only economic stimulus program begins when the marketer gets moving, again.
Rick Segal, Chief Executive and Global Practice Leader of b2b agency, gyro, in North America